Association Answers

The Protech Blog

Is Your Software Project Doomed from the Start?

Is your software project doomed from the start? Maybe it was 10 years ago, but things have changed.
Is your software project doomed from the start? Maybe it was 10 years ago, but things have changed.

Did you see a “scary stat” in your inbox recently? We did, and it was shocking, to say the least.

In 2017, a tech consulting firm found that 75 percent of IT executives think their software development projects are doomed from the start. Sadly, that sentiment isn’t new. Consider this from Gartner:

“Despite more than 50 years of history and countless methodologies, advice and books, IT projects keep failing.”

Why? Probably because of the key pain points Teri Carden, of ReviewMyAMS, referenced in a recent email newsletter:

  • Unwanted surprises
  • A lack of buy-in
  • Challenges with data migration
  • Delays in implementation

But there’s good news: plenty of progress has been made in recent years. In the same year as the Geneca study referenced above, the Project Management Institute (PMI) found that only 6 percent of projects at mature, well-run organizations were deemed failures.

Gartner’s reporting supports PMI’s findings.

The biggest reason IT projects used to fail, according to a Gartner study of more than 50 failed projects on public record, is that they were “seriously compromised or have overrun their IT budgets significantly.” But with IT consultants on most software projects and well-informed association leaders making decisions, rarely are IT projects underestimated in terms of scope and cost.

While statistics can be shocking in black and white, it goes to show why so many trade and professional associations leapfrog from AMS to AMS every few years — failed implementation.

How does your association avoid failure? Start with these three tips:

Step 1: Read Reviews and Case Studies

Speaking of ReviewMyAMS. The best way to make sure an association management software implementation goes smoothly is to read reviews. Thirty minutes spent checking out some reviews could be what saves you from a chaotic implementation.

Luckily, ReviewMyAMS has hundreds of AMS-specific reviews available. And in a study conducted alongside Association TRENDS, ReviewMyAMS found nearly 1,000 references of the “implementation” topic on the website.

Some of those reviews are incentivized, but they’re easily avoided since they’re clearly marked (great addition, Teri!)

With all of those references of “implementation,” associations can feel a lot more optimistic about their upcoming software development projects.

What else can you do to avoid implementation failure? Read case studies.

According to Consumerist — a branch of Consumer Reports — approximately 70 percent of people don’t read online reviews before making a purchase. For those other 30 percent, try checking out a few case studies from top vendors to see how other associations benefited from their software projects.

Step 2: Put Staff in Positions for Success

Software selection can be a long and arduous process. Unfortunately, the process isn’t over when you sign on the dotted line.

For professional and trade associations, staff buy-in can be the biggest hurdle of the entire new software project. If the team doesn’t have the resources they need, the project may very well be doomed to fail.

It’s hard to blame your own people, but that may be the problem, according to Forrester Research:

Nearly two-fifths (38 percent) of respondents stated that their problems were the result of people issues such as slow user adoption, inadequate attention paid to change management and training, and difficulties in aligning the organizational culture with new ways of working.”

Rather than putting the team in a position to fail, try using these five suggestions highlighted by Kim Klotz, member services representative manager and convention registration expert at the National Funeral Directors Association, from a previous blog post.

  1. Watch provided webinars and save screenshots for future reference
  2. Put staff in members’ shoes to see how the software project impacts people outside of your organization
  3. Acquire buy-in from the top down
  4. Set up customer dashboards for different departments to show what’s important to them
  5. Establish an area for staff to share insights and tips about their new system

Step 3: Set Up Routine System Checks

We’ve covered the selection and implementation phases of software projects, but how does an association keep everything on the right track?

There are plenty of checklists out there to help keep an AMS or other software project moving in a positive direction. This one, from Effective Database Management, is a great ongoing checklist that can be used month after month to keep associations on track for success.

The list forces associations to consider critical questions that maximize return on investment, like:

  • “Have you eliminated all redundant data systems?”
  • “Has the staff fully adopted your system or are there still ‘shadow systems’ in place?”
  • “Do you have all the reports you need?”

It might be true that three-quarters of software projects are doomed to fail. But following these three steps starts any association off on the right foot.

To learn about a software project that was successful, read this case study to see how the American Association of Nurse Assessment Coordination pulled all of its data into a single location to enhance its data-driven decision-making.