This is the sixth post in our blog series: Best Practices for Selecting Nonprofit Accounting Software
Congratulations! You've decided upon the right accounting software for your nonprofit, gotten approval from your board and signed on the dotted line. This is truly an accomplishment, but now is when the rubber hits the road – it's time for implementation.
This journey can last anywhere from 3 weeks to 9-12+ months depending on the size of your nonprofit and degree of complexity. This blog post will help ensure a smooth implementation of your new accounting software.
Start with a Plan
As with documenting your nonprofit’s accounting requirements, you’ll want to have an implementation plan that is as granular as possible:
- Who’s involved
- How much time is necessary
- Project milestones
- Go-live date
- Post-live support plan
Your accounting software provider will need to communicate their role and yours, and who's involved in the discovery, implementation, launch, training, and post-implementation support. You'll also need to designate a project manager (PM) that will work with your accounting software provider's PM.
Just Say No
Don't let the implementation team come in and do an abbreviated discovery process. Since you've documented and prioritized your requirements, you'll want to leverage that information and not just settle for a generic implementation checklist.
Module-by-Module SME Sign-Off
Once each module is implemented, you'll then want to have your subject matter experts (SMEs) test the system and compare the work with your requirements and sign-off; or to identify what further work is required for sign-off. This is critical for creating an audit trail and avoiding plain vanilla implementations. Document any process changes, which are inevitable, and incorporate into your training program.
Accounting Data Migration
To avoid having to migrate years of general ledger transactional data, we recommend keeping your legacy accounting software system operational, though frozen (no changes), for at least six months. This will allow you to only transition the balance forward in the new system. You may also want users of your new accounting software to re-enter the last 200 transactions or fewer into the new system as a way to train, as well as to clean up any problems in the legacy system (including removal of inactive donors, constituents and vendors, if applicable).
Tracking & Ensuring Progress
You'll want to include milestones and checkpoints in your implementation plan and track progress towards them with regular bi-weekly or monthly meetings between your internal and accounting software provider's PM. This is the best way to minimize disruptions and to cross the finish line on time. If you get off track, this will also help you identify steps needed to get back on track: additional resources, resetting timing expectations, what will be ready upon launch and what may have to follow post-launch, etc.
Keep the Momentum Going
It's important to keep people engaged during the implementation and to build excitement for the go-live date. Keeping stakeholders and executives up-to-date on the implementation project achieves this, along with some cheerleading.
Once your nonprofit's new accounting software is ready to go-live, we recommend having your provider onsite for the first week to address any configuration and training issues. This ensures that any issues that do come up will be dealt with immediately and gives the new end-users access to quick help while adopting a new accounting software solution.
As with christening a ship, it's important to thank everyone for their efforts during this journey, considering how time-consuming and complex these efforts can be. Celebrating will help maintain team member chemistry and keep morale high, which is especially useful for overcoming user resistance to the new system and other post-implementation problems.