I’m one of those people who’s a planner and I have a backup for everything. In my house, I have old routers and cable modems so I can get back online in moments. I keep the last generation of my smartphone so I have an immediate backup in the event of an accidental drop, and when I travel, I pack twice what I need. I never want to be in a situation where there isn’t a backup for something I could have reasonably predicted. And I guess that fits my background, too. I used to work in radio, where our studios had a backup battery and generator for power, two systems that ran the audio, three links to the transmitter, two transmitters, two antennas, and two transmitter sites. That’s just how my brain works, and if you’re in the IT department at your organization—there’s a good chance you and your coworkers think in a similar way.
Is implementing new software in your future? Learn what to expect with The Ultimate Guide to Implementing New Membership Software.
Well now you’re about to embark on an implementation of a new membership system or you’re in the middle of one, and you’re probably starting to get nervous. Will the business users be able to effectively communicate their needs to your team and to the implementation team? Will they be able to tell the difference between a requirement and a wish list? Should you cleanse your data beforehand so it goes into the system clean, or should you use the new system’s cleansing tools after bringing the data in? How will you be able to maintain all your current production and backup systems and trouble tickets while you’re working with the implementation team and a third party on an integration?
The bad news is, you’re going to experience stress and problems, but the good news is, with a good plan and implementation partner, the stress can be significantly reduced. Think of it this way. Implementing a new membership management system is just like building a new house while living across town at your current house. You have blueprints, you have a contractor, you have a realtor, and between all those people, you have all the tools you need to successfully build the new house and move in.
At Aptify, we’re like the contractor, except we have over 20 years of experience of implementing our system exclusively with member-based organizations. Over that time, we’ve learned a lot with our clients, and we’ve created an implementation guide that can help put your mind at ease now, so you can start to plan in your mind what to expect. I’ve been on some implementations, and I’ve learned a few things that I hope can help ease your mind about the potential stress of the implementation.
1. Communicate with the business users and team up with their leadership.
If your organization is like others I’ve seen, there sometimes is distrust between your team and their team. They complain something “doesn’t work,” but you insist all systems are go. Likely, it’s either a misunderstanding or a lack of training. This kind of distrust must be overcome, and the best way is to build an open line of communication where they are heard. Make sure you show empathy and understanding.
At the same time, you will also want to be united with their supervisors. A clear message from both you and their bosses will reinforce that this is important to the organization. With a united front, you’re more likely to get buy-in, support when testing is required, and less apathy when certain requirements are not included or pushed to a later phase.
I like to imagine working with the business users is like working with your kids and their desires in a new house. They’re probably begging for a playroom and a treehouse. You can tell them that they’ll have what they need—a bedroom to play in and a backyard for outdoor fun, but those other things might have to stay on the wishlist for now. Just show empathy and ensure that they’ll still achieve the desired outcome, even if it’s not packaged in the way they would like.
And speaking of a lack of training…
The executives are pressuring you because the implementation budget is sizeable, and there’s a good chunk dedicated to training. They’d like to significantly reduce that budget or eliminate it altogether. After all, it’s probably the easiest thing to cut while technically keeping the implementation successful. This is where you need to take a strong stance and even use current data to support it. How many trouble tickets can you link to a lack of training? How much of your time—or their time—is taken up by false complaints of broken systems?
I think letting your business users go into the new system without sufficient and proper training is like letting untrained roofers put on the shingles, non-licensed electricians wire your house, or letting the painters work with a blindfold. Your executive leadership would never let that happen to their new house, so why would they let their employees do essentially the same thing in your expensive new membership management system? Training is a long-term investment, and at Aptify we believe in it so strongly that we do full system training twice during the implementation—before design and before go-live.
2. Do we really have clear business processes that our implementation partners can use?
When you work in IT or engineering, you have very clear processes and steps for everything you do: backups happen on a very timed basis, user creation requires specific information and inputs, integrations have specific steps, backup power systems must start up in very specific manners, etc. However, your meetings department might open registrations by “clicking here” or “I just tell Sally to do it.” Your membership people might track account credits in a spreadsheet.
Well, don’t worry. Sometimes business users skirt issues because it’s easier to do something manually than it is to work with the current, old, broken system to get it working correctly. We expect that. Work with your membership software implementation team to gain the trust of the users and to focus on the end result. We can likely handle many of their pain points and workarounds in the stock system! Make sure the business users are open to discussing what they need the system to do with the implementation team, and then let the implementation team document the business process for review.
3. What can I do to ensure a successful data conversion?
Data conversion is typically the critical path in an AMS software implementation, and a lot of the work will fall on your team. Because it’s so imperative, there are some things you can do ahead of time to ease the stress, to take pressure off the timeline, and to successfully convert your data.
First, you need to get organizational buy-in on how much data to convert. Simply put, the less you convert, the easier this process is. Decide internally how much historical data is truly necessary for your day-to-day operations. The most successful data conversions bring over the past three years of detailed transactional data; anything more is a waste of money, time, and effort. For example, it might be necessary to know John attended a meeting five years ago, but does it matter whether he paid with a credit card or check? No! Take a hard stance, and remember, just because the data isn’t converted into the new system doesn’t mean you can’t access it in an archive.
Second, focus on small wins that will help in the implementation. For example, in the first month, you should have names, phone numbers, addresses, email addresses, and company data mapped and converted into the test system. This is an easy win and when your business users go in to test stock and configured functionality, it will be on their data that they know.
Third, data cleansing is usually only tackled during a data migration, and we often get asked when the best time to cleanse the data is—before bringing it into the system, or after and using the new system’s tools. While there is no one-size-fits-all answer, you need to work with your implementation team to determine the right answer for you. Also, use this opportunity to come up with a future plan for keeping your data clean!
Want to know exactly what happens during an implementation? The Ultimate Guide to Implementing New Membership Software has the answers.
4. Will the hammer fall on me when the timeline gets extended?
Often times, the executives at the organizations we work with promise the board a successful implementation on-budget and on-time. When the timeline begins to get pushed out and the budget creeps, will the executives call me into their office? Where does the hammer fall?
This is a real concern, but your implementation partner shares that concern. Extended timelines and bloated budgets affect our relationship negatively—something we don’t want to happen. Building trust between the implementation team and your team is crucial so you can clearly communicate timeline, budget risks, and feel safe in raising concerns about lack of commitment on either side. Unfortunately, the ride won’t always be smooth, but trust only helps.
In addition, during our implementations, we setup a direct link between the executive on your team with an executive on our side. On a regular basis, they will check in with one another to review the team, the plan, and any risks, and then they can implement any changes that are needed based on their review. This can alleviate the feeling that problems only fall on the IT team.
5. And what about my day-to-day?
Getting back to that new house we’re building, I still have to keep the lights on, the floors vacuumed, the sinks clog-free, and the kids supervised while the painters are painting the new rooms, the wood workers put up new cabinets, and my spouse supervises the landscaping. During projects like this, you will be juggling multiple needs.
One thing to remember is that everyone will be juggling multiple roles during this time. The business users are worried about setting up for the annual meeting while testing the configuration they requested, renewing memberships while reviewing converted data, and performing the month-end close in two systems to ensure everything lines up. It’s a stressful time!
Once you get the project plan from your implementation team, you can start to plan for busy times. It might make sense to bring in some temporary workers to alleviate the simple tasks so your business users can still work on the more complicated work while testing in the new system. It also helps reinforce the importance of the implementation if you add duties related to the implementation to everyone’s job description for that timeframe.
6. How else can I quash my nerves?
If you’re like me, knowing what’s coming is the easiest way to alleviate concerns. Even if I know problems will arise, if I know what to expect and when it can help my mind get around anything unexpected that might pop up. That’s why we created the Ultimate Guide to Implementing Membership Software. This will walk you through a typical implementation process, sample teams, workflows, timelines, time commitments for both teams, testing and issue resolution, and working with teams. Think of it as a blueprint for that new house you’re building!