A Software Implementation Nightmare of Epic Proportions – Part 2

Software ThinkTank has been chronicling the case of “Hope”, a multi-million dollar North American charity, that found itself battling a hydra-headed monster in the form of a software project gone seriously wrong.

The Problems:

  • Rising costs and donation losses have hurt the lives of thousands of starving impoverished children worldwide;
  • Dozens of missionary workers scramble to balance local needs with new uncertain fiscal realities;
  • Hundreds of donors have lost faith in a charity they once trusted.

So how did this happen? Like virtually every horror story ever told, the tale begins at home.

Be Still My Beating Heart

Excitement can be intoxicating. It leads the mind to imagine the impossible. It’s a compelling aspect of the human condition. When this large North American charity realized something unusual was happening, they started imagining what, up until now, seemed impossible.

For years “Hope” had been promoting its outreach projects in more than 30 countries around the world. People always supported their projects through their churches, but now new technology allowed them to donate directly – right into the hands of the charity’s 450 global workers.

It was clear donors were hungry for grassroots connection, and the charity wanted to nourish that. They figured donations could be made more meaningful if there was a way to harness their website and create a means for direct communication between the workers on the ground and the donors. This, they hoped, would deepen the connection and ultimately lead to an increase in funds.

A Mission for the Missions

So, they set out on their own mission – to upgrade their software into a comprehensive management system that would not only address donor management, but also make improvements to their existing financial accounting structure.

All this started in 2009, with promises of implementation by late 2010. Today, the agency is mired in what could only be described as software quicksand.

The Nightmare Begins

With hundreds of thousands of dollars spent, the budget has ballooned by one-third. Making things worse, implementation cut off communication between global workers and donors for 18-months, potentially resulting in the loss of thousands more dollars in unmade donations. Rather than gain funding, they’ve lost. It’s been painful, to say the least, and with much of the project still unfinished, the healing hasn’t even started.

“As a non-profit, these increased costs mean we are not able to engage in other initiatives,” says the agency’s CEO. “The money from donors will still go to specific missions, however the executive officers raise funds for operational expenses and so we will need to address the overage. That’s life.”

The Common Pitfalls of Software Selection

As a non-profit, price was a key consideration. Following close behind was integration with their existing software. The agency didn’t want staff to experience a big learning curve. Staying with the same system would save time in training, so they believed.

“We thought it would be easier to roll out something for staff if we stuck to the same platform,” says the head of finance.

Harkening back to the issues raised out of a Deloitte Touche study (see article Check Your Blind Spot), you can see how the trouble began.

Can “Hope” recover this sinking ship of software selection mistakes gone wrong? Find out next Thursday in Part 3 of – A SOFTWARE IMPLEMENTATION NIGHTMARE OF EPIC PROPORTIONS. If you missed last week’s chapter of Hope’s saga, be sure to read Part 1.

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