What does a technology investment have in common with a woolly mammoth? You guessed it: They are both a big, hairy deal.

Whether you’re looking for a small, mid-sized, or major system, a lot is riding on that purchase. The stakes are more about success than money. The goal of any technology platform is to help your team work smarter and become more efficient and productive. When the selection process goes awry for whatever reason, the result can be the exact opposite. Disgruntled colleagues, disappointed members, and disjointed operations.

Know the Options

One of the best ways to ensure a positive outcome is to be familiar with the marketplace and understand the options. If you’d like to study the lay of the land, join .orgCommunity on March 10 and 11 at 12:30 p.m. for the Solutions in Action virtual event. You’ll have the opportunity to meet 14 of our preferred partners who create solutions that:

  • Use video to tell stories members want to hear
  • Make AMS systems efficient workhorses and invaluable sources for data and analytics
  • Turn virtual events into conferences people can’t stop talking about
  • Provide career-changing educational programs
  • Enhance your organization’s online presence

Each presentation/demo will be ten minutes, with five minutes reserved for questions. You can stay for the entire session/s or schedule your participation based on your interests.

Get It Right

Whether you’re shopping for a CMS, AMS, or almost any other technology system, these are my top ten priorities for getting it right. Of course, there are many more issues to consider, but take these simple steps to get off to a strong start. 

1. Know where you’re going.

Identify clear goals and strategies for success. Key performance indicators (KPIs) will help your organization define and measure progress.

2. Listen to users.

Understand what your constituents want and need, and develop requirements for user experience as well as technical parameters.

3. Involve the right people.

Create a multidisciplinary implementation team that includes representatives across departments. Enlist support from volunteer users to test drive your systems.

4. Appoint an enthusiastic leader.

Appoint a project leader to ensure timelines and budgets stay on track, and to oversee the project plan and the assignment of resources. Select someone whose expertise and enthusiasm make them a good project ambassador.

5. Don’t defer planning for content creation and management.

If the software involves content creation, distribution, and storage, assign those responsibilities at the beginning of the project and determine early on how content will migrate to the new system. If a data migration is necessary, begin the cleaning and validation process at the earliest opportunity.

6. Use goals and benchmarks to identify success.

Use the goals and success criteria you identified to create test scenarios that will validate your achievements. Ask your team whether the software meets the expressed business and functional requirements. Determine whether the system is executing as anticipated.

7. Pick a vendor based on software and service.

Focus on both the software and the vendor. Look for a technology partner who has:

  • Proven quality and successes
  • Solid project management experience
  • An understanding of your organization
  • Chemistry with your staff and culture
  • Gained your trust

8. Test drive the finalists.

Test finalists against important usage scenarios for a limited amount of time before committing. This will give you much greater confidence in the vendor prior to signing a contract.

9. Ensure user-friendliness.

Make usability a priority. If the tool is difficult to operate, it will discourage robust usage. A simple test involving three to five people can identify aspects of the site that require reworking.

10. Negotiate the right deal.

Be sure to negotiate a fair deal. Try to select a vendor who views your project as the right size for their expertise, i.e., neither too big nor too small for their resources.

Ask the Right Questions

Kevin Ordonez, President and Managing Director Digital Strategy

Asking the right questions is another critical component for a successful rollout.  .orgSource technology superheroes Kevin Ordonez and Dawn Briskey are pros at helping clients understand what they need to know. These are topics they typically navigate.

How can associations ensure that employees are enthusiastic and ready to successfully implement a new platform?

Kevin: Lay the groundwork by clearly communicating the rationale and vision for the project. It’s important to acknowledge that implementation will be hard work, but that the results will be improved experiences for members and greater efficiency for staff. If possible, hire temporary help to support key employees. Clearly define roles and ensure that employees have the authority to make decisions that the management team will support. And don’t forget to celebrate success along the way.

Dawn: To promote buy-in,develop a strategy for communicating with the staff regularly about the implementation and its status. Be realistic about the timeline and provide ample resources to support the work. Employees should understand deadlines that must be met. Acknowledge and recognize the team members who take on extra work.

What type of staff training will be needed? 

Dawn Briskey, CAE, Vice President, Client Services

Kevin: Train early and often by creating bite-size learning sessions. Having staff teach each other is an effective strategy. Be sure to record all training sessions for future use.

Dawn: Staff should be trained on both the back end of the system and the customer experience, depending upon their roles. Some training occurs naturally as the system is tested and processes are documented. It’s important for staff to understand any integrations between the new system and other platforms. Decisions need to be made regarding the data required for product and catalog setup, content delivery, and customer enrollment.  When the system goes live, call center staff should receive copies of all member communications and promotions.

Should the entire staff be involved or just the relevant department/s? 

Kevin: To maximize your investment, all stakeholders should be involved.  Every department will have some responsibilities: for example, marketing will need to understand the initiative and promote it to members. Finance should be aware of budgetary impacts—and so on.

Dawn: The involvement of the IT team and/or IT support vendors is critical for a seamless user experience and to ensure that the system is compatible with existing software and possibly apps that the association uses. IT, education, and marketing teams should work together to plan the customer journey. When it is time to test the system, it is helpful to involve employees who are close to the project as well as those who are less familiar with it. This is especially important when testing the customer experience.

How can we manage employees who are reluctant or resistant to change? 

Kevin: Getting employees involved and giving them ownership is a great way to combat negativity. Demonstrate that there is an opportunity to be perceived as a leader or a subject matter expert.  Get everyone involved with a process. Give them ownership.

Dawn: Ask your staff what they think is needed for a successful implementation. Remind teams that the new system may be challenging initially, but it will potentially eliminate hours of manual processes. This time can be allocated to other strategic priorities.

Will additional staffing resources be necessary? 

Kevin: That depends on the scope of the project. If the system will be a new resource, the need for additional staffing is likely.

Dawn: System management is time-consuming. It may be necessary to adjust or shift workloads for current employees. Hiring temporary staff may be helpful. Even basic content requires time to set up, test, and implement. Outcomes reporting and analysis are an additional key component of delivering content. Skillsets may be required that don’t currently exist on the team. Outsourcing some work is an option.

Meet the Pros

There isn’t any substitute for having some face time with a variety of technology providers. Even if you’re not in the market for a new product, I urge you to join us for Solutions in Action and meet some of the savviest technology leaders in the industry. And, if you are about to make a significant purchase, don’t miss this opportunity for some of the best byte-size advice on how to eat an elephant.