Top Considerations When Moving to New Higher Education Advancement Software - Heller Consulting

Top Considerations When Moving to New Higher Education Advancement Software

The start of a new year is a common time for reflection. But for many, it’s also a time to prepare for any changes or decisions that may be coming.

For example, colleges and universities typically use this time to prepare for the spring, when budget planning for the next academic year kicks off. As such, I often get inquiries during the first few months of the year from higher education advancement offices that are thinking about upgrading their technologies and wondering what that effort might entail.

Migrating to new fundraising and engagement technology is typically a significant investment for an organization. So, the questions asked are meant to help set expectations and provide clarity and transparency into what’s often a complex process.

In this blog post, I’m sharing some of the most common questions I’m getting lately. I’m also providing answers to these questions based on my 15 years of experience working in higher education and higher education technology.

Top questions and answers about moving to new higher education advancement software

This is my list of the most often asked questions (and my answers) about higher education advancement system migrations:

What are the current options for software for higher education advancement?

Generally, there are hundreds of technology products that can add incremental improvements to your fundraising outcomes, and they usually complement an advancement team’s current technology portfolio well. However, most advancement offices reach out to us at Heller Consulting to understand what technology products or platforms are available that can be foundational to an entirely new and better way of identifying, cultivating, and engaging donors to support their fundraising goals.

In the latter case, there are only a few enterprise-ready choices out there, and they’re differentiated by their underlying technology platform. Here are some of the top options:

  • On the Salesforce platform, there are three great choices: UC Innovation’s ascend, Affinaquest, and Salesforce’s new Education Cloud with Fundraising. All of these software packages are enterprise-ready and can help large, complex organizations manage their donor engagement well. For smaller colleges and universities that may have a smaller donor base, these offerings can provide a level of digital sophistication that’s missing from their current technology stack. All are on the Salesforce platform, organizations that use them get all of the benefits of Salesforce’s extensibility and flexibility to “future-proof” their investment.
  • On Microsoft, Anthology’s Raise advancement product is a good choice for organizations looking for an enterprise-ready alternative to Salesforce. It’s also a good choice for organizations that already have a large installed Microsoft technology footprint and want a solution that leverages the platform.
  • Slate, by Technolutions (which has been extremely successful in providing student recruitment and enrollment solutions), has an excellent advancement offering as well, which seems to fit smaller schools or schools that want a simpler, yet still powerful option.
  • There are a couple of other notable big-named advancement systems available in the marketplace, but I mostly see those being replaced with the previously mentioned products.

How long does it take to move to new higher education advancement software?

I’ll provide the typical consultant answer and say, “it depends.” But, let me dig a little deeper. It depends on:

  • The complexity of your fundraising operations
  • Your desired business goals and outcomes and how the new system will support them
  • How you use your new system’s out-of-the-box functionality versus taking a custom development approach
  • How clean (or not so clean) your donor data is and how much is going to be migrated to the new system
  • The scope of your implementation; for example, do you want all the bells and whistles now, or do you want just foundational functionality, or do you want something in between?

As you can see, there are a lot of variables in this equation. That said, based on our years of fundraising technology experience here at Heller Consulting, we typically prepare clients to expect a timeline of 12-18 months for a higher education advancement software implementation project.

What should we do to prepare for a move to new higher education advancement software?

A good technology consulting partner with a proven software implementation methodology will help to ensure your success. So, you shouldn’t need to worry about a lot of preparation before your partner joins the effort.

However, there are a few things you can do to help facilitate a smooth implementation of new software:

  • Clean and prepare your data.
    In my experience, this is one of the most impactful activities an organization can do to prepare for a system migration. It’s important to determine what sets of data drive your desired outcomes so that you can make sure that this data is migrated to and housed properly in the new system. Ensuring that the data is of high quality and cleansed properly will make the data migration effort much more efficient during the project. At the same time, your data strategy should be flexible enough to allow you to adopt changes that your technology partner might suggest during the first phases of your project.
  • Include stakeholders to help manage change.
    Make sure your project team includes key stakeholder groups from your organization, especially if some of those groups are going to be direct users of the new system. I’ve seen organizations make mistakes by leaving out critical groups, such as development officers or IT staff. For optimal adoption of new software, it’s important that key stakeholders are a part of the project.
  • Decide the scope of your implementation.
    An implementation partner can provide you with a budget estimate for the project, but it requires that you agree on the scope of work. For example, are you taking a phased approach to implementation, or do you need everything implemented now? What system functionality are you replacing, and what tools are you keeping? Decisions like these can impact the timeline and budget of a software implementation. So, the more scope you define ahead of time, the better your partner can help you succeed.

What time commitment will be required from my organization’s staff for a new software project?

The answer to this question depends on the project methodology your technology partner uses to manage an implementation. Heller Consulting’s proven methodology involves a client’s staff on a schedule that ebbs and flows over time.

There’s usually heavier involvement at the beginning, when we are gathering requirements through discovery sessions with subject matter experts. The time commitment then lessens during the software configuration period, and then picks up significantly during testing.

The testing phase tends to require the biggest time commitment from the client’s team because it’s when we test all configurations and migrated data, going through multiple iterations of testing and fixing and testing again. If we don’t get testing right, we can’t launch successfully. So, testing tends to have an “all-hands-on-deck” feel.

As we head toward launch, we typically need staff to be on call to discuss and address any issues that arise. But at this point, we’re mostly doing basic cleanup and small changes.

Learn more about moving to new higher education advancement software

Facing a move to new higher education advancement software can be exciting. But it can also seem intimidating. Here at Heller Consulting, our team of experts are ready to help you to build a plan for your advancement technology, select the right solution for your needs, prepare for the move to new technology, and implement it successfully.

Let’s get started: Contact us today to speak with one of our experts.

About the Author

Shane Sugino
For the past decade, Shane has helped Higher Education institutions transform their operations and innovate in the cloud. Prior to joining Heller Consulting, Shane held roles in Financial Services, Healthcare, and technology, and he now brings that expertise while leading... Read More
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