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Why It's Critical to Pilot New Nonprofit Board Technology

Posted by Anne Wallestad, President & CEO, BoardSource on Nov 2, 2015 5:12:02 AM

Blog-CansBy Adam Roth, CEO, StreamLink Software

If your organization has a revolving door of tech solutions, with seemingly silver-bullet platforms cast aside after a few weeks or months, you’re not alone — and your problem may have nothing to do with software, and everything to do with your users!

A newly introduced technology will not succeed if user adoption is low. The more sophisticated the solution, or the degree of entrenchment in your organization’s processes, the more difficult adoption can be. Widespread rollout, when done hastily or without adequate communication and training, can lead to disaster.

Pilot programs, on the other hand, allow you to introduce new technology slowly and to a small number of users before you attempt large-scale implementation, and they can work well with nonprofit boards that are launching new board management software. Technology pilots allow board leaders to

  • identify implementation obstacles, process challenges, and onboarding issues in a controlled environment
  • outline processes as they relate to the new solution
  • document lessons learned to inform a full implementation and communication plan

Together, these benefits minimize chaos, prevent headaches, and pave the way for smooth user adoption. Most importantly, they ensure that the technology is configured and onboarded in a way that delivers on the board’s strategy and goals.

To pilot a new technology for your board, I recommend that you follow these five steps to gain early wins and more easily scale adoption:

  1. Visualize success before you begin. Quantify (or at least qualify) what successful adoption will look like. For many organizations, this can be articulated in time or resources saved.
  2. Identify the test group. Ask a board committee (perhaps your governance committee) to pilot the software. Ideal candidates are open-minded and communicative. Keep in mind that digitally savvy board members might excel in the pilot, but they won’t flag the training issues or adoption challenges of your tech-averse users.
  3. Communicate pilot parameters. Don’t set users loose on new technology. Clearly convey the pilot goals (once you’ve defined them) to all participants. Outline for which projects or processes the technology should be used, how to access resources, where to direct questions and what kinds of feedback should be relayed. This will give you the most useful data for widespread implementation.
  4. Create feedback channels. Identify an internal stakeholder to be the point of contact for all bugs, training questions, support issues, and feedback. Develop a system for documenting this information to relay back to board leadership and/or the technology partner.
  5. Address adoption concerns. Facilitate success by preparing for common doubts, for example, lack of time to learn a new tool or fear of being micro-managed. Address concerns head on through honest discussion about apprehensions and insecurities. Awareness of these feelings will help you better formulate a rollout plan, and learn how to mitigate future objections.
  6. Cultivate ownership. If the pilot is successful, recruit pilot program participants as product champions. Empower them with the opportunity to help with training or encourage the rest of the board toward adoption.

Most importantly, know and vet your solution before piloting begins. A thorough technology selection process, in addition to the pilot and rollout, contributes to successfully meeting the board’s strategy and goals.

The technology you choose for your board should be intuitive enough to become routine, flexible enough to complement legacy processes, and powerful enough to inspire action. Through a well-executed pilot program, board leaders can be sure new technology will deliver on all three.

In addition to sponsoring and exhibiting at the BoardSource Leadership Forum, the BoardMax team will be hosting a party at BLF on November 9th at 8:00 p.m. Join us!

Topics: BoardSource Leadership Forum


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