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What Makes Nonprofit Tech Projects Succeed?
Community IT Innovators is pleased to collaborate with our partners at Build Consulting for this webinar on What Makes Nonprofit Tech Projects Succeed?
Join Peter Mirus, a Build Consulting expert on technology project implementations at nonprofits, who will offer insights from his years of experience as a consultant, and answer participant questions on driving successful technology projects.
What you’ll learn:
- What does it mean for a project to be a “success?”
- What are the key elements your organization needs to have in place?
- What are the secrets of success that fail to get enough attention?
- How can you help your nonprofit be in the 50% of tech projects that succeed?
There is a 15-minute live Q&A at the end of the webinar.
This webinar is appropriate for nonprofit executives, managers and nonprofit IT personnel – and as with all our webinars, it is appropriate for a varied audience.
Peter Mirus is an expert at helping organizations and people to learn, communicate, and grow through the use of technology at Build Consulting. He has over 20 years of experience helping nonprofits of all sizes create and implement successful business improvement and technology projects. He presented two sessions on nonprofit technology at the Good Tech Fest in Chicago in May 2019.
Peter Mirus: Hello everyone and welcome to our webinar for May 2019. Presented as a partnership between Build Consulting and Community IT Innovators.
In this webinar, we will be discussing the keys to making your nonprofit’s technology project a success, and conversely, common pitfalls to avoid.
Just a few housekeeping notes before we get started. Feel free to interact by asking questions via chat. Try to avoid multi-tasking, you may just miss the best part of the presentation! And, as always, links to the recordings, insights will be shared after the webinar.
A little bit about Community IT and Build Consulting. We both work exclusively with non-profit organizations to help them make information technology and information systems decisions that support their mission. And we both take a collaborative approach which empowers our clients to make informed decisions for their organizations.
Build leads in the social sector by providing three different types of services.
- We serve as part-time or interim chief information officers for non-profits.
- We perform business process technology and data projects ranging from strategic assessments and road maps to system selections and implementations.
- And we also provide outsourced data managers with deep development operations experience and non-profit CRM expertise.
My name is Peter Mirus and I’m your presenter for this webinar. A little bit about my background. I have 20 years serving all manner of non-profit organizations ranging in size from small local non-profits to large global non-profits and across a wide variety of industry categories and mission orientations. And over the past several years, I’ve worked exclusively with non-profits. In total, I’ve worked with over a hundred clients in both non-profit, government and for-profit spaces and I have three primary expertise which are marketing, constituent relationship management and information strategy.
So, the principle on which Build founded itself is that tomorrow’s best non-profits will use technology to transform themselves and the world.
But the reality is that more than 50% of non-profit technology projects fail and the reason for that is because the technology moves forward but the organization does not. And generally speaking, Build’s experience has been most non-profit technology projects fail because of factors other than technology. And what do we mean by that? Simply that in today’s market, non-profits have access to a broad range of quality technology solutions and there is a good or at least good enough solution for the vast majority of needs.
So, the challenge that we see in information technology projects is often not the technology, per se, but the fact that the organizations do not first identify and then make the organizational changes necessary to successfully select and implement the new technology, or make significant improvements or upgrades to their existing tech.
So, that’s why Build Consulting is in business- to try to solve that dilemma and in response to that, we created something called the Information Strategy Framework.
And it really emphasizes that the challenges facing nonprofits in technology today are largely cultural- orienting around leadership and governance, operational capacity, business process and data modeling before considering the technology. And we help, we use this framework to help clients explore these considerations and we have a white paper available in the resources section of our website called “Build an Information Strategy for Your Organization” which you can check out at any time.
Now, this is not to say that there aren’t technological problems to be addressed but as one study reported:
- 50% of executives said the problem with technology projects was related more to people in the organization.
- 32% blame the business processes
- 19% pointed the finger at technology.
And this is fairly characteristic of numerous studies that have been done across a wide variety of industries including the nonprofit sector.
So, Built wants to emphasize that transformation is critical to your success and this formula is one that we often share with our clients and one we speak of in the nonprofit industry conferences and at individual clients. It stands for “old organizations plus new technology equals expensive old organization.” So, transformation is really critical.
What does it mean to succeed with the non-profit technology project? (5:12) Now, Build defines success in tech projects as achieving the intended benefits. Not just in the short term but for however long that intended benefit was to last.
A project is a failure when it doesn’t realize the intended benefits. So, for as an example. If your organization implements a new donor relationship management or CRM system for the primary purpose of increasing revenue and revenue does increase then the project would be considered a success. If it does not increase, the CRM project is generally considered a failure.
So, what are the keys to success? That’s the topic of our webinar for today. I’m gonna briefly talk about nine different keys to success. Two which are focused on leadership, then six related to operations about operational capacity and then concluding with an extremely critical key to success that encompasses process, data and technology.
Following that we have plenty of time for questions. There were a number of questions that were submitted in advance that I’m prepared to respond to. You can also send in questions any time using the questions or chat feature in Go To Webinar.
What Makes Nonprofit Tech Projects Succeed? Executive Sponsors
So, the first key to success is having actively engaged executive sponsor or sponsors. (6:25) And when we talk about executive sponsors, these are high level people within the organization that can provide visible participation and regular communication and assist with the prioritization of resources towards the effort – Providing guidance and support and ensuring accountability. And this is important particularly for major projects that require extensive reallocation of staff time to complete successfully. Now, actively engaged executive sponsors may by itself be the difference between being successful with a project or not in situations like this.
We frequently see non-profit organizations start with strong executive interactions in the project but attention wanes over time and there is a strong correlation between losing that executive focus on the project and the project performance setbacks. Because generally speaking other stakeholders that are involved in the project take their key from executive participation. And so, if you would like to read more on how executives can best support nonprofit technology projects, there is a fairly lengthy post on our blog written by one of our partners, David Deal, who is a lead strategist at Build as well as an experienced CEO, non-profit CIO and non-profit board member.
And one of the reasons why I mentioned that post is because it’s often an effective tool for non-profit staff members getting the right buy-in and engagement from senior execs for their active engagement in projects. The reason for that is because those execs are more likely to absorb this message from someone that has been at their level within an organization than they are to absorb that exact same message from a director, manager or staff member at a lower organizational level. So, I encourage you to leverage that blog post which you can easily find on our website as a tool if you need to make the case at the project level for having a more involved and engaged executive sponsor.
We often say at Build that it all starts with leadership, and it is true that many of the challenges that we see in technology in general within nonprofits does ultimately trace its origination back to leadership and the way that leadership leads the organization.
Identify Business Benefits to Your Nonprofit
The next thing that you want to do is identify business benefits and this is a great thing for executive sponsors to be involved in deeply. But ultimately, identification of business benefits associated with technology projects should be done as a collective effort including all of the necessary stakeholders.
The purpose of identifying the business benefits is to agree what purposeful or deliberate actions during implementation will ensure that the benefits are realized and sustained once the project ends.
So, an example of a business benefit would be to achieve a 10% increase in sustaining members, taking another donor relationship management or CRM example. Now technology can help support that goal, particularly if it predicts which donors will become sustainers and helps automate the outreach campaign process. But technology alone will not address the issue.
Purposeful actions during the implementation might include: effective training of staff on how to use the features, and documenting new business processes to make sure they can be sustainably performed over time and consistently performed, including having the ability for the processes to survive potential employee turnover.
So, again, you want to identify the business benefits which would be that 10% increase in sustaining members. It gives you one of many potential business benefits associated with the CRM project. And then identifying, correlate this with those purposeful actions that you’re gonna take to make sure that business benefits are achieved.
So, the two leadership things that I’m focusing on here today are the executive sponsor engagement which is so critical and then dovetailing with that identification of business benefits. Now, one of the questions that I frequently get is: Who is the stakeholder, and Who is the project stakeholder?
Who Are Your Nonprofit Tech Project Stakeholders?
Generally that means- Anybody who needs to be involved in the process to ensure that representatives’ input is collected. And in terms of business requirements, (which we will be getting to in a little bit) also the people that need to be engaged in order to make sure that they are bought into the process. When it gets to success for implementation, they have confidence the organization has selected and is prepared to implement a technology solution that really is going to achieve the intended result. Given the stakeholders for the project, it’s gonna be a little bit different for every organization and it’s something that just has to be considered on a per project basis.
We will talk a little bit more about keeping stakeholders engaged during the entire course of the project in a little bit.
The next thing to talk about in regards to key to success is in operations and that’s project planning and direction (12:17). And I think first and foremost what the industry studies have shown and what our experience has been, is that experience is key.
So, especially when you’re approaching a large and complex technology project, it’s important to choose someone to lead the project that has already successfully performed a similar project in a similar situation. Perhaps for your own organization or for another organization environment. And empowerment is critical. It’s very difficult being an empowered project director or manager whose stakeholders can feel free to ignore or disregard.
And so, it’s very important that whomever is leading the project have the ability to really run the project and to have access to that executive sponsor or sponsors that are gonna help make critical decisions and enforce the positive behaviors that need to be in place in order for a project to be a success.
One of the primary challenges for project planning and direction that we see in non-profits is successful time management. Often nonprofits don’t really track time. It’s not budgeted and tracked for employees or contractors for other projects and so, the result is that all staff time is sort of considered infinitely flexible.
As a consequence of this, staff are often given new responsibilities associated with technology project but the managers don’t take anything off their staff’s plate so that they have time available to commit to the effort. And that basically just results in huge time crunches, bad morale and a lot of projects underperforming or failing out right.
It’s as simple and complex as saying that you have to make sure that the people who are going to be participating in the project have reasonable expectations for their time and the managers have cleared the time on their schedule for them to be available to participate.
As I said, failing to do this, particularly over a large scale implementation, just leads to incredible burnout, team turnover and also project delays and missed deadlines.
So, project planning and direction is key. The two things that I just want to focus on in this area, although there are many, are experienced leadership -project director or manager level -and the empowerment of that position. Then also, successful good time management: two critical things that fall under this heading.
Change Management is Critical
The next key to success is having a good change management function inside your organization (14:55) or inside the project. Technology change always requires some sort of behavioral change and this really gets back to the heart of what I was introducing earlier about transformation being key to the success of technology projects.
So, the practice of change management helps
- define the change that is coming,
- assesses the impact of that change on the various roles within the organization and
- helps prepare those roles for the impact.
And you know, I’ve been referencing a lot, the resources on our site and I’ll continue to do so. We actually have a how-to tool and template for performing a change impact analysis for your project in the resources section of our website along with the information strategy white paper that I mentioned earlier. It’s one of our most downloaded resources. And as you see in that template, effective change management may incorporate four critical elements. Leadership alignment, communications and training and then also support. And I think in that template training and support are sort of bundled together as concepts. I’m calling them out a little bit more individually today for the sake of example.
And so, to give you an idea of how leadership alignment communication and training and support would be taken into consideration, I’m currently working on a Salesforce community based client case management system. It’s been rolled out to over 10,000, almost 11,000, volunteers across over 300 chapters nationwide and in that particular scenario, leadership alignment includes not only the leadership at the national office but also in the regional, vice-president, district directors and chapter leadership. Making sure that those in leadership at every level are aligned to the business goals and performance metrics, for the new system is critical. So that’s leadership alignment.
Then in terms of communications, we need to make sure that the phased timing of the roll out as well as value propositions for the new case management system are understood across the entire volunteerships. So all 11,000 or so of volunteers, we have to provide training to all expected users in their system. That of course is highly important.
And we also have to plan for and deliver help desk support to all of the users over the course of basically a 22 month roll out period.
So, these things again, leadership alignment, communications, training and support need to be taken into consideration for all technology projects. Generally from the early stages, when you are doing your strategic assessment prior to selecting the technology that’s gonna be implemented, because change management is often under-budgeted or a need that’s discovered too late. So, it’s important to get on top of it earlier.
When you’re thinking about the cost of the technology project and the resources internally that are gonna be required, you can make prudent decisions and really understand the full cost of the effort. Change management needs to be taken into consideration for technology projects of all sizes, even if following a cursory fashion for small and simple projects.
But of course, the level of change capacity needs to be scaled to the size of the effort and will be at its greatest for the large and most complex projects. And so, I think ultimately, scaling up for the roll out that I was just talking about to those over 10,000 volunteers, that’s a significant effort of course. We’re gonna see a growth of maybe six additional team members that are exclusively focused on change management to support that effort.
Risk Assessment for Nonprofit Tech Projects
Take a look at (still under the heading of operations) risk assessments(19:05) And this is another thing like change management that’s often not taken into consideration to help sort of get your mind around everything that’s gonna be entailed within a project. And risk assessments are valuable all the time. But they are particularly necessary for larger complex projects. And a good risk assessment basically assesses all of the potential challenges or risks for a project including each one sourced from the availability of its occurrence and the potential impact on project cost, schedule or performance. It also introduces mitigation or response for each risk. And it’s important to know that a risk assessment is not just a one end proposition. It needs to be revisited and updated to track the status of existing risk and add new risks as they enter the picture. And one example of a typical risk that hearkens back to something that I was referencing earlier and this is true for many projects is the lack of stakeholder availability to participate based on consulting priorities or events.
Depending on the degree to which this risk transpires, it could have a high impact on all of the areas of potential impact for risk: project cost, schedule and performance.
A good example of how to mitigate such a risk would be to take steps to make sure that team members are freed from responsibilities that conflict with progress on the project.
Oftentimes, there are a lot of competing initiatives with technology projects at organizations. They may not even be foreseen as being current with the technology project, but if they ran along some of the technology project’s timeline, they could be a challenge from a time management standpoint internally.
So, actually, the organizations that do the most effective project and change management for technology projects have some form of centralized project management and change management offices or disciplines inside of the organization, or are used to taking into consideration, resource management.
Risk assessments are pretty important and they are pretty easy to do. It’s just a mental exercise and really encourages you to just consider everything that’s on the landscape for your implementation and not take anything for granted.
Take a Collaborative Approach to Nonprofit Tech Projects
Also under the heading of operations another thing that research studies and our own experience has shown critical to success is taking a collaborative iterative approach (21:14).
This is an approach that’s focused on incremental design and implementation processes and these are most commonly referred to as agile processes and it’s a style of engagement that helps to keep all of the key stakeholders participating throughout all of the many critical decisions and the review and approval processes during the technology project, from the very start of requirements discovery all the way through the post implementation phase.
It also helps break down project complexities into bite-size chunks so that they could be more easily approached by people that are making decisions.
Now, one word of warning that’s appropriate here: while it is true that organizations that take an open and collaborative approach focused on an incremental design and implementation process or an agile process show a greater potential for success, it is important to know that when a vendor is selected to help implement a software system or any technology solution and that vendor uses an agile approach that they have the ability to be flexible when working with an organization that has never or not successfully been through an agile process.
Introducing an agile approach to an organization that’s unused to working in that style can be a major culture clash that causes projects to get bogged down or collapse entirely. For agile projects for example, it’s very important that stakeholders are frequently available to participate in design reviews and user testing, sometimes on a weekly or more frequent than weekly basis, and this also means committing the necessary time to make business decisions outside of those sessions within accelerated time frames compared to what the organization is accustomed to.
You really have to be properly geared up for that in order to undertake a pure agile process. So, it’s really important that the vendor have the flexibility to apply agile principles in a way that will truly work for each organization. It’s like, if you’re in college and you’re in a seminar class and the professor was rigidly operating on the seminar format and then didn’t have the ability to lecture extemporaneously if the seminar structure broke down at any point due to challenges with that particular class. And so things sort of break down.
So, that’s the closest analogy that I can think of as an example to what happens when you introduce a pure agile process to an organization that’s not, or team that’s not well suited for it. Then you just sort of tend to grind to a halt and there can be a lot of frustration involved. So that’s something to keep a keen eye out for when you’re picking vendors – determine what their implementation process is and if it is an agile process, discuss their flexibility relative to your organization’s current state of development.
Another thing to consider under operations is supportive tools (24:30) and successful projects most frequently create a digital project collaboration environment that manages and socializes critical information related to the project. These are tools like Basecamp, Asana, in some cases Microsoft Project Planner. We prefer a tool called Teamwork projects because it has a blend of robust functionality and ease of user experience and adoption. It’s really easy for us to get client’s teams into and working with very quickly. Although, it’s not well suited to every situation.
The key is to have a functional space that’s universally adopted by all the key project participants and in which folks can be on the same page with regards to milestones, tasks, agenda, notes, files, risks and critical conversations; basically any information that the project requires to be successful. And the best way to make sure a tool like this remains in active use with up to date information throughout the entire project is to use information in the system as a live point of reference within team meetings and also to drive performance reporting to stakeholders. So, again every organization and team is a little bit different. I’ll talk about that more in a minute in terms of project management style. But generally speaking, the best way to make sure that people are in the system and using it and managing the information as they should is to just basically constantly re-referencing the information in those meetings. And helping to hold each other accountable for when things are up to date when key information is missing.
Promote Professional Skills Development
Now, the last point of operation that I want to talk about is professional skills development (26:39) and this is something that’s again often overlooked by non-profit organizations when they are thinking about technology projects. So, technology projects, particularly large and complex projects, often require team members inside the org to step into roles for which they are not fully equipped. Just basically because they haven’t had to engage in that way before. The most successful projects take this into consideration and then take steps to make sure that team members are provided with the skills development they required to be successful.
Studies have found that special emphasis should be given to planning, communication, teamwork, time management and change or adaptation skills. Many of the things that we have been discussing up to this point in this webinar.
For one major project and which I’m currently engaged, we take this into consideration in a couple of different ways. One is, I have weekly professional development meetings with the acting VP of technology and the project coordinator and then also ad hoc meetings toward the same purpose with other team members. The VP of marketing and strategy who is executive sponsor for the project also holds regular professional development meetings with other key project stakeholders. In this way, she and I collaborate to ensure that all of the team members have their heads up when it comes to broadening their individual visions and equipping themselves with the perspectives and skills they need. That just to eke out an existence, but to thrive in their project roles. This is something that we do a lot for projects, specifically large-scale implementation, that really are “all hands on deck” sort of processes and one of the things that we try to emphasize as a motivator for people that have intense project roles is: this is really an opportunity for them to grow professionally and boost the value of their resumes.
And it really is. Being involved in key positions in such a successful implementation project is definitely a resume-worthy item especially given that the failure rate is high. And successful projects really need to be celebrated.
Define Your Nonprofit Tech Project Requirements
Now, I’m gonna talk a little bit about this overarching idea of requirements definition (28:53) which bridges the process data and technology aspects of our information strategy framework. And one of the key things that contributes to technology project failures is just inadequate requirements definition. Requirements definition that’s not thorough enough, or lacks the appropriate depth, or skirted around important business decisions that needed to be made. Maybe it failed to take into considered that there are critical aspects of the organization’s process or data management that they knew they were dissatisfied with their current state but not quite sure where to take it.
So, they had a good notion of what they didn’t like but not a clear enough picture of what they did like.And ultimately, there are key business decisions that need to be taken into account before going in to select the technology solution.
Requirements definition really are proceeded through like this: You itemize and describe the processes, the key processes that need to be supported by the system and when data needs to be gathered and in the course of those processes to meet your program obligations or to take advantage of programmatic opportunities as an organization.
So, an example of the business requirement would be the ability to transfer a case record from one counselor to another within an agency for somebody that’s involved in human services. Technological requirements that’s related to that would be the ability to have full data encryption both when it’s moving over the interwebs and at rest on the database or counselor or client and case data.
So, you are dividing things into business requirements and technical requirements that’s what’s most common, the most common experience of technology solutions hunters and you sort of have the key data collection points and reporting requirements baked into the business requirements. So, business and standard core requirements should be carefully documented and prioritized.
If the organization has a poor understanding of its current business process and data as I said or process or perform inconsistently or data quality has been poorly managed, their business requirements can be very difficult to develop and poor business requirements as I said are a big challenge in technology projects success and are one of the leading contributors to projects running over-budget and over-schedule and are a leading cause of the wrong system being selected and implemented which often results in what we call a lagging failure where the system is implemented and rolled out but ultimately over the next 12 to 18 months falls out of use.
So people go back to doing things outside of the system or perhaps even reverting to the old system and this is fairly common occurrence. And that’s actually one of the reasons why my company, Build, prefers to get involved with client tech projects during the early assessment and road map phases because when we get involved later on in the implementation phase, it often becomes apparent that the organization will need to pump the brakes a little bit on these requirements definition in a more deeper manner before they can proceed to have that successful implementation.
And when the vendor is engaged in the implementation as already moving, it can be very difficult from a psychological perspective, from a mechanical perspective, and costly for the organization to push the pause button. So, you definitely want to get that business requirements definition done as a separate exercise before the selection of that technology solution.
Software vendors frequently tell Build that our clients are better prepared to have successful selections and implementation than any of their other non-profit customers.
And so, it’s common for us to hear feedback like “I’ve been working in the space for 15 years and this is the best RFP we have ever received,” and that’s because our clients have already anticipated, wrestled with and made important requirements decisions ahead of going into the selection and implementation efforts.
And ultimately what we are all shooting for here is selecting software that matches the needs of the organization,flowing through from organizational strategy and goals all the way through to the particular functional area or program that this technology is gonna support. And also a much better mutual understanding between the non-profit and the implementation partner about what it will actually take to successfully complete the projects, including a much more accurate projection of total cost.
It’s never fun when you run out of money and haven’t finished the implementation yet. So, really getting business requirements, definition and technical requirements definition done ahead of time is thoroughly as necessary to achieve a successful outcome is very important.
In quick fashion here over the course of about 30 minutes, we’ve covered nine different keys to success. So, I’m just gonna back up real quick and just step through them again and again we’ll be distributing the reporting and the slides after the fact, so you’ll be able to go through that at your leisure.
- actively engage executive sponsors,
- identify those business benefits and the purposeful actions that will ensure the benefits are realized and sustained.
- Having good, experienced project planning and direction.
- Good time management,
- having a good change management understanding and ability to execute that focusing on identifying and planning for the impacts that will come along with the change
- leveraging leadership alignment, communications, training and support. To support to sort of help the change be absorbed. To form a good risk assessment especially for larger complex projects.
- Take a collaborative, iterative approach to building your requirements during the design and implementation process for your technology solutions.
- Leverage supportive tools throughout the projects to help with project information management and collaboration. Again we recommend and use teamwork projects wherever we can.
- And focus on professional skills development. Particularly communication teamwork, planning, time management and change in adaptation skills.
- And then finally, really get those business intent and core requirements right before going into a technology selection effort.
So, just a couple of concluding housekeeping notes before we get into some of the Q&A.
For more information, including many of the resources that I’ve mentioned today, you can check out our blog www.Buildconsulting.com/blog.
Or look under Learning resources sections of our site /resources
You can also sign up for our newsletter, if you haven’t already done so. It’s a great way for you to become aware of the resources that we are making available, as we make them available. To get announcements for these webinars and have the opportunity to register and to become acquainted with when we are speaking at major events in your area. And feel free to continue the conversation with us at any time.
You can send us an email from the contact page on our website.
You can tweet at us or you can visit our LinkedIn company profile and get to us through that. And just a quick note for the next Community IT webinar, it’s actually coming up very quickly here and it’s a partnership with Aon, which is a cyber security insurance provider. Morgan Grady and Peter Burch from Aon’s dedicated cyber solutions insurance practice are gonna answer audience questions on cyber insurance for non-profits: What is it, why you may need it. as you’re familiar with community IT has been doing lately. It’s been doing a lot of analysis on cyber security incidents and incident response plans within the nonprofit sector. It’s increasing area of concern and has all of our attention. So this is a good opportunity to explore one of the things that you can do to help your organization be more prepared for cyber security incidents when they occur and unfortunately, it is more of a question of when than if, with the vulnerability rates and the incidents levels in the industry today.
So, now, I’m gonna go ahead and turn my attention to the Q&A which we have 22 minutes for and I’m taking a look at the questions that have been put through Go To Webinar or chat as well as the 6 or 7 questions that were submitted in advance. So, on our website, there will be a recording and the recording will be available both on YouTube and in mp3 format on the Build Consulting website, so you can take it with you and listen to it as you would to a podcast on your commute.
So, it will be very helpful for you to review the video. I also want to point out that the basis for this webinar was a research-based article that I put up on the Build Consulting blog. So, if you search our site for successful technology projects and/or browse through the blog, it’s one of our more recent posts. So, that’s where a lot of the information to support the 50 percent statistic and some drill down numbers are presented as well as our organized reflection of each of the keys to success that we presented today. And will be a good reference point for anybody that’s trying to make the case for more attention to some of these areas inside of their organizations. So, Larry, thanks for submitting that question and that’s the response.
- This isn’t super on-topic but somebody sent in a question in advance to ask if Build Consulting has experience with converting from Blackbaud products and does Blackbaud fight turning over the data from cloud based apps (38:51). First, yes, we do have a lot of experience with this. Although, Blackbaud has improved some of the products particularly recently, there was and still continues to be a sort of mass exodus from Blackbaud solutions to other solutions in the market. Again, we recently wrote a blog post on all of the options available from a CRM and marketing automation standpoint or at least some of the more promising ones in the mid-market solution class for nonprofits specifically, so you can take a look at that. Someone characterized Blackbaud as fighting to keep the data but as with any vendor, the ease of getting the data out of the system varies from product to product. So there might be some challenges and I’ll follow-up the email with whoever asked this question again to get more specific, so I can provide a more specific response.
- Somebody asked, “What’s the best advice for non-technical managers or leaders in the works to manage successful products especially if it’s done by an outside vendor?” (40:00) So, I would say to just hearken back to some of my earlier comments – get someone who knows both the business and the technical landscapes and who has successfully led similar projects in the past to help data manage the project through organization.
That’s one of the most important factors for success. Otherwise, you absorb greater risk through lacking expertise and experience to successfully lead the project. And you also lack an advocate, somebody to advocate on your behalf from a knowledgeable position to the vendor, serving as your partner and questioning vendor decisions and making sure that they are really acting in your best interests. And helping to develop the relationship with them in a productive way based on the challenges and limitations that the project leader will know, or being experienced by the organization as well as the vendor, and those types of vendors for whatever that solution process whether it’s a CRM or voluntary management system or an accounting system or whatever the case maybe. So, those would be my recommendations. Other than that, for non-technical managers and leaders, I think this webinar has done a pretty good job of covering some of the keys to success that can be applied by any manager or leader regardless of whether they have a technical orientation or not.
- Another question is – “How to be responsive to tech project constituents in the design or development process and how to keep constituents engaged in the project.” (41:32) I’m assuming that constituents is in this case used similar to what we would call stakeholders, project stakeholders and requirement developments. So, you want to start early, identify your stakeholders, engage them in defining their requirements by interviewing them for the most critical stakeholders to find out what their business needs are as well as perhaps for, if you want to engage a larger group of stakeholders, you can do that by survey.
Then you can further it by leveraging an agile approach and solutions design and development or configuration as we talked about earlier and also how you perform change management before and during and after the roll out. So, if you engage them from requirements development from the very start, leverage the agile approach and take the change management items that we have been discussing into consideration, you have a pretty comprehensive plan for engaging and being responsive to tech projects constituents or stakeholders throughout to end process. That really pays dividends when you’re actually rolling out the solution to people. They are already engaged available with the value, feel like they have a voice in the process as is appropriate.
One of the other things that I like to do sometimes is leverage a tool called RACI matrix. RACI stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed. So, if you’re not sure who, which constituents to involve with, which levels and putting them into one of those buckets, responsible, accountable, consulted or informed relative to the projects can help you determine what communications or level of engagement should be applied to each group.
- Someone asked “How to move an implementation from the earlier adopters to the whole organization?” (42:35) I would say generally, the answer to this is found in creating the change management plan, including a focus on how to manage leadership alignment, communications, training and support across all waves of the roll out. And some of the ways that this includes or could include leveraging early adopters is use the early adopters to help convince other leaders inside the organization whether they’d be in the case of example I was giving earlier, chapter leaders or just more of your power users to buy in to the process. You can include a positive testimony or communications. You can ask some of the early adopters to serve as trainers and mentors for later adopters and you can make sure that early adopter feedback knowledge based resources such as use and how-to articles that can help lessen the burden on support staff to respond to incoming common questions and issues.
It occurs to me that also mentioned at this point that one of the newer options that are available in the space today are digital options platforms like Walk Me that basically allow you to layer training on top of the software products that are marked step by step to the process that they need to implement in the software at the moment that they are actually executing their process.
We have been working with Walk Me to help inform them about the nonprofit space and help bring down their pricing for nonprofit market and they have been very responsive to that need and see a lot of good that they can help do in nonprofits. Particularly, they have systems or even just website users that are volunteers or just general visitors and try to help connect them to the opportunities for them to serve or to take actions. So, there is a lot of opportunity there. I’ll follow-up with anybody that wants to shoot me a message about that.
But the reason I bring that up within this context is using the earlier adopters to test not just the system itself but also Walk Me training that would be laid over top of the system would be critical to help refining that training and that’s a really good thing to do and help when you brought in the roll out process to make sure that it’s done in a fully informed manner.
- Somebody else wrote in: “We are moving a CRM database to new technology. What steps should I take?” (46:00) I think that depends on where you are in the process. But I would start by saying, start by considering the five aspects of the information strategy that you saw at the start of this presentation as well as the keys to success that we have been discussing. And just determine whether or not you have the internal skills and experience, time and money to successfully undertake the effort. Without knowing more about your particular situation, I can’t offer more specifics than that. But I’m happy to follow-up via email. So, if you would like to dialogue about that, I will shoot you an email and give you something to respond to.
- Somebody chatted in, “We’d love for Walk Me to lower the prices for MPLs. Would use them but too expensive.” (46:47) I’ve actually been talking to them lately about a couple of different relatively newly developed options in pricing from them. One of them is within the context of whether they are called gross package where you can start out with or limited implementation of Walk Me at a much lower cost. And they have also recently really brought down their prices for the more enterprise configurations for non-profits. If you would like to compare some notes with me on that based on what you’ve seen with your pricing, happy to dialogue with you on that. And we can follow-up together, that’s great. I’ll share with you the information that I have.
I’m also gonna be putting out a blog post relatively soon about what digital adoption platforms are and what Walk Me has contributed to the non-profit sector and what are the use cases and what can be applied. So, you can keep an eye out for that as well.
- Another person wrote in: “We need a new VMS which I assume is voluntary management system, yesterday. Our current one sucks, (tell us how you really feel), but it has data in it going back to the 90s. Is migration even possible?” (48:04) Well, so much of that depends on what the database is on the back end and what the cost would be to get the data out, transform it to match the format needed for importing into the new system and then load it into the new system. So if its SQL server and the data model is relatively straight forward, it could be pretty easy to pull it out, put it in Excel or CSV format and sort of flattened it out in a way, maintaining relationships that need to be maintained. And then see if you can import it into another system. It so much depends on what the system you’re starting with is and what the new one is gonna look like in terms of the export/import or direct access to capabilities. And again, that’s another one I’m happy to follow-up via email and will with that questioner.
- Another question that has come in is: “What are best practices for managing multiple projects at a time using both agile and waterfall methodologies?”(49:02) So, the best starting point, I can recommend for that is to make sure that you have the ability to manage project milestones and associated key products within each project and then across all projects. So, by products, I mean, what is supposed to have been produced or delivered by that point in the project. And so, if you’re relatively early in, if you’re working on an assessment for example, you could say, well by this milestone and data, we want to have the current state of the business processes accurately documented so that we can decide for the next milestone what we want the future state to be and how far that deviates from where we currently are at. So, that two milestones one for completion of the current state documentation, one for documentation of the future state and the associated things that were documents or whatever the needs to be produced or outcomes that needed to be achieved by that point. So, that gives all stakeholders at all levels, the most critical bird’s eye view into whether or not the project or portfolio of projects are on schedule and producing what they are intended to produce. And having that milestone as deliverable or product tracking as a common approach across all projects, gives you the ability or greater liberty, in how you manage tasks in the ways that are best for each project and its participants.
One of the things that I’ve observed and other people have observed as well across a bunch of different organizations is that teams in different projects can vary dramatically in terms of their collaboration style, in terms of how they manage projects etc. Particularly if you have individual projects that are predominantly teamed by people from one functional area of the organization, they may have dramatically different work styles that are equally effective for them. So, a good example is, you may see wildly different project task, collaboration approaches between for example a marketing team and an accounting team. They are generally staffed by very different types of people and different types of personalities, different skill sets and demeanors, that sort of a classic juxtaposition of two different types of approaches with two different types of teams, marketing team might do it very well using Slack exclusively as an example for their project task management, the accounting team wants something much more traditional task oriented perhaps. And then another good juxtaposition might be the difference between the development team and the program monitoring and evaluation team.
So, you can have different approaches, waterfall where the design is all done up front and then the development flows from that stages or agile where the design and development are being done together through the course of the project. Different tools, but the most important thing in my experience is that there are milestones and sort of objectives or products are all together in one place filterable, sortable by project and have good status updates on them. And again that allows you the flexibility that other things on a project level without losing command of that big picture.
We’ve got about seven more minutes here. If anybody wants to pop a question into the chat. I’ll give a few minutes here to allow us, if there are any. But again, I just do want to reflect that a lot of this information is available on the Build Consulting website at Buildconsulting.com and there is a variety of blog posts and resources that I have mentioned that are freely available for you to access.
This past webinar was specifically about software selections, specifically about information strategy, framework and information management. So, we’ve got a great body of resources that have been built up and we try to make available and accessible as possible to really be tools and resources for the non-profit industry.
So, please be sure to take advantage of that and again do shoot us a message or an email, if you have any questions about your specific projects, things to take into consideration for your own professional development or just on a general, shoot the breeze about the challenges facing your work. That’s great. And we don’t have any questions, additional questions coming in. So I just want to thank you all for participating today. It’s been a real pleasure to be with you. We’re gonna give you five minutes of your time back and thanks a lot. Take care and have a good week.