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Playing Tug of War in your Software Search?

Nonprofit Software searches are dynamic. We explore the dynamics of groups here.

Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” In my experience, nowhere is this truer than when working with a group in software selection. In this article, I explore the facets that “group dynamics” play in the search for nonprofit software.

“A review of the impact of group dynamics in software searches”

Years ago, I read an article in Moneywatch on group dynamics which suggests these tips for a productive group which seemed to resonate with me. Here are the major tips:

1. Set clear goals for the group. 2. Express your confidence in the value of group work. 3. Encourage each participant’s contribution. 4. Always remember to say thank you.

Further, according to one publication, each group member’s behavior can serve as a trigger to another’s behavior. No doubt that groups are a practical way for accomplishing tasks and solving problems. However, before you embark on “The Search” for software you need to know that your group assembled will require preparation and leadership to be successful. Below you will find five tips for minimizing the “Tug of War” aspect of software selection from my vantage point.

Know what must be accomplished

This topic was covered previously in another article but is worthy of a repeat. The group needs to know what the desired goals are in the pursuit of new automation. Without a shared goal, the group will get lost in the search. The group must collaborate to agree on the metrics which they will determine is success. And, then get realistic with your expectations, you won’t get everything.  Sorry!

Know your group

The culture of an organization influences the attitude of the group members. And depending on the role each participant plays in the group, it can be difficult to foster compromise and reach consensus. Group members can become competitive and territorial. It is important to observe body language and understand silences.

Know your audiences specific needs

These needs affect every member of the group. For example, the non-profit with an ineffective process for tracking memberships and conference enrollments will be looking for software that solves those problems–problems that affect the workday of each member of the group. Focus on these issues and work for buy-in from group members.

Know how to encourage common ground 

Demonstrate how each need can be met and encourage discussion and questions. It’s important that everyone knows that they won’t get every need met. Expectations need to be set that the organization is the most important aspect of the journey. It’s not one department which is going to use the enterprise software systems in place today. In other words, Membership, Events/Meetings, Development, IT, Executives, and your customers all are stakeholders.

Know how to make a decision 

Strong leadership supported by management will help group dynamics in making decisions. Also important to understand is workers who perform repetitive tasks in their jobs are averse to change. And, yes, the Executive Director and CEO of the organization need to play a big role in the decisions and software selection process! I am not a big fan of “voting” by consensus for the decision. Rather, I believe that boards place Executive Directors and CEO’s in charge for a reason, and they should with good counsel be prepared to make the final decision. They are the leader in pushing the objectives forward for the organization.

Finally, at the start and along the way a carrot needs to placed before the group. In other words, every participant needs to know why your going to change software systems and what are the metrics the organization and the key stakeholders (staff, constituents, board) hope to achieve. Knowing the specifics of how new software will make your lives easier will motivate everyone to participate constructively and enhance their willingness to buy in. And, know that the carrot needs to stay present throughout the selection, implementation, and usage of software. Therefore, during your “group pre-planning”, decide early on how your going to keep the momentum during the project and plan for it!

If you are searching for new technology or would like to explore how to improve your organizational efficiency in software selections, please contact us. We would enjoy helping.

Until then, keep SmartThoughts in mind.

Nonprofit Software Dynamics play a role in the decisions for your organization.  Be smart.


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