Top 10 Questions When Implementing Membership Software
If your duty is to serve your members with the utmost quality and care, you’ve likely considered implementing membership software to help you get the job done.
Or perhaps you already have and it didn’t go so great—it’s actually not terribly uncommon to get deep into the research phase—let alone the implementation process—before an executive, board member, or staffer asks: “Hey, why are we even doing this in the first place?”
Questions like that can easily derail the selection process or implementation when the reasons you decided to go with a new system suddenly escape you and you get embroiled in questions you can't answer and in processes you no longer understand.
Here's the good news…
Membership software can be implemented in a smooth, predictable, and efficient manner. We're starting here with answers to 10 questions that will set you up for success when it comes time to change software.
If you’ve ever worked on a large-scale software migration or implementation before, you know the hassle that effective planning can help you avoid. But if you’re ready and you’d rather jump right into the planning, grab our free guide The Ultimate Guide to Implementing Membership Software: Your Playbook to Getting Started with a New System.
But for now, let’s jump into the top ten questions we hear when implementing a new system!
1. Who should lead the process?
There are two things that can make or break a large-scale technology implementation—leadership and accountability. Without clear direction from a strong leader, the implementation can fizzle or lose momentum. And just like the saying goes—if everybody is accountable, nobody is accountable.
Typically, the project lead is somewhat technical, as you need an understanding of the technology behind the processes and what challenges they are going to solve.
A good implementation takes a team of people with various skill sets. For a full list of all the team members involved, check out this free resource.
2. Which team members should be involved and in which phase(s)?
The implementation process is best broken down into five different phases, or chunks of work, with different team members working to complete each phase. Complementary skill sets help speed things along and ensure each task is done by a qualified individual.
For more details on the five phases of implementation, see this blog post.
3. What metrics will you use to define success?
The key to “boosting member engagement” and “improving internal processes” is to set SMART goals for each feature. It’s essential to assign metrics to each goal to provide direction for each implementation phase—you can’t know what data to collect, and the manner in which it’s collected, if you don’t know what metrics are associated with the goal.
4. Why are some implementation projects not successful?
- Data silos
- Lack of momentum
- Overthinking the small details
It’s not quite all that simple—or is it? Each of the above mistakes can be a huge detriment to the successful implementation of a member management system, so it’s important to take active steps to combat them on a regular basis.
5. How can I cut implementation costs?
Proper planning is a great way to make the best use of your resources and avoid paying overtime. Knowing your expected results and sticking to the plan is also a good way to manage scope creep as your project progresses. Finally, don’t forget to look into the actual investment cost of the system itself, which can vary by provider and your unique needs.
6. How often is the software updated? Are there associated costs with software updates?
The answer to this question relies on the provider you choose, so it’s hard to answer definitively here. Instead, be sure to use this question as a discussion prompt when evaluating software vendors.
7. How long should a membership software implementation take?
This is a tough question, because every organization is different in terms of size and needs, but also a great question! In general, we recommend giving yourself 11-12 months to go through the five phases of implementation. The five phases break out like this:
- Discovery and Design (also known as Solution Design): 2-3 months
- Build: 4 months
- Validation: 3 months
- Deployment: 2 months
- Post-Production: 2 months
While the Build phase is usually the longest due to the technical nature, each phase requires different amounts of commitment of time and resources. For a thorough breakdown of how each phase works and the requirements, check out our free eBook.
8. How simple will it be to upgrade the software in a year or two?
If you choose the right software partner and do the proper planning, upgrades should be factored into the lifespan of the technology. While they can certainly be inconvenient, upgrades are absolutely essential for added features you want and the security you need. Technology evolves rapidly, hence the need for intermittent upgrades.
9. Are there any unexpected implementation costs?
Proper planning helps minimize unexpected costs, but they certainly do happen from time to time. And again, this depends on how you plan to use the software—do you need configuration or customization? (Hint: There’s a huge difference between those two, check this free Book for the specifics).
10. What kind of support services are offered? How easy will it be to reach someone if a problem occurs?
When it comes to implementations, we can’t stress this enough—strong customer support services can reduce implementation delays or answer any questions that come up during the project. Every software vendor is different, so make sure you choose someone who takes customer support seriously, and provides dedicated teams to help you every step of the way.
Implementing software is a tall order—as discussed, it can take up to eleven months if everything goes smoothly, depending on the size and complexity of your organization. The best way to make sure everything goes smoothly is by knowing what you’re getting into.
About Jennifer Barrell
As the Director of Content, Branding & Buzz at Aptify, Jen oversees the strategy and execution of brand management and content production across the organization’s global offices. She thrives on bringing compelling content and useful information to associations to help them grow and engage their membership. She's also an avid fan of mid-century modern design and all things science fiction.