Thursday, May 22, 2014

10 MORE Things To Know When Choosing Nonprofit Software

We posted 10 Things to Know When Moving to a New Nonprofit Software Platform last year, outlining 10 technical and operational factors organizations should consider when they are planning on making the move.

Last week at the Nonprofit Technology Summit, I collected additional strategies we can share! Thanks to Amy Rosenblum of the Cultivation Center and her fantastic session on nonprofit software, here are 10 more tips for moving to new software platforms:


1. Start with an exit strategy
Think about how you would get data out of your new system in the future. Is it expensive? Is it sorted? You should know how easy it is to move in case a change is necessary.

 2. Define the timeline
Decide when you realistically would need your system to be fully functional. Plan your deadline for a less busy time of year.

3. Double that timeline—or triple it
Finding and implementing new software is very time-consuming. Be sure you have a timeline that will allow you to complete the process well before you need the system in place.

4. Create your dream list of features and capacities
What features do you absolutely need? Would the new software be compatible with other existing software? Consider requirements as well as the end user experience.

5. Define your budget to implement, maintain, and fund new software
Be careful, because no software is truly free and the initial cost may be misleading.

 6. Who is on board with the new system?
Consider who will be using the software, their willingness to change, and their readiness to learn. New platforms are only useful to the degree that they are implemented.

7. Ask questions and be ready to answer them
Collect information about your top software choices in a spreadsheet. Call non-sales people and tech support to get a vibe for the company and the service you will receive.

8. Prioritize the constraints and know tradeoffs
What do you have to have in regards to timeline, features and cost? What can you give a little on? Sometimes you can trade a longer timeline for a cheaper system or less features for quicker implementation.

9. Know the contract
When you do choose software, ask more than one person to review the contract, making sure that it supports your priorities.

 10. Communication is key
Get to know your contact so that you can ask questions when needed and get quick responses. The process continues even past purchase and implementation, so a good line of communication is essential.


If you have more tips for choosing new database software, feel free to email them to douglas@visionlink.org. You may also download our original 10 Things to Know When Moving to a More Capable Software Platform here.

Georgina Douglas
Marketing Operations Manager
VisionLink

Monday, May 5, 2014

Scrum: A Universal Process for Organizational Success




















VisionLink studies manufacturing processes and team best practices to inform the way we operate. Many of our teams use the agile methodology Scrum as a structure, but we rely upon our experience with collaborative work to make this approach work smoothly.

Here are a few of the key ideas we integrate into our work. When done correctly, collaborative workflows can achieve the best results, the most reliable timelines, and the happiest teams. These can be applied to any organization, no matter the methodology.


Shared Vision
It’s important to share a vision of what the goals of the project are and what success will look like. Taking the time to come together on a vision leads to the best outcomes in the long run.

Well Defined Tasks
Each task should be well-defined so that the team can be sure of completing it correctly.

Team Approach
Teams should be cross-functional, involving people from each aspect of the organization that has a stake in the outcome. This involvement leads to better results and team unity.

Prioritized Work
Maintaining work in a ruthlessly prioritized backlog ensures that the right tasks are completed first.

Retrospectives
After completing a project, a quick, simple conversation about what worked well and what needs improvement can expose potential flaws in your process and new insights for future projects.

Visible Work Log
Current tasks and their status (to do, in progress, complete) should be visible to all. This can even be done with sticky notes and some columns on a wall.

Measured progress
Consistently tracking work done relative to the goal can help set reasonable deadlines and serve as an early warning when progress is slower than projected.

Time Boxing
Setting tasks within a certain time period makes them more likely to be completed, rather than continually refined past the point of diminishing returns.

Breaking Up Tasks
Breaking up a large, general project into smaller tasks can make the project clearer, allowing everyone to work on different aspects more efficiently.

Limit Work in Progress
Before beginning new tasks, team members should check to see whether they can lend help to other team members. With work prioritized, this leads to the important tasks being finished first.

Stand Up Meetings
When crunch time hits, short stand up meeting as part of the daily process can bring issues to the surface that would normally fall through the cracks.

Craig Quincy
VP of Engineering
VisionLink