You’ve found a document management software (DMS) platform that you love and you’re ready to get started. It’s time to fire up the software, right? Surprisingly, no. Phased DMS implementation will take some time, but the long-term ROI to be gained is worth it.

A full-speed-ahead implementation of a document management software or other platform can lead to major expenses, headaches, and funding issues for nonprofits. We recommend a staged or phased implementation to help your team learn what’s new, allow your staff to handle the changes, and not harm overall operations.

Here’s how to get started the right way.


Prep Your Team for Phased DMS Implementation

Always start by talking with your team. They may have anxiety over what’s new. Some employees may fear losing their jobs to new tech, while others might be worried they can’t keep up with changes. Prep them for any new software or equipment by establishing clear lines of communication.

Tell your team about the DMS, what it can offer, and who will need to learn how to use it. Provide your staff with opportunities to ask questions or raise concerns, allowing them to feel more involved in the process. It will also give you the opportunity to recognize any possible roadblocks to adoption.

When discussing the plan with your nonprofit team, you’ll be well positioned to tackle some of the most important elements for any software implementation:

  • Set clearly defined goals for the software
  • Define what success is for you
  • Appoint someone to lead the process and have accountability
  • Create a plan for who will need to access the software and how they’ll be trained on your DMS

The above four points are your best path to success. They work for both staged and all-at-once implementations. However, nonprofits will often need to consider their available resources and their public image when advancing their software, which may make a phased implementation more reasonable.


Work in Stages with Your IT Staff

Nonprofits vary in shape and size, just like document management software. In most cases, a nonprofit has a very limited IT staff — either one or two people in-house or a go-to contractor when you need a little help. These limited resources make stage implementation a top option.

We believe step-by-step deployment is better than an all-at-once implementation because you’re able to manage each piece and ensure it is properly installed and integrated before moving forward. By taking your time, you can also train staff with each new element individually.

Your teams are out in the field providing services, performing research, raising funds, attending conferences, and focusing on your core mission. That means it’s unlikely everyone will be in the office on the same day. Phased implementation gives you enough time to train everyone and answer questions before moving forward.

A new DMS works well with a staged implementation plan because you’re moving documents over and adopting a platform that might be unfamiliar. Modern DMS options include free mobile apps and integration with your other software. You’ll need to give access to the right team members for each control option, which is important for small teams.


Maintain the Right Look

One common concern for nonprofits is that if you expand too quickly with technology or staff, it may appear that you don’t need the funding you’re asking for from vendors, partners, members, and donors.

Unfortunately, keeping up the proper appearance can often cause nonprofits to put off adopting needed upgrades. This is especially true for religious organizations who often seek weekly or monthly donations to maintain their operations.

The good news is that the best vendors will assist with phased DMS implementation, where you can do much of the heavy lifting behind the scenes initially. For example, churches can start by putting all of their existing forms—from baptism and confirmation certifications to parish registers—in the DMS and train on this to get staff ready. Months later, you could migrate newsletters and bulletins to the DMS system, allowing you to create and reuse them more easily.

Staged implementation in this case would allow a religious organization to slowly roll out the DMS in ways that can demonstrate savings, such as reducing the time it takes to create newsletters or fundraising campaigns, so the staff is able to do more in the same amount of time.


Buy at Once, Implement Over Time

When considering an all-at-once implementation versus a phased implementation, you’re typically not facing a cost difference. Nonprofits will usually have to buy their document management software in a single chunk, and most vendors offer an all-or-none model.

However, that doesn’t mean the complete roll-out is right. Nonprofits can see numerous benefits with a smart, segmented roll-out. You can better control your assets, keep your team on the same page and avoid losses both financial and physical.

When your IT staff is limited, it’s best to take your time to undertake phased DMS implementation, and systematically. Trying to start immediately with all of the software’s bells and whistles can frustrate employees and cause some nonprofits to stop using the new platform altogether.

Create a digestible plan for using your new software effectively, and you’ll see the strongest returns in the long run.