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Using technology to light a better path to your mission and vision

Installing better software can save money over the long term and boost your organization's productivity. But even with a clear case for making the change, some staff members will resist. For them, an outdated system still has one advantage — it's familiar!

Fortunately, there's much you can do to ease the transition to new software and convince even the toughest skeptics to give it a chance.

Document the differences between new and old systems

Before you install new software across your organization, make a detailed list of how it differs from your current applications. Also note any procedures that people will need to change when using the new software. Doing this up front will help you design training sessions and anticipate common questions.

Have a "plan B"

There's always a possibility that new software could work differently than expected or even crash. Allow for these scenarios. Prepare to revert to your current system — or switch back and forth between old and new systems — on temporary basis.

Choose usable software

Usable software is intuitive. Avoid applications with loads of flashy features and confusing interfaces.

Before you invest in new software, involve staff members in a "try before you buy" testing period. Don't restrict this to the "techies" in your organization. Instead, involve people at different levels of comfort with technology.

Of course, you'll still want to make sure the new system has all the features you need. If those features aren't listed as standard items, ask your vendor if they're available as plugins or add-ons.

While testing software, also plan for data migration. First back up your data to multiple locations. Then import some data into the new application to see how well it works. If the process is complex, time-consuming or buggy, look for a different application.

Prepare for the change

Make it easy for people to switch to new software. When necessary, make sure they have essentials such as:

  • Log-in credentials
  • Internet connections with adequate bandwidth
  • Hardware with enough speed and storage for the new software
  • Support that's easy to access in person, by phone or online

Time the transition carefully

Don't force staff members and volunteers to switch applications when their workloads are heaviest. Wait until the big fundraising campaign, grant application or annual report is complete. Then give your staff plenty of notice that change is coming.

To schedule transition time, estimate how long it'll take to install the new application and train people to use it. Then add a margin of safety by doubling your estimate. This allows for a temporary period of reduced productivity during the switch from old to new.

Make a case for new software

Be prepared to answer the first question on each staff member's mind: What's in it for me? Whenever possible, explain how the new application will make their lives easier and produce better results for the organization as a whole.

Create a short, memorable message about the new software and repeat it often. For example: "Our new system offers one-step access to all documents about a donor." Share whatever message will prompt staff members to say, "Yes! I need that."

Turn early adopters into influencers

Train a few enthusiastic staff members in the new software before rolling it out across your organization. Ask these "power users" to explain the advantages of making the switch, and reward those who help their colleagues learn the new product.

Customize training

When planning a software transition, schedule time for "sandboxing." During this time, encourage staff members to play with the new application without the expectation of getting any real work done.

Also remember that people learn new software in a variety of ways. Some prefer to work alone with a user manual or online tutorial. Others want live demonstrations or one-to-one instruction. Give your staff members options and allow for their individual learning curves.

Acknowledge complaints and express appreciation

Keep an eye out for staff members who complain about new software. Pull them aside and allow them to vent. Instead of resisting their objections, acknowledge them. Ask about their pain points with the new application and connect them with someone who can help. Get detractors on board — before they drag down morale and undermine the transition.

If you notice consistent patterns in staff complaints, treat them as red flags. Identify the underlying software issues and solve them promptly.

Above all, thank all staff members for their flexibility and willingness to change. Lift their eyes to the horizon and remind them that the transition isn't just about new technology. It's about lighting a better path to your mission and vision.



MissionBox editorial content is offered as guidance only, and is not meant, nor should it be construed as, a replacement for certified, professional expertise.



Forbes: How to get employees to (really) use new technology by Rob Bernshteyn (2011)

Harvard Business Review: Convincing skeptical employees to adopt new technology by Rebecca Knight (2015)

Nielsen-Norman Group:Usability 101: Introduction to usability by Jakob Nielsen (2012) 5 steps to getting volunteers active in your online Facebook and Twitter communities (2011)



Writer and editor fascinated by knowledge management, behavior change and technology for nonprofits