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How to Select an AMS that Uses Single-Sign-On Technology Standards

You’re familiar with the term “reinventing the wheel,” right? Reinventing the wheel shouldn’t be necessary for implementing an association management system’s (AMS) single sign on (SSO).

Each time a technology vendor comes up with their own way of solving a problem of interoperability for which a solution already exists, it injects timeline and budget risk into a project.

I’m not referring to innovation here, in which disruption often provides value to associations. I’m referring to standards that are a basic part of interoperability.

For example, let’s take country abbreviations. Such standards are important because if you use UK and I use GB bad things might happen. Did that package go Great Britain or the Ukraine? Alas, nothing in technology is quite that simple, and in practice, the end result can be much worse.

AMS SSO standards represented by an identity management chalk illustration

What are the benefit of SSO standards?

The benefits of standards are saving time and money. If vendors don’t have to talk about how they are going to define a country list, the conversation can move ahead to more important discussions, such as how your association can create member value from its association management system.

Which brings me to the point of this blog post. Before selecting an AMS, investigate whether it supports standards-based single sign on (SSO). How? Just put this question on your association’s AMS RFP or ask your AMS vendors: “Does your product support SSO standards and, if so, which ones?” Look for terms like Shibboleth, SAML, or OAuth.

Why be concerned about AMS SSO standards in particular?

SSO is a nearly ubiquitous requirement in AMS integrations.  If you are implementing an AMS, sooner or later you’ll probably be doing SSO as well. For example, your members shouldn’t have to log-in twice if your AMS is integrated and has SSO with your LMS.

You may be surprised to hear that universities are leaps and bounds ahead of AMS vendors in this regard. InCommon, of which EthosCE is a sponsored partner, defines a framework of interoperable single-sign-on that allows hundreds of vendor-independent colleges and universities and their vendors to enable SSO quickly and efficiently. In the corporate and consumer verticals, Microsoft, Facebook, Google, for example, all use SSO standards.

Association management systems, however, tend to each have their own SSO methodology.  That could end up costing your association more time and money than using a standards-based approach.

AMS single sign on illustration of connected faces

How to ensure your next AMS SSO is standards-compliant

The easiest way to find out is just to ask your potential AMS vendor, “does your AMS support SSO standards such as SAML or OAuth?” If they say “yes,” that’s great. If they start talking about using their own API or web service for SSO, chances are it’s not compliant with an SSO standard. While that will still get the job done, keep in mind it may increase your costs and timelines, especially if your association ends up integrating with multiple external vendors.

Your AMS vendor shouldn’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to AMS SSO. Single-sign-on implementation is faster, easier and cheaper when all parties support a standard. That’s a win-win for everyone.

What’s next?

For more information about LMS integrations or AMS SSO, contact us today for a free demo of EthosCE, the award-winning learning management system for continuing education.





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