Let’s pretend for a moment that you are in charge of buying the new copier/printer/scanner/fax/espresso maker for the office. Chances are you wouldn’t just google “photocopier” and take your chances on the first one you find. For one thing, a new photocopier might run you 10K and be your own personal nightmare when (yes, when) it breaks down. Therefore, you’ll probably end up renting a copier that comes with a service contract, all of which you can pay off over time and maybe end up with a new copier if the older one quits on you.

In a way, renting a copier/printer/scanner/fax/French press is analogous to investing in a SaaS (software-as-a-service) product. You use someone else’s device for your work purposes. However, a copier is more concrete and familiar than software sitting in a cloud, so it simplifies the scenario in a handy way. Follow along to see what we can learn from this analogy.

Communication: Get buy in

Investment in a new machine might seem obvious to you as a person who deals daily with a slow, outdated, un-networked photocopier. However, this might not be so obvious to the manager responsible for allocating funds for office equipment. The copier cost a fortune when the company bought it and it’s made of solid steel that would survive unscathed in a collision with a truck. You need to make your case that the meeting notes that the manager requests in triplicate take most of your afternoon to produce.

In the same fashion, management might not understand the need for a new software platform. You need to explain how the current software is hurting their bottom line. Moreover, you need to make the point that going SaaS – i.e., letting someone else do a lot of the work to support the software – will reduce risk and spread out costs for them.

Communication: The product is only part of the solution

As we suggested above, just buying a copier may not be all that clever. Worse yet would be plugging it in and hoping everything works. What’s lacking here is communication and coordination with the people who will supply and use the device. It’s okay to be the person in charge of the copier – in fact it can be helpful to have a clear point person and decision maker when negotiating with vendors and office staff. However, you still need to maintain a collaborative spirit in order to capture what your office actually needs (Do you still really need an integrated fax? Does the legal department print anything on 8.5 x 14 paper?) as well as what the vendor can recommend.

Similarly, your new SaaS platform needs to be configured and worked into the workflows of your organization. A hands-on SaaS vendor will try to help you elicit use cases from your organization and make recommendations about how to support those use cases. Set aside sufficient time to work with your vendor and colleagues on this part of the implementation.

Communication: Get the right people in the same room

Again, while searching for the copier/printer/scanner/fax/slow cooker of your office dreams, you need to make sure the right people have the right information in good time. We suggest creating a schedule with meeting dates, topics, and recommended attendees from both your office and the vendor. This way, for example, the IT department can ask the vendor what type of regular maintenance is needed and if/how they will have to update the office network to accommodate printing. If deliverables like manuals or office blueprints are needed, these should be noted on the meeting schedule. This same type of system will also be used for training different groups on the new machine.

The moral of the story is – say it with me – communicate, communicate, communicate! Whether implementing something as physical as a copier or something as abstract as a SaaS product, you need to make sure to communicate why a system is needed, what system features are needed, and how the system will work for the users.

And if you’d like to communicate with us, we’d be happy to share more about our process for implementing our SaaS LMS with associations like yours. If you are attending ASAE Annual, stop by our jointly sponsored reception on Sunday, August 19th to learn more and enjoy appetizers from the 27th floor of the London House. RSVP below.