Leveraging technology and upgrading your software is vital to taking advantage of new features and enhancements, delivering bug fixes, and keeping fundraising operations as efficient as possible. By upgrading your database, you are upgrading user experience as well as improving fundraising efficiency. Taking the time to carefully prepare will put your organization in the best position to deliver a seamless upgrade. The following guidelines give you the best path to success.

  1. Create an upgrade plan. Work with your vendor on an upgrade plan. Some vendors provide upgrade guides and documentation, while others offer a dedicated staff member to help with the process. Use these vendor resources as a jumping off point to create your own customized upgrade plan. Your plan should include details on communication, testing, and training.
  2. Communicate with your users. Keeping your users informed during each step of the process will alleviate concerns and fear of change. Consider creating a team dedicated to serving as internal drivers for the upgrade. By selecting key members of your staff, you can empower the upgrade team member to deliver communications to his or her department and serve as a subject matter expert to ensure that the end product is one that has the functionality necessary for users. The upgrade team will inform your stakeholders and deliver information to your users.Determine what your users want to know and how they wish to receive communications. That might mean a newsletter or weekly email for one team and a spreadsheet and PowerPoint presentation for another. Solicit feedback from a range of audiences and levels within your organization.
  1. Clean up your data. A healthy, pre-upgrade database will allow you to focus on testing upgrade efficiency rather than spending time validating incorrect data. Remove duplicate constituents and addresses and update addressees and salutations. Clean data is easier for a user to validate when testing and allows your upgrade team to confirm true validation issues. For example, if the data is not cleaned, who sees duplicate addresses during validation may become concerned the records were added during the upgrade process.
    Take the time to ensure that your data quality standards are being met. A first impression to an upgrade or conversion is so important. If the data looks “off” or different, it’s hard to regain that credibility—even if the problem existed pre-upgrade.
  1. Test early, test often, test again. New functionality is exciting. Users often have been asking for features, and everyone is eager to adopt an upgraded version of your software. When a software system is upgraded, your customizations and business processes may also need updating as well. Create a thorough testing plan that starts testing early—and often—in your upgrade process. Involve your end users in testing. You may want to include new feature training to accompany your testing. Testing the upgrade procedure, business processes, and customizations, as well as the upgrade environment is critical for success. Testing will prevent discovering you need a new server the day you go live with the upgrade.

Bentz Whaley Flessner’s systems and operations team works with organizations to assess their data needs and implement solutions. If you are considering upgrading your software, contact us at (952) 921-0111 or visit www.bwf.com to learn more about our services. Together, we transform philanthropy.

Copyright © 2016 Bentz Whaley Flessner & Associates, Inc.

Originally published April 13, 2016

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