You can’t put it off any longer; it’s time for a membership software upgrade. You knew this day would come.
You planned for it to ensure everything would go smoothly. During the software selection process, you asked great questions about upgradability, assessed the technical capabilities of the platform, and during the implementation, you made sure to only configure the software to remain on the upgrade path. Even with all that preparation, you’re still filled with apprehension about the pending membership software upgrade.
That’s because software upgrades are the IT equivalent of going to the dentist (sorry ADA!). Everyone knows it’s important—and it’s never as bad as we perceive—but still, we put it off months (or years) at a time. Upgrades frequently get moved to the back-burner in favor of more complex, less significant, and strategically unimportant projects. The reason for this deprioritization is because membership management system upgrades, much like United Airlines, suffer from a terrible PR problem.
Several months ago, I wrote about why it’s time to stop to stop being so scared of software upgrades; however, that post failed to provide a recipe for success. This blog covers HOW to have a successful membership management system upgrade with five simple tips.
Discover how your organization can create a seamless membership software upgrade by downloading our Ultimate Guide to Implementing Membership Software.
1. Ensure there is alignment around the goals of the membership software upgrade.
Whenever you undertake a project in life—technology or otherwise—you want to make sure you’re in alignment with all the stakeholders about the goals of the project. Make sure you’re clear about what you’re trying to accomplish before the project gets underway. Are you patching security holes, or rolling out new features? If you’re rolling out new features, have you done everything to make sure they are quickly and easily adopted, such as training for your end-users, and upgrade any SOPs or business process documentation?
In order to make sure everyone is on the same page in terms of goals, I suggest establishing three “critical success factors.” The purpose of these CSFs is to serve as a guidepost on the project for staff and vendors alike. To create them, simply answer the question, “If this upgrade only accomplishes one goal, it will be_______.” Whenever someone feels the project is going off course, simply look to the CSFs to see if you’re still on track to realize them. If the business users and IT team are not aligned on the goals for the upgrade, the project is much less likely to be successful.
2. Be aware of what you’re getting.
All software companies (especially Aptify), put a lot of time and energy into R&D. In addition to make sure the product is safe, secure, and performant, they want to build in several features designed to delight the users. So invest a little bit of time, do your homework, and know what you’re getting!
- Spend a few minutes to skim the release notes.
- Attend webinars and information sessions about the new version.
- Write down the five features that are most applicable to your business and organization, and map them to the business processes they support.
- Create a plan to roll these features out to the impacted business units, and communicate why they are an improvement.
Focusing on a smaller subset of the features, rather than everything new, will make it easier to implement them and realize their benefits.
3. Have a testing plan.
The biggest reasons good upgrades go bad is because they are insufficiently tested—or even worse—not tested at all. Before you even start the upgrade, make sure you have a plan to test to make sure the new version of your association membership software works. Focus on identifying the key business processes to test, rather than getting bogged down in the minutia of random edge cases that will never be an issue from a practical perspective. Good candidates are processes that are repeatedly done or are very time consuming and focus on those. Come up with use cases and test scenarios for them. Ask your vendor if they have test scripts they can share with you. Once you have these, figure out who is going to test, and when they can realistically do it. Then follow through and make it fun! You want testing to be seen as an important priority, and not another thing to do.
4. Constant communication between teams.
Communication is key; make sure it’s happening early and often. Have bi-weekly check-ins or project huddles between the two teams. These meetings don’t need to be long-winded and take a lot of time on everyone’s calendar, so try to keep them to 20 or 30 minutes. They are good opportunities to make sure everything is on track, and raise risks or areas of concern. Also, the project executive sponsors should speak with a regular rhythm at a higher level to make sure everything is copacetic with the relationship.
5. Don’t be afraid of conflict if things go wrong.
This brings me to #5: being honest about pitfalls and challenges. If you’ve followed steps 1-4, your software upgrade is likely to go as smoothly as silk. However, you still need to make sure there is honest bi-directional communication about any pitfalls, challenges, or risks to the project. Often times, we avoid these conversations, because they can be uncomfortable, but that does a disservice to everyone involved. Conflict can be good, and when it happens, use it as an opportunity to learn and grow the relationship so it is poised for success in the future.
Membership software upgrades suffer from a serious PR problem. They are seen as high risk, and low reward. They cause trepidation and fear that the second the new version is live, it will break all of the blood, sweat, and tears put into the system will be for naught. While that’s the perception, if you follow the simple steps outlined above it will be far from reality.
Now that you’ve read about the ideal upgrade process, find out what happens during a seamless membership management system implementation.