Implementing new membership software is an intense time for all involved. As in other momentous transitions in life, like weddings, you need a solid foundation in place to successfully face what lies ahead. Otherwise, unexpected and unwelcome issues could threaten your progress—toward software implementation or down the aisle.
If your association has a foundation of standard and documented business processes in place and in practice, your implementation future looks bright. If not, the road ahead will be a little rocky. For example, if you don’t have documented business rules for data management—and staff compliance with those rules—you’ll have a major data cleansing job in front of you which will take up staff time and delay your timeline.
Membership software implementation provides an opportunity to set things right.
The transition from one software to another gives you and your colleagues a chance to review, question, improve, and document your existing business processes. This documentation is crucial for requirements analysis and implementation.
If you’ve always wondered why someone handles a process the way they do, now’s the time to find out. Instead of tolerating “the way we’ve always done it,” you can ask your technology partners, consultants, and other staff for their perspective on better approaches.
You can also find out about processes that staff aren’t following.
- What’s the problem?
- Are the workarounds beneficial or detrimental?
- What issues do you need to address in the requirements for the new software?
And you can identify processes that you have to standardize and document, for example, data management processes.
IT’s “must have” – the SOP playbook
Many of our association IT department friends speak warmly about having a playbook that documents standard operating procedures and processes (SOP). This playbook explains how staff uses software to do their jobs. It not only explains how, but also why, so three years from now, new staff can understand why something is done a certain way and can make an informed decision whether to continue or not.
Someone has to take ownership of this playbook. They must have both the accountability for making sure staff follow documented processes along with the authority to enforce that compliance. A cross-departmental team should review and update the playbook on a regular basis.
1. Documented processes help you identify project stakeholders.
A membership software implementation is not an IT project, it’s an association project that crosses departmental lines. Documented processes help you identify who’s using the existing software and how they’re using it. Are they using for specific processes, like committee appointments? Are they using it to view reports or pull lists?
You can also learn who’s managing processes that don’t involve your existing system but could involve your new one. For example, someone in the executive office might never have touched the old membership management system, but relied on different software to manage the committee appointment process. You want to include that person in the requirements gathering process.
Include all stakeholders in process documentation since they’re the subject matter experts on those processes and will be most affected by any changes to those processes. Ask them to participate in any discussions about improving existing processes or designing new ones. Their involvement will encourage them to get on board with the new software and be less resistant to change.
2. Documented processes help with requirements gathering.
A clear picture of your existing processes helps you to better understand current challenges as well as the functionality and integrations required for new AMS software. You can decide which existing processes you’ll keep as is and which you will improve.
Documented processes also help prevent project scope creep. Requests to expand the scope of a project usually happen because a process was overlooked during the requirements phase. Then, after implementation has begun, somebody requests additional functionality to cover that process.
3. Documented processes help vendors get up to speed on your operations and needs.
To provide an accurate proposal and allocate sufficient resources, vendors have to know how much time they’ll spend building and configuring your software. During the “build” phase, they won’t have to rely on guess work or assumptions if they can refer to a playbook of documented processes. There’s less room for error and less back-and-forth required. Everyone saves time.
Plus, gap analysis is easier. Vendors can compare their standard system functionality against your requirements (which include your documented processes) and see where any “gaps” exist.
4. Documented processes facilitate data conversion.
Many associations receive a hard slap of reality when they find out the data in their existing membership management software is in bad shape—poorly formatted, incomplete, inaccurate, and duplicated (or quintuplicated). How did this happen? They wonder. It happened because they didn’t have documented business rules in place for data management.
A major data cleansing project slows down implementation because it has to be done before data conversion—before data is transferred from the old membership management system(s) to the new one. One good thing can come from this situation: a strong desire to standardize and document data management processes so you never have to go through that again.
5. Documented processes speed along testing.
Documented processes are helpful during the testing phase. The new software is tested to make sure it meets functional requirements and users can run processes without error. Upon the completion of testing, your vendor will provide documentation pertaining to revised standard operating procedures for your future reference.
6. Documented processes make staff transitions easier for everyone.
Institutional knowledge is captured in process documentation. If someone leaves the project or the association, either temporarily or permanently, their knowledge about how work gets done stays behind. Departing staff won’t have to spend their last days furiously creating training materials for successors.
New staff can rely on an up-to-date playbook as a training reference. When onboarding new staff, take advantage of their fresh perspective while it lasts. They may see a better way to handle (and improve) an existing process.
7. Documented processes make possible a higher technology ROI.
Your processes define the most efficient and effective way to use technology to get work done—to perform necessary administrative tasks, leverage data, and serve members. Because the playbook is regularly reviewed and updated, when a better way is found, there’s an accepted method for improving the process.
Standardized and documented processes are essential in any association, but they’re especially critical for technology implementation. If your plans include new membership software or AMS software, check out our guide, The Ultimate Guide to Implementing Membership Software.