Nonprofit News

"How long will our software implementation take?" (Really)

One of the questions we often get asked when a customer is considering purchasing financial software is "How long will the implementation take?"  Sounds simple, and sometimes it is but more often it's complicated as there are multiple factors that impact the answer.

For a “standard” Abila MIP Fund Accounting implementation without any additional factors a two to three month window is typical.  But what is a standard implementation?  The short answer is an implementation of just the CORE set of modules such as General Ledger, Accounts Payable and one or two additional modules, basic database setup, summary data conversion and limited data integration services.

Here is a sample timeline for a "standard" implementation:

Implementation Timeline

While this timeline is a good starting point, there are additional factors that can impact how long a specific implementation will take.  Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Number of Modules Purchased.  While the core set of modules will be fairly straightforward as far as required  time to get up and going with them, once you start adding additional modules it can impact the overall implementation time.   While the overall impact will vary by module purchased, certain modules such as Payroll, HR, EWS, Microix or Grants Management can add up to one month per module to the time as they are more comprehensive and often involve additional staff members which leads me to the next factor.
  • Number of People Involved in the Project.  On the surface this may seem simple to estimate up front to calculate impact on implementation time, however there are often unexpected changes to the initial count such as staff turnover or changes in roles that may derail the original plan and extend the project time.  Another way staff count impacts the implementation timeline is the overall count itself.  If only one or two people are involved in the project, the "standard" implementation timeline is probably accurate, but if there are a larger number of staff involved this may extend the training time as well as overall project management.
  • Availability of Organization Staff.   Regardless of the number of people involved, there is another factor related to the people working on the project and that is their availability.  The implementation process involves a collaborative effort between our consultants and the staff assigned to the project.  If they are not able to make themselves available throughout the project and especially at the key milestones the timeline could get pushed out.
  • Number of Other Projects.  One of the things that may impact staff availability is the number of other projects they may be juggling.  While we all have to manage multiple tasks at work and the day to day work load can often be overwhelming, it is critical that staff be able to focus their attention on the implementation in order to meet the deadlines required to keep the timeline on track.  If the project is not a priority, the timeline is likely to be extended.
  • Scope of the Project.  In addition to the software configuration, there are other components that can be added to the project that will have an impact on the final timeline such as a large scale data conversion or multiple third party integrations.  While two to three month timelines may be fairly typical, an implementation can extend well beyond that if your project is significantly more complex.
  • Changes to the Original Project.  No matter how carefully the plans are laid out for the project, once it begins you may realize that you want to change something. The change can be something small like deciding to do some of your end user training remotely rather than onsite or more complex such as adding another database to your system or opting for detailed data conversion.   While the smaller changes can often be absorbed into the original project plan, the larger changes that trigger a change order generally will impact the overall implementation timeline.

While our summary above uses an MIP Fund Accounting implementation for the example, the same issues would also impact our other financial and fundraising software implementations. 

Soft Trac is here to guide you through the implementation process.  Before starting your project, we will review what your "standard" timeline will be after a careful analysis of all of the factors that impact your specific implementation. 

Soft Trac is a woman-owned business and accomplished team of nonprofit software consultants.  We believe in making nonprofits "do good" better.