The actual process of selecting a new membership software is a time-consuming, exhilarating, and at times emotionally draining project for your organizational staff to tackle. However, once you’ve finally made the selection, and hopefully, you’ve done a little celebrating—even if it’s just a solo dance party at your desk, then comes the next step. It’s the membership software implementation portion. Unfortunately, this is the phase where a number of installation and implementation processes have the potential to fail. As with other major life decisions outside of work, you need to be totally committed to making it work in order for all that time, effort, and money to pay off with a reliable, helpful, and powerful system. Here are 5 tips for making sure your implementation process goes smoothly, quickly, and results in a win for the team and your organization.
1. Trust your vendor
Everyday, we place our trust in people and tangible objects. When we step on a plane, we’re entrusting our lives in the hands of the pilots. When I eat out, I’m trusting that my food won’t contain meat since I’m a vegetarian. And when we are in a relationship with someone, we are trusting
he/she with our hearts and our deepest secrets.
You need to have the same mindset when entering a relationship with your membership software vendor. Implementing a new software requires you to “spill your guts” to your vendor and their team. You will have to reveal what you consider to be organizational secrets. And you can expect the vendor to probe you with questions about your processes, procedures, customers, data, and much more. You need to feel comfortable enough to trust them. And of course, the vendor needs to first make make sure they’ve earned your trust. If you don’t, they will not be able to help you get the most out of your software. You need to trust that the partnership you’re entering with your vendor is the right fit and accept them as part of your team—they are not only rooting for you, but are working to make your association successful in the long-run.
2. Be willing to identify & address doubts
When implementing any new software, you can always expect to meet some resistance from team members. Don’t be put off that by that though. It’s completely natural and normal, therefore, you should anticipate it. Over time, people get set in their ways, and when the time comes to change, there is that hesitation of disrupting their job.
Instead of disregarding their concerns, actively listen to them—show them the ROI and how it will streamline processes, specifically ones that impact their roles. By showing how it will help them do their jobs more efficiently, it will put their minds a bit more at ease. Sometimes all it takes is an actual demonstration of how much it will improve their job rather than simply stating it in order to open their minds to the idea.
Obstacles can and will occur along the way of your membership software implementation. And the best way to address it is head-on, but in a positive and supportive way. Don’t let your staff’s self-doubts be projected onto you either. If your current system is stifling your organization, and upgrading doesn’t seem like it’s going to put you in a better position, then you know you’re making the right decision in moving forward.
3. Present the software proposal to the users (the good, the bad, and the ugly)
Vendor presentations are usually reserved for the software selection committee and perhaps a few high-level execs who need to sign off on the expenses. While it’s not advisable (in the interest of time and other considerations) to have all of the vendors make their presentations to everyone, it is a good idea for the vendor to come in and present their wares to everyone after the selection is made. This does several things: it shows your staff that you are transparent, it explains to them how the new membership management system will affect their daily work processes, and it answers a lot of their questions. Answering questions candidly is the key to alleviating fears and fostering support for the software.
With any new change, whether it be personal or professional, there is always some fear that comes with it. Once again, it’s completely normal, and it’s important not to alienate staff members who have those fears. Instead, focus on the positives and enforce the value of training once the implementation takes place. Also, during the implementation, keep the team updated on what’s happening. The more they are involved, the more comfortable they’ll feel to ask questions, and hopefully in time, that will alleviate fears and give them a sense of optimism.
4. Resist the urge to just give up
While an implementation process is long, and there will be times where you question if you can see it through to the end, remember there is an end in sight and you need to focus on that!
I’ve never run a marathon before (simply because I detest running), but I’d imagine the feelings are quite similar. During the run, there are periods where you’ll feel like giving up, but think about all the hard work and training you put into the months leading up to it! Is it really worth giving up when you are so close to finish line? And don’t you want to be able to share with people you successfully ran one AND have that cool marathon decal to showcase on your vehicle? Aside: For the longest time, I thought those decals meant you were in some sort of secret organization, not that you had run a marathon.
What if you decide to back out of the implementation process right before your team has hit a turning point and starts producing ROI for your organization? Then all your hard work, money, and emotions you invested would be gone—with nothing to show for it.
The best thing to do is to anticipate the unexpected because there will come a point along the way when things get tough. This is inevitable when an organization adopts a new system or changes its processes. It’s very normal to have the temptation to “just cut your losses and be done with it.” Don’t fall into that head space. Stick with it when the going gets tough, and the reward will pay off.
5. Embrace the move with a (regular) data cleanse
A membership management system can streamline business processes, consolidate your data, and give you better insight into your organization and its membership base. But here’s something to keep in mind, although it does help you manage your organization, you and your team still are still responsible for maintaining what’s inside it. Data plays a big part in understanding your membership better, but any system is only as good as the data entered into it. Be sure to establish a data cleansing plan so that the data you enter is correct, complete, and not duplicated. Then, put steps into place to assure that the data remains accurate after the system is
Wondering what else you can do to make the implementation process smoother? Download this handy e-book Implementing Your AMS: What to Expect Along the Way.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2016 and has since been updated for freshness and comprehensiveness.