I’ve got several clients going through the process of implementing a new association management system. As I’ve participated in the discovery meetings, I’ve noticed a common thread throughout all of the discussions and conversations. Here are three keys for making system implementation successful:
- Business Rules – Business rules identify things like prices, who has access to what on your website, and so on. Obviously, business rules dictate how you run your association. These are critically important discussions, because the system is going to be set up to reflect your business rules. And of course, the more complicated your business rules, the more difficult set up and configuration will be. So be sure your business rules are clear, and try to make tham as simple as possible.
- Data Conversion – Data conversion can be overwhelming, especially if you have lots of data, and if you have lots of data all over the place (i.e., NOT centralized). My first rule of data conversion is simple: convert as little as possible! That’s right, you want to convert the bare minimum of data that you need to continue operations. You’d be amazed at how much data accretes over time in any database (or even worse, in multiple databases). And in almost every implementation I’ve been involved in, I’ve been able to help my clients eliminate large swaths of data from conversion. The less you convert, the better!
- Business Process – Business process is similar to business rules, with an important distinction. Business rules tell us WHAT data we process, while business process tells us HOW we process that data. Business process can either make things more efficient, or really gum up the process. A new system implementation gives us the opportunity to ask the really tough questions of “Why do we do it this way?” and “Should we still be doing it this way?”
BONUS TIP: Trust! That’s right, trust. During the implementation process, you have to learn to trust your vendor and trust your staff. You have to enter the process with the belief that everyone has the organization’s best interest in mind (until proven otherwise). This means having open and honest debates and being willing to consider new ideas, new processes, new ways of doing things.
System implementation is a difficult process, fraught with potential pitfalls. But having been through dozens of successful implementations over the years, it is possible to get through them without losing your mind!