Guest blogger Shawn Kendrick, Researcher and Blogger
VolunteerHub

In this golden age of cloud-based services, small businesses and nonprofits are adopting new software platforms at an amazing rate. Although this is an outstanding trend, some — either out of pure excitement or lack of resources — are failing to create a game plan for the new software’s onboarding process. Below we offer some tips that can help organizations smoothly implement a new software service.

Impacts on Your Existing Systems

Before moving to the cloud, one of the first things your small business needs to consider is how the new product will fit in with your current systems. For instance, will the new cloud-based service integrate easily and seamlessly with your legacy systems? Or perhaps the new service is a replacement. If that’s the case, you’ll want to know if existing data can be imported easily into the new environment.

Also ask your potential provider about maintenance costs. In most scenarios, one big attraction of moving to the cloud is a decrease in IT costs. Make sure yours is one of those money-saving situations. Quiz the sales team about upgrades: will new enhancements come free with your subscription, or will you have to pay more? What about support? Although there should be less need for system maintenance with cloud-based applications, glitches are inevitable. Is support included in the pricing? How is that support provided — over the phone, via email, or some other method?

Impacts on Your People

Once you make a decision about the new system, you’ll need to prepare your staff for the switch. Like any change, you’ll need to generate some buy-in. If your employees aren’t willing to fully utilize the tools being offered, then money is being wasted. Explain the logic of why you are going with cloud services. Detail the savings on IT costs and staff time. Also explain how you can ultimately deliver a better product and spend less money. Once you get a few converts, it will make the process much easier.

After you receive buy-in from staff, get prepared to offer some training. Many small businesses forget to factor these time and money costs into the equation. However, it’s extremely important to provide actual training sessions instead of a learn-as-you-go method.  Similar to the point about obtaining buy-in, if your staff can’t use the software to its full potential, then resources are being wasted. And, if staff members are frustrated with the new system, it can lead to further resistance to the software change.

If the new platform is simple, some in-house training will probably do. If you’ve purchased something quite complex and robust, see if your provider offers any sort of assistance with training. You may even want to tap some of your staff for a “train the trainers” seminar so your employees have several “experts” they can go to with questions during the transition.

Follow these tips, and you’ll have your feet firmly on the ground as your software heads to the cloud.

The content shared in this blog post is the author’s opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of Xerox. Shawn Kendrick is a researcher and blogger for VolunteerHub, a cloud-based volunteer management software application that offers online event registration, email and SMS (text) messaging, report generation, and much more. VolunteerHub is a member of Xerox’s Free Color Printers Program.