5 pitfalls to avoid with your membership software implementation

You might have realized it’s time for new membership management software for your organization: Your staff can’t easily run reports. You don’t trust the data to help you make solid decisions. The interface is confusing and, let’s face it, kind of ugly. So you’re going out to find a better option, get board approval, sign a contract, and gear up to implement new software.

But before you get going with the implementation, make sure you’re aware of some common pitfalls. Implementation can be done on time and without disaster when you follow best practices and know what to expect.

So, if you don’t want to drag out your membership management solution implementation, pull out your hair, and kiss a good night’s rest good-bye, be sure to avoid these traps:

1. Clinging to the past.

A great way to undermine your efforts is to resist change and not face the problems with your current system. Often, we get so used to the “old ways” of doing things that it can be tempting to live with the workarounds than to acknowledge the issue and find a better way. (Sometimes the “good old days” aren’t as good as we thought!)

Take time with your team to define exactly what needs to be changed and improved. Yes, this runs the danger of turning into a complaint session. But it’s necessary to get concerns out in the open. Then, talk with your technology vendor about the problems you want to be solved. They’ve been there and done that and can suggest proven solutions.

Just remember that there’s a reason you decided to move to a new system in the first place. Staying open to change is crucial to setting the right tone through the implementation process.

2. Keeping it small and siloed.

Limiting the number of people on your implementation team who are “in the know” and then letting them focus on their own needs without communicating with each other is a perfect way to derail your project.

On the flip side, a strong implementation team is made up of people from all departments. Input – and, when the time comes, testing – from across the organization is essential because each team and department has different needs, processes, and problems to address.

It can be tempting to keep cooks out of the kitchen, but it’s important to get input from across the organization, and then allow an informed committee to make educated decisions, keeping everyone’s issues in mind. Then, within that team, keep the lines of communication open.

Make sure everyone – from the technical team to the executive sponsor – establishes regular communications with each other so that information can be shared, roadblocks can be identified, and expectations can be set and met.

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3. Operating in a vacuum.

Why set the scene for success within the entire organization when you can spring a new system on them at the last minute? Who doesn’t like surprises, right? What could go wrong? (So. Many. Things.)

When it’s time to implement a new membership management system, it’s important to master the psychology of change management. Start by establishing the need to change with the entire organization by answering the following questions:

  • Why are the changes necessary?
  • What is wrong with the current system?
  • What will you achieve with the new one?

Once you’ve identified the reasons behind the change, you can use them to drive the motivation for teams to embrace the new software and push forward with the procedural changes that your new system will bring.

During the implementation process, it’s important for all parties to clearly articulate their needs and ask questions. As you go, if something comes up that doesn’t seem quite right, or if something needs to be added, bring it up immediately and make sure staff feels comfortable doing this as well. It’s better to voice concerns as soon as they arise than wait until it might be too late or, worse yet, not voice them at all.

Keep in mind that organizational buy-in isn’t crucial to an implementation. It’s possible to get a system up and running with just a few people running the process. But the success of the implementation and the adoption of the new product rely heavily on everyone having a stake in the project.

4. Depending on dirty data.

Old data. Duplicate data. Data you don’t really need. Move all of this into a new system, and you’ll likely just see many of your same old problems.

A new membership management system can consolidate your data, help you streamline business processes, and give you better insight into your organization and its membership base. But even though it does help you manage your organization, you and your team still must maintain what’s inside it. And switching systems is a great time to do some spring cleaning.

From getting rid of duplicates to purging inaccurate or unnecessary historical data, you’ll have a tidier set of data to move if you clean it up in the current system. While you’re working on that, be sure to establish a data cleansing plan so that the data you enter is correct, complete, and not duplicated. Then, put steps in place to assure that the data remains accurate after the system is up and running.

5. Expecting a silver bullet solution.

Software can help your organization work faster and smarter. But it isn’t a magic cure that can fix every problem. It’s a solution for automating well-designed processes and making the work more efficient.

To optimize your new system, plan for staff to be appropriately trained on the new system and stay current on changes going on in the industry. A staff that embraces change is better equipped to evolve with its members’ changing needs.

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