What No One Tells You About Software Failures

The Costs of Making the Wrong Software Decisions

Implementing new software can be a sweet dream or a beautiful nightmare. The right system can be worth thousands to a non-profit business. In this article, I discuss how the wrong system can potentially put your business in the red and make you see red at the same time.

5 Byproducts of Poor Software Decisions

Here are 5 of the more noxious byproducts of software selection failures.

Software & Service Replacement Costs

This is likely the most anticlimactic downside but definitely number one on the list. The cost of the software subscription itself and the services associated with the start up. If the selected software doesn’t properly meet the needs of the organization, the frustration will build so much that a change will be made. It may come early on or later in the use cycle, but ultimately the price of the faulty software selection must be paid. You also need to factor in early contract termination costs if a multiyear agreement was signed. So, check your contract before looking for alternatives.

Dual Software Costs

One of the benefits of shifting your software to a new system is being able to shed the cost of the old system. If you pick suboptimal software, then the transition will not go smoothly, and you will be left with a duplication of costs, including duplicate admin costs, backup costs, disaster recovery costs, etc. This can drag on far longer than expected. I have seen some nonprofits keep old systems in place just to keep old historical data which can’t be brought into the new system. This is due to space limitations or even lack of import capabilities of the new system.

Retraining Costs 

It’s obvious that training is a critical part of rolling out a new system to end users. Not training people initially and long-term properly is a recipe for a software disaster. If and when a nonprofit needs to replace a failed donor database or membership software program, they need to bear the cost of retraining their employees in yet another software platform. And, one big oversight is employee fatigue – when employees get overloaded with too many new systems, and have too short a time to absorb the changes.

Upgrade Costs

Sometimes choosing the wrong system doesn’t mean you first have to scrap the system to lose money. Rather you decide to upgrade it, potentially to a software that is expensive and the software product still does not properly meet the needs. And, you have to continue working around the problems. These costs just keep on accumulating.

A recent article on CIO opines:

An organization may select the wrong version of the software. After encountering problems, the decision may be made to upgrade to the next product level. With SaaS, this can mean paying for unneeded functionality just to get a particular feature. For software in the data center, this can mean a complete upgrade. Upgrading will cost you time and money, and it is better to make the right choice in the first place. Being forced into an upgrade is not the way to obtain value.

Customer and Employee Satisfaction Costs

A nonprofit can’t respond to their members or donors as well as they could if their software did its job properly. With the wrong system, you find it takes longer for a response to their inquiries. Events are delayed or money is not collected. If problems persist, slowly members can turn to the competition for education or a better cause. Either way, this is the perception cost.

Recently, I worked with an organization who made the wrong decision. And, due to the fact the system could not handle purchase orders, they had to resort to their old event management solution to solve the problem. And, an extra $2,500 dollars later….Not good!

From an employee perspective, there are many satisfaction costs. The extra work is one cost. But, the cost is also felt personally by the backers of the failed system. It can be anything from being denied a promotion to being fired.

Now there are many other notable costs, but these are some obvious and not so obvious ones to consider. Suffice it to say, you need a good requirements list and the fortitude to make hard decisions to get it right. And, an even a little prayer also never hurts either!

Contact us if you would like to learn more about our software selection process and need help securing the right fit the first time. Until next time, keep SmartThoughts in mind.

Free Membership Software Purchase Guide for Nonprofits

Caveat emptor! Oh sh*t, why did we buy that Software?

Failure in nonprofit software projects can cause sever damage!

When it comes to buying software these days it may seem a bit like caveat emptor or “Oh S*it” for some. The market place is rich with options  and it’s very competitive especially at the low and high-end with many large-scale packages available which seem to promise everything in the organization. In this article, I will explore some disasters where the software selected dramatically impacted the organization and then underscore ten rookie mistakes to avoid in your software decision.

Significant Software Failures to ponder: 

Residential Services Incorporated, a North Carolina based service agency is a good starting point. In an overhaul of its computer system, the agency bought a large-scale software package. Then they found that their computer system did not have the capacity to meet the bandwidth requirements of the system.

Washington State University decided to replace an older student management system with Oracle’s PeopleSoft system at a cost of fifteen million dollars. Installation of the system caused miscommunication between the University’s financial and financial aid modules that caused widespread delays in financial aid disbursements.

The State of North Carolina: In this case, the state of North Carolina terminated a contract with Healthcare.gov Contractor Over Tax Software System.  North Carolina has already paid CGI $63.8 million for the tax-collection system. Wow!

In the field of Battle: It sometimes gets even more serious than just dollars and cents. In one incident I read from years past involving an armed services unit, a small “undetected glitches” in the software for identifying incoming missiles was found to have cost the lives of sailors on warships. Unfortunately, the glitches “in programming”, only discovered after the fact, had caused the misfiring of multi-million dollar rockets.

These are several cases in the press, however, if you would like to review more you may do so by going to Info World which has the IT disasters of 2013 in an article titled “The Worst IT projects of 2013“. The reports are sure to get your heart pounding a bit. So, be warned.

Top  10 Mistakes That Make You look Dumb in Software Decisions

Unfortunately, I have seen it very often. Many times “the fit” provided to address a problem is poor. The convincing demonstrations during the evaluation process can certainly be very impressive. But, it’s important not to get to enamored without properly taking the time to address a selection process with the proper due diligence it deserves. Please consider below the common mistakes in selecting Online Membership Management Software (any software) which may help frame the importance in making a smart software decision at your organization and avoiding failure:

  1. Overbuying: Buying software without sufficient technical support and paying for unused licenses can drain the budget.
  2. No Room for growth: Buying software which cannot grow with your organization can impact your revenue opportunities.
  3. Poor Design: Buying software that keeps staff so busy they are diverted from their real jobs.
  4. Difficult to Use: buying software where application requires a lot of expensive outsourced training that costs staff time and money
  5. Overpriced: Buying the wrong software which costs so much the board won’t allow you to do anything for years!
  6. Poor Morale: Buying software that frustrates staff and damages staff morale and motivation.
  7. Bad Customer Reputation: Buying software that causes delays and malfunction that damage the organization’s reputation.
  8. Dual Systems: Buying software and still having to maintain an old system because you can’t get the history in the new one!
  9. Fired: Buying software and losing your job. Yes, this can happen. I have seen it!
  10. Having to do it again! Buying software that is so bad you have to pay for a whole new package and go through the process after a couple of years. Now, that in of itself should be enough right?

So, buyer beware (caveat emptor) is true!

Our mission is to identify the best software for your specific needs. The flip side of this is reducing the risk of software failures. It’s important to know your requirements, perform your due diligence before the search, and take the time necessary to make a smart decision. And, if you would like to discuss your software needs with us please give us a call.

Until then, keep SmartThoughts in mind.

SmartThoughts, Software Selection failure is not an option!



5 Ways People Can Be The Problem in Software Failure

Software Failure is not always technologies fault

Yes, this is one of George Constanza’s, from the TV show Sienfield’s, most famous one liners which many of us have heard before. In this article, we wanted to underscore the importance people and personalities involved in software projects play in achieving success with nonprofit software engagements. But, before we dig to deep, review the below for a little humor to get into the mood:


Yes, old George was continually finding ways to blame everybody except himself for his lack of success, wasn’t he?

Let’s face it. It’s easier to point to the software as the culprit in your failure to reach your goals with automation. And, it’s equally easy to think that a new database is the answer to all the challenges in your association. It may be, but the successful implementation of a new Association nonprofit engagement system requires people. And, People, the good, the bad, and the indifferent are the ones who will make the software a solution or a failure in most scenarios.

5 Ways People Can Be The Problem in Software Failure:

  1. Expectations: Piling all of your hopes onto the new software. It is our silver bullet, our knight in shining armor. Our faith in it is so deep that we just know — to our core, in our heart of hearts — that it will do absolutely everything we have or will ever need it to. And, if it does anything less than that, we are justified in hating it with a vengeance.
  2. Customizations: By agreeing to change software, but not business practices. Let our protective mantra be, “But that’s how we’ve always done it”.
  3. Project Management: By agreeing to do our part and to meet our deadlines, and never doing either.
  4. Monkey Jumping: By returning back to old software as soon as there is a snag instead of getting help.
  5. Fooling Ourselves: By saying we agree to change but not really meaning it.

Even though most nonprofits are not spending the thousands of dollars they once did to acquire a new system, it doesn’t matter. Whether you spend one dollar or hundreds of thousands of dollars, your investment is critical to the success and reputation of your executive team and your association.

We don’t mean to sell the software short or give it a pass in responsibility with failure. But, If you haven’t upgraded in the last five years or so, customer relationship management software for nonprofits has come a long way. Most leading Association Management Software providers today are all good and if you choose a product that aligns with your association’s needs, you can see a vast improvement in productivity and effectiveness.

The less hyped reality is, the software is only about 15 percent of the solution.

The technology is important, but in terms of its impact on the overall success of the implementation, it’s a very small piece . The simple fact is that most of the problems that occur during a software implementation are not related to the technology, but how the project is being managed and how leadership views the importance of the project.

Finding a good vendor partner is critical to the success of any software you decide to move forward with. You should be very cautious on who you partner with to deliver the solution. And, we can help you find the right one to meet your needs.

If you would like to discuss, give us a call or leave a reply below. Until then, keep SmartThoughts in mind.