You made your product selection, and are excitedly looking forward to implementing your new AMS platform. Now comes the decision to select an implementation partner.
Look carefully at who you plan to use to implement your chosen product. You want a team that understands your business, knows how to integrate all the best of breed systems that you plan to use, and is experienced. The implementation team from the product company could be a great fit, but evaluate if they possess the experience to be your comprehensive systems integration partner.
Far too often, we see associations make the product selection and expect the implementation partner to take them to the finish line. That can be a recipe for failure. Here are some areas that need consideration as you get ready:
Assemble Your Implementation Team
- The Project Manager (PM): Identify a project manager for the new AMS implementation. Implementing an AMS can be time-consuming, requiring a lot of coordination, organization, and communication, and might require up to 20 – 24 hours a week on average. This time commitment will be higher in the beginning with discovery, will be slightly lower during the build/execution phase of the project, ramp back up at user acceptance testing, and go live. Frequently we see associations assigning people to the role who are unfamiliar with project management, are unaware of what an implementation requires, and, more importantly, already have a full-time job. If you find yourself in such a predicament, we recommend hiring a part-time external project manager to help. The expense will pay for itself ten-fold with a successful implementation.
- The Project Sponsor (PS): Identify a project sponsor for the implementation. This person is usually someone from the executive team who keeps a finger on the pulse of the project and is responsible for the project’s success. The PS usually meets with the implementation partner’s PS monthly and ensures that the project is on track. The sponsor check-ins are usually held independent of the project manager’s check-in and gives the sponsors a chance to discuss items that either side sees and that the PMs are unable to handle. This is also an escalation point for the PMs and the members of the core team on either side as it relates to the project progression.
- The Core Team (CT): Behind every successful implementation is a great core team. Your core team should consist of staff members from every department that will be using the AMS or will be impacted by its implementation. Having a mix of a power user (staff person) and a manager (decision maker) per department represented is crucial to success. Having only the staff person will result in the system being designed for today while having only the manager will result in the system being designed for tomorrow disregarding the nuances of today. Lastly, select people who will want to own their piece of the implementation and will be your champions across the organization. This will have a direct impact on adoption.
Develop a Timeline and Mutual Processes
- Kickoff: Have a formal kickoff meeting with all of the staff that will be using the system and the systems integrator. This meeting should have Association leadership in attendance and the Executive Director laying out how the AMS will tie into the strategic vision. This helps clarify to staff the importance of the project and also ensures their participation and commitment.
- Communication: While there are many aspects of a project that will be discussed during the kickoff, we would like to highlight the importance of communication. Ensure you use a collaborative tool for all communications between the members of the teams. We have seen teams use emails and it has been disastrous as information is frequently lost, especially if there is a change in resource.
Manage Your Data Wisely
- Data Governance: The implementation of a new AMS could be the best opportunity to visit your association’s data governance. Contemplate bringing in a consultant to help if you should need to.
- Clean data: As you contemplate the many aspects of data governance, begin thinking of how you are going to get clean data into the new AMS. We recommend not trying to use the new AMS for cleansing the data, even if it professes to have great capabilities for it. Rest assured that once you are in the midst of the implementation, adding data cleansing to the mix will prove detrimental.
Know What It Will Take
We often see associations overlook what a new AMS implementation truly takes in terms of the association staff’s time. Ensure that you talk through your staff’s time commitment with your chosen implementation partner to consider what it will really take to implement a new AMS.
For more resources surrounding an AMS Selection and Implementation Journey of your own, don’t hesitate to reach out to our talented team at fusionSPAN today!