Monday, June 16, 2014

The hardest part of a database implementation is the post-live period

Walt Disney shows Disneyland plans to Orange County officials, Dec. 1954 

This has become a little bit of a hackneyed expression these days. To say that the you won't experience the hardest part of implementing your new CRM system or fundraising database until it goes live. "That's when the real work starts," you'll be told. But for good reason - because very often it's true.

Why is this?
  • Only at this point do you truly find out how the software is working for you. You can test forever and get as many users involved as possible during the implementation but it's not quite the same as once your staff are using the new system in anger.
  • Your implementation project was hopefully funded correctly, but sometimes there is less budget or even no budget for future work after go-live. Yet, many implementations/systems will still require more work on them at that time. Some of that work may have been planned for a future roadmap but some may only have been decided during the implementation, for example, if you had to cut-back on (or change) the scope. 
  • Resources (people) in particular will be 'back to normal' but potentially with different demands and requirements.
  • There will be an impact on your users such as pressure on your database team, potential drop in productivity for some areas of use on the new system, processes still being optimised and so on. Read my recent blog post on The Immediate Effect of CRM System Change On Staff for a more detailed discussion on all that.
  • There are bound to be things you didn't know about, you had thought you had tested but slipped through the net, that users didn't tell you correctly etc, and it's only when you go live that these issues will surface. Or things may have justifiably changed anyway, which will still cause issues.
  • The enthusiasm and adrenaline which the implementation project had may wane. 
  • The benefits which were envisaged/promised before the project commenced might not turn out to happen. Some may be understandable or yet happen soon, but others could have been over-sold or had too much expectation.
So what can you do?
  • If possible, keep some of the implementation project team for 'as long as possible' after go-live. Three months is a decent rule of thumb for the average sized fundraising database; hopefully by that time most key issues will have raised their head.
  • Prepare for some of the above as much as possible! At least those points you can prepare for, such as resources, expectations, impact. 
  • Understand resource implications in particular.
  • Have a plan for how to handle the new things you didn't know about - not the things themselves but a process for how to manage them when they crop up.
  • Explain all this to your SMT early as possible in a project - even during procurement. Get their understanding, acceptance, awareness and support - whether financially or otherwise.
  • And my personal belief is that doing a "Phase 2,3,4 etc" implementation is not the best approach. Instead, use a 'rolling development' plan with a roadmap. Read my separate blog on this: Why it is a Bad Idea to have “Phase 2” of a CRM Implementation (andPhase 3, 4, 5…)

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