You may have already realized that you can improve scholarship or grant management processes with an online software platform. Now what? The road to successful technology implementation can seem daunting, and you probably have multiple people to convince that a new technology solution is the best path to improving your processes. Investing in technology can be difficult to justify in the beginning, but if you’re willing to take this important step, your organization will achieve greater clarity in day to day operations and increased efficiency. In the long term, you and your employees will benefit significantly.
Pick the right vendor
You need to partner with a trusted scholarship management software vendor. According to Nonprofit Technology News, the first step in a successful technology project is teaming up with a company that has knowledge of your industry. The vendor you choose needs experience implementing new technology with organizations like yours. This will provide the ability for them to share best practices and really chart the right path for optimal success. While a CRM like Salesforce may seem like an OK way to handle your constituent information, it is highly likely that a platform targeted directly managing scholarships will perform far better for your needs.
Choosing between building an in-house system and cloud-based software as a service vendor is another important decision you must make. While a custom-built system may seem ideal, a cloud-based platform generally can be customized to meet your needs as well, often at a lower cost. Additionally, once a custom platform is built in house, the work and expense certainly don’t stop there. You will have the continual expense of upgrades, maintenance, additional software, specialized IT help, data warehousing, servers, and more.
Once you’ve selected a platform, sit down with your vendor and establish clear goals for the project. Make sure you communicate these goals to everyone in the organization.
Put together a project management team
Without proper leadership internally, implementing a new scholarship or grant management platform may not be a successful as it could be. Executives should take an active leadership role in the process. Adoption of new technologies by staff and other involved parties will be a more trusted experience if they see the project has executive support. You should also choose a few staff-members within the organization who will be early adopters and get them on board with the project. These employees will become power users and will serve as a resource for training others and driving further adoption throughout the organization.
Make sure your vendor has a good plan in place for implementation and deployment, then follow their experienced lead.
Stages of project management
Following a step-by-step implementation process can help ensure success. According to the Project Management Institute, an implementation process has five stages:
- Software review
- System design and setup
- Key process development
- End-user training and go live
In the first stage, your organization will familiarize itself with the new system and typical processes related to online process management of scholarships and/or grants.
The second phase – system design and setup – is where you should bring in the early adopters. At this point, they can learn how to use the new platform and become acquainted with it.
In the third phase, your organization will determine any gaps in the software and any processes that it may not cover fully. This way, the system will be close to perfect by the fourth stage – end-user training – which should take place about two weeks prior to your go-live date.
Finally, your organization can get started with the new platform by officially eliminating older processes and moving forward to continual process improvement.
Once you’ve started using the new grant management software, your work isn’t finished. Now you’ve got to establish long-term training and make sure you are communicating with daily users. According to Nonprofit Technology Network, the post-implementation stage is important because this is the stage where you truly make a lasting commitment to the new platform and start to measure its effectiveness.
It’s true that purchasing a new platform to improve processes can be a long road, but as software improves, systems are becoming increasingly user-friendly. There’s no reason to continue using outmoded processes when a platform can keep you better organized, save vast amounts of time, save money and provide far greater capabilities than you’ve ever had before.
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