There’s a reason many of us put off getting a cell phone until we have to: for the first couple days (or weeks, in some cases), everything takes longer. There’s the upfront investment of time to set preferences the way you like them, authenticate passwords, and learn which buttons do what when. Getting a new device makes you think again, makes you pay attention. It can be tiresome, inconvenient and sometimes frustrating. This same scenario plays out on a large scale across organizations when making a large technology change, and it’s called a productivity dip.
I attended an ACMP Texas event in September and one session particularly inspired me. Lanette Ferguson of TEKsystems presented on the idea of using Journey Maps as a change management tool in technology implementations and I thought it was so awesome, I created a version that could be used for nonprofit tech projects.
Your organization is stuck in the 20th century, technology-wise and it’s taking a toll on your ability to work effectively. You turn to a new, shiny CRM system that promises to address all your needs and help your team make a big impact. The implementation project starts. Everyone seems to be on board. But as time goes on, the stress of learning new technology piled onto normal everyday tasks begins to wear on employees and morale diminishes. The excitement at the beginning of the project has faded, productivity is dropping, and you’re wondering what could have been done differently to ensure project success.
We recently had the opportunity to develop a CRM Roadmap for a large food bank that wanted to streamline its systems and business processes to better serve its community. Like most food banks, it has a loyal constituency: many volunteers are also clients; many donors also volunteer; individuals might first encounter the food bank through an employer-sponsored activity and then sign up for a peer-to-peer fundraising event.
Instead of internal systems showing the many ways people connect with the food bank, employees often find out from the constituents themselves. This is frustrating for both the constituents and the food bank team. More than ever, nonprofit supporters and clients expect to be known. They expect that when an organization sends them an annual appeal request, it is doing so with a full understanding of giving history, past volunteer hours and gala attendance over the years.
That is all much easier said than done.
But it is possible.
Technology is advancing at an unprecedented pace, and many nonprofits are looking to use new strategies and technology to increase the impact of their missions. While new technology initiatives can be a boon when successful, they can be a bust when there are unexpected challenges, barriers, and obstacles to overcome draining and demoralizing the team for months or even years.
Our very own Cynthia Coleman has just earned her CCMP™ credential through the Association of Change Management Professionals. Over the years at Heller Consulting, we’ve learned that the logistics of strategy and technology projects can be managed through project management, but true success ultimately depends on how the individuals involved participate and adapt to new ways of carrying out their work. Change management is the key to ensuring that our clients fully realize the benefits of their investments in technology.
Cynthia has been a true leader in bringing best practices around change management to our work and we’re thrilled to share her insights on what it takes to become a Certified Change Management Practitioner™.
When things go awry in complex technology projects, organizations can find themselves trapped between two difficult options. They can continue pushing forward with the initiative, potentially wasting resources on a project that is beyond hope of success, or they can abandon the initiative, undo existing work, and hope for funding to try again in the future. Both options carry risk of damaging support for the project and morale of the organization. If the issues in the project impact the organization’s constituency, their reputation could also take a hit. (Read more about the costs of struggling projects here >>) It can be extremely stressful to figure out the best path forward when mired in issues and trying to carry out business-as-usual at the same time. Unfortunately, technology has not (yet) given us the ability to stop time while we get our operational houses in order, but it can help to reach out to an objective third party for help.
During a technology initiative, the signs of trouble are not always clear. Team members can be working their hardest to complete their tasks, but somehow the project milestones keep getting delayed or redefined. Rarely do staff want to pull the emergency brake on a project, openly calling attention to major concerns, even if they are frequently discussed in private and impacting costs. (Read about the costs of struggling projects here >>) This is why it’s essential for leadership, managers, and staff to be aware of common warning phrases that can signal trouble is on the horizon for a project.
Have you ever purchased a kitchen gadget or a piece of exercise equipment that promised to make your life amazing and then used it one-to-six times before abandoning it? I know I’m not the only one who has multiple garlic presses in a drawer and have watched more than I’d like to admit of the infomercial for that twisty board thing that is supposed to tone your entire body. Luckily, those sorts of purchases don’t really result in huge cost overruns or months of lost productivity. However, when we go to work, we tend to bring the same brains that buy gadgets and sometimes use them in large technology projects, but to disastrous results. In our experience, here are the 3 biggest reasons technology projects fall apart:
The costs of struggling or failing projects are very real and can result in both short and long-term impact on an organization’s ability to deliver its mission. This shouldn’t come as a surprise–every initiative costs time and resources. However, less obvious costs that enter the equation as a complex implementation initiative starts to struggle do often come as a surprise and can really throw things off. As a project’s risk of failure increases, it becomes difficult to establish a clear, objective viewpoint. It’s common for teams to scramble for solutions as well as find someone to blame for the problems they are encountering.