There are several ingredients to a successful AMS implementation. I’ve identified four key ingredients here. Part of this was prompted by a presentation from Alan Weiss, and part of it was prompted by my own work in the field. Here are four of these best practices that can be applied to association management software implementation projects.
- Find small, quick victories–AMS implementation projects can last anywhere from 90 days to a year or more (even though they shouldn’t last that long!). Given their long timeframe, if we focus on go-live as the only victory, most of your staff is going to lose motivation. So it’s critical to find small, quick victories throughout the project to keep them inspired. One of the simplest early victories during a typical AMS implementation project is identifying all of the data that will be brought into the new system. For example, one of my clients currently has five different systems managing their data. With the implementation of their new AMS, they will be bringing all of that data into one system, eliminating redundant data management and improving staff efficiencies. The simple act of identifying all of those disparate data sources is a victory that should be celebrated.
- Scream your progress from the rooftops–Once we’ve accomplished these small victories, it’s important to publicize them, to let staff know that we’re making positive progress. This can be as simple as including mention of our progress during all-staff meetings, or something more formal like an email update from the executive director. One client of mine would send twice-monthly updates to all-staff, listing what had been accomplished over the past two weeks, and outlining what could be expected in the coming weeks. These emails were short and to the point, but kept the project front-and-center to staff.
- Make the tough decisions easy–Throughout the course of your AMS implementation, you’re going to face a lot of important decisions. From establishing key setups, to identifying naming conventions, to deciding which data transfer, you’re going to be making a range of decisions, from small to large. It is almost inevitable that you will have to make some very tough decisions along the way. For example, due to budget constraints, very often my clients have to make choices between paying for customizations to make the software operate just as they want it to, or stay with the baseline software which may require changing business processes and/or not managing all the data you want to manage in one place. Neither decision is necessarily the correct one; each organization has to make that choice based on their own needs and resources. But these tough decisions have to be made. Not choosing will slow down and possibly even derail the entire project.
- Destroy the Silos–I’ve worked with clients as small as just three staff, and even the smallest organization will have silos of data. I define data silos as data held by one staff person or department that would be useful to other staff or departments in the organization. Every organization has this problem. The most common offenders are those managing volunteers, such as committee members, speakers, writers, or other individuals providing service to the association pro bono. The implementation phase is the opportune time to identify where these data silos are located, who is managing them, and how they will be managed in the new database.
There are several other ingredients you could add to the mix. But if you focus on these four key ingredients, your implementation will go much more smoothly.
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