When an association recently approached me to help them select and implement a new AMS product, I was happy to help. Then they told me they wanted to choose and implement a new system in under six months. Given the size of their staff (50) and their two memberships (roughly 13,000 individuals combined), I didn’t think it was possible. But as you’ll read, not only was it possible, they did it!
For an association of this size and complexity, an implementation time of 6 to 9 months would be typical. Yet this association wanted to go-live in 90 days.
So how did they do it? There were four key elements at play, which can be applied to any software implementation, regardless of how long your implementation time is.
The key is focus.
- Focus only on the functionality that must absolutely be available on the go-live date. In the case of my client, although the system they selected will support essentially all of their data management needs, they focused on just four items: membership joins and renewals and integrations to three third-party systems (in their case their association website, a third-party event registration website, and a third-party social community tool). By focusing on just these four items, they were able to execute quickly without distractions. All unrelated data management issues were tabled until after go-live.
- Both staff and vendor were focused on the go-live date. What that meant for my client is that they chose an implementation time period that was slowest for their organization (e.g., NOT just before a major event or during peak renewal period). All non-essential programs were cleared from the calendar to ensure the go-live date was met. Staff responded rapidly to all vendor questions and completed their assignments in a timely manner. As for the vendor, prior to contract signing they committed resources to the project and were extremely responsive.
- Focus on data conversion. With a focus on functionality (noted above) is clearly established, data conversion becomes more focused, too. In the case of my client, by establishing that membership data was key to go-live, they were able to make sure the membership data was as clean as possible at conversion time. Future use of the database will include managing certification data and converting existing certification data. But by moving management of certification data to phase II, my client kept resources concentrated on go-live data.
- Focus on what is important, and let the small things go. At one point, my client requested the vendor add a database field for “middle name.” The vendor was able to add the field, but due to database restrictions, the middle field has to follow the last name on customer-facing forms. Although this looks a little silly, it is not a game-stopping event, and my client said “Fine, let’s go with that.” Too often during implementation I’ll see my clients fighting battles for small things. Save your focus for the big issues.
For the vast majority of my clients, I would not recommend a 90-day implementation timeline. In fact, I tried to discourage this client because the risk for failure is so high. But even in cases where the timeline is not this aggressive, the simple points highlighted above will help ensure a successful implementation for your organization, too.
When all parties are dedicated and committed, amazing things can happen!
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