Three Indispensable Aspects of a Successful Software Implementation

 In Information Strategy

Nonprofit organizations often consider the expense of selecting and purchasing information systems (software) but fail to consider the three indispensable aspects of software implementation—talent, time, and tenacity—that the organization must have to successfully navigate an implementation project.

Don’t let your organization focus only on the selection process and neglect the other aspects of implementation success.


Many organizations under-budget software implementations from the standpoint of obtaining and/or developing the necessary talent to get across the finish line. Generally, at implementation projects require at least three types of talent:

  1. Software implementation project management
  2. Technical assistance specific to the product being implemented
  3. End-user ability to properly leverage software capabilities

Other talents may be required, but these are the “must haves.” We frequently find that clients have budgeted for one (most frequently the technical assistance) and not the others. Experienced project management is necessary to navigate the implementation roadmap, and new software with only a minimum of end user training will not reach the expected capabilities.


Many organizations undertaking software implementations do not consider the amount of time necessary to effect a successful implementation. I think of “time in implementation” two different ways:

  1. The time necessary to perform all of the activities taking place during the implementation itself—from the point when the software is selected to the point when it is “live” or “in production.”
  2. The time to get all users up to speed and efficient in the new system. Often time taken to perform tasks in the new system can vary, as tasks may initially take longer to perform immediately after moving a system into production, but become shorter as training and repetition breed familiarity/comfort. In addition, as new features become available and are turned on/training implemented, this cycle will repeat with initial time spent in training = more efficiency and more staff/software capabilities.

Underestimating time in either respect can sap energy away from an implementation process.

When time according to the first definition is not properly projected, participants are gradually pulled away to other priorities or get burned out from schedule overload. During an implementation project, it is important to maintain process continuity and momentum, so certain types of work stoppage and delays can be hazardous. Overestimating time needed for selection and initial implementation may be better than underestimating.

The second definition of time is relevant to our many clients who are using the implementation process as an opportunity of introducing new and necessary formality/complexity to the organization’s business process. Significant resistance can emerge when internal resources realize that they will be required to “do more” in the same amount of time, particularly if this realization comes during end-user training and not as part of a conversation taking place much earlier in the implementation process. Acknowledging up front that many new processes will initially take more staff time for the same results, and building in extra time and flexibility to do their jobs in the new system, may start to alleviate that resistance.


Organizations need tenacity to successfully complete software implementation projects. The bigger and more significant the project, the greater the level of tenacity. Jim Collins (author of the bestselling From Good to Great) wrote that in order to be great, organizations must first have disciplined people acting in disciplined ways. Disciplined organizations consider the talent and time considerations above, AND they also have tenacity as part of their mindset.

Successfully tenacious organizations articulate “When we do this, we are going to do it with a high level of tenacity. At some point we are likely going to face roadblocks, both anticipated and not. As a team, we’ll push through those roadblocks and accomplish our goals.”

Another aspect of tenacity is the willingness to understand that implementation is never complete. Never. Software is dynamic (particularly cloud software with an iterative release cycle). Your workforce is dynamic. The environment in which your organization operates is dynamic. So “going live” with your new software is just an important early step within a successful implementation. A full implementation lifecycle assesses adoption levels, captures feedback, looks for new opportunities, and plans for the future.

Consider Your Organization Carefully and Develop These Three Indispensable Aspects of a Successful Software Implementation During the Planning Process

Ultimately, many nonprofit technology projects and initiatives, including new software platforms, fail in implementation. Understanding the three indispensable aspects of software implementation of talent, time, and tenacity, and how they relate to your software selection process—and the expenses, risks, and rewards they add to your implementation, will help you set your new software initiative up for greater success.

Need More Expertise?

Ready to have a conversation about your software selection process? Or perhaps you are looking for an assessment and roadmap to ensure your organization is considering software investments with long term strategic value, or need implementation assistance to rescue a project you’ve invested in. Whatever your nonprofit technology consulting needs, Build is here to help.

Let’s talk.

Do you spend a lot of money on your information systems, but do not get a lot out of them? Build Consulting helps maximize ROIMultiple IT Projects for Global Impact