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5 Keys to Project Success: How We Navigate System Migrations for International NGOs

By: Idealist Consulting

In 2020, a large international humanitarian organization approached us with a deadline to migrate from Salesforce’s legacy NGO Connect (NGOC) product to their standard offering for nonprofits, Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP). Operating in more than 50 countries in verticals including economic wellbeing, health, education, and safety, their mission is to help people survive, recover, and lead meaningful lives after experiencing conflict or disaster.

At the time, the organization was managing communication and fundraising efforts using separate systems for different regions - the United States branch was running on NGOC and the global system was running on NPSP. In order to increase collaboration and strategic outreach, they began work with our team at Idealist Consulting to migrate their NGOC instance to the existing NPSP instance.

What was implemented?

The organization needed more sustainable data and system architecture, centralized operations and data elements, and more aligned business processes to allow for rapid response during humanitarian emergencies. In collaboration with the organization’s internal team, the Idealist team executed the following initiatives to meet these goals:

  • Merged the organization’s NGOC and NPSP systems into one instance including a migration of more than 20 million data records, 270+ users, and multiple integrations.
  • Transitioned their constituent communications from Acoustic to Marketing Cloud Account Engagement (formerly Pardot).
  • Worked with different business units within the organization to allow them to communicate with different markets and regions.
  • Completed targeted journey-building to shift individual donors to recurring givers.
  • Created an Experience Cloud Portal for volunteer management.

Below, we’ll discuss the top 5 components of this project that contributed to our successful outcome, including our unique approach to project management, how to navigate disruptive events during a project, and recommendations for planning strategic support post-project.

1. Strategic Project Management

The success of the NGOC to NPSP migration project for this organization was grounded in a thoughtful and meticulous project management plan. Recognizing the complexity of the migration and consolidation effort, the Idealist team initiated a comprehensive planning phase. This involved creating detailed project timelines, defining clear milestones, and establishing efficient communication channels. The strategic management approach ensured that each phase of the migration was executed with precision, minimizing disruptions and ensuring a smooth transition to NPSP.

2. Methodical Approach to Data Migration and Consolidation

A key driver of project success was the methodical approach we took with data migration and consolidation. In the initial assessment phase, the project team identified specific challenges within the organization’s existing NGOC system. These challenges included data quality issues, complex mailing address management, and recurring donation tracking issues. The team then developed a structured plan for data consolidation within NPSP, eliminating duplicate data instances and migrating over 20 million records to the new system. The methodical approach not only resolved existing issues but also provided the organization with a clean and unified data foundation for more effective fundraising efforts.

3. Navigating Disruptions with Adaptability

The NGOC to NPSP Migration project encountered unexpected disruptions, including challenges in architecture decisions and the emergence of a world emergency during the project. What ensured the project's success was the team's adaptability in the face of disruptions. Instead of succumbing to setbacks, the project team recalibrated strategies, adjusted timelines, and ensured a flexible approach. This adaptability not only mitigated potential delays but also demonstrated a commitment to the project's overarching goals, showcasing the resilience necessary for navigating complex international projects.

4. Change Management Strategies and User Adoption

Fundamental to the success of the project was the implementation of robust change management strategies. Recognizing the importance of user adoption, the Idealist team introduced a customized change management system using Story Navigator. This system not only tracked every change made during the migration but also facilitated comprehensive documentation built right into their new system, for future reference. The emphasis on change management played a pivotal role in cultivating a more knowledgeable user base within the organization. Throughout the project, the Idealist team helped to strategically build the organization team’s skills and capacity to be ready to own their system. Their team learned best practices and established standard operating procedures over the course of the project, setting them up for success post-project. Additionally, the simplification of internal processes accomplished through this project was integral to building capacity for the organization’s team, enabling them to respond effectively to global emergencies and contributing to sustained organizational growth. The result was not only a successful migration but an organization that had embraced new methods, fostering a culture of adaptability and continuous improvement.

5. Strategic Stabilization with Managed Services

Organizations invest significant time and money into implementation projects but often don't consider the need for continued support post-launch. This organization found success in adding a Managed Services contract after going live, providing the stabilization their team needed during the crucial adoption phase before moving toward further innovation. With the Managed Services team's maintenance, troubleshooting, and optimization support, the organization's staff was empowered to fully adopt the new workflows and processes. Loose ends were tied up and gaps filled that are inevitable after any major implementation. Through this support package, the client's team had the knowledge and confidence for full system ownership. With stabilization complete, the team was able to shift their purview, with the support of Managed Services, to innovation through optimization, integration, and roadmap development to support the long-term growth, stability, and interconnectedness of their systems. Planning and budgeting for Managed Services support after any implementation can help stabilize the system, ease the transition, innovate for the future, and set the stage for long-term success.

By emphasizing strategic project management, a methodical approach to data migration, adaptability in the face of disruptions, robust change management, and capacity building for long-term impact, the project not only achieved its objectives but transformed the organization’s operational capabilities and overall efficiency. The lessons learned in this project provide a valuable roadmap for organizations seeking to undertake similar endeavors in the humanitarian sector, ensuring sustained success and positive impact on a global scale.

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