Change, and how we deal with the difficulties associated with it, is a fact of life.
Sometimes change is welcome and possibly even anticipated, like a promotion or picking up a new hobby. Other times change is unsettling and unpredictable.
There are also times when change is both desired and disruptive, such as buying a new home or adopting new software.
While you might have to ask your friends to help you pack up and move to your new house, the staff at Athena Software are happy to help make your transition to using Penelope case management software as seamless as possible.
Two of the biggest concerns an organization faces with any new software are - is it easy to use and how will staff react to the new process?
Luckily, Penelope does not require a computer savant or an I.T. background to comprehend, and with experience helping hundreds of different companies adopt our case management software, Athena is working to make the transition to a new case management software application for nonprofits and social services as smooth and painless as possible.
Know Your Audience and Their Roles
One often overlooked key to adopting software is understanding where you’re starting from. Your organization may have already tried (and are unsatisfied with) another software system, or you may have never used client management technology and rely on paper for your reporting.
From the very outset of our work with clients, Penelope staff get to know your organization. Our deployment specialists set out a plan for introducing the software and decide who will comprise the project team.
Athena requires a minimum of two members on the project team and has two main methods of implementation.
The first involves working with the project team to configure the software and understand your agency's workflows. We then train that team to be the super-users. In turn, the project team then trains the rest of your staff.
The second approach involves spending more time with the project team at the outset to gather requirements and understand workflows. From there, we work with your organization to complete the configuration.
Sometimes it’s a mix of both.
Ideally agencies and organizations have individuals that are open to adapting and trying something new to improve their efficiency and effectiveness, but sometimes people may be less responsive to change.
There may be employees that are set in their ways and comfortable the way things are. This can end a project before it begins.
Athena staff focus on change management with the project team for that very reason. Instead of waiting, Athena tackles this head on and, as a result, the deployment itself becomes a change management project.
The solution to this problem involves extensive research into the nature and processes of the agency.
First, we establish what the organization’s current process is, what system they are currently using via computer or otherwise, and what roles are involved. Athena staff can then begin mapping out a process and establish with the project team how they want the workflow to look in Penelope.
Mapping the process and workflow that a case takes through the various agencies and organizations is one of most essential steps in the entire deployment process.
This provides the snapshot of the organization which is used to configure Penelope to the workplace. This in turn helps the individuals who may be resistant to change, as the customized roles in Penelope will mirror their current roles more closely and minimize the impact of the change.
Check out our blog on investing in change management for more insight into our deployment philosophy!
Skills Required for Deployment
While the implementation of any new software obviously involves computers, a degree in I.T. is not the primary skill needed to be part of the project team or contribute to the deployment where Penelope is concerned.
At Athena, we understand that each organization is different, and that technical abilities can vary greatly from employee to employee.
For the tech-savvy individuals who want to take a peek under the hood, Penelope has capabilities rivaling any other case management software application on the market, wrapped up in a visually-appealing, user-friendly, and configurable system.
It’s instinctive for an organization to assign their I.T. department the lead role in a software deployment, but the vast majority of Penelope does not require anything above basic computer literacy.
While the I.T. department plays an important role in many organizations, they do not normally play much of a role in the project coordination aspect of deploying Penelope.
This is why Athena recommends that organizations create project teams that involve individuals who really understand what the agency's programs and services are all about.
The implementation of Penelope at any agency works best when the assigned project team understands the data points they're trying to track and how they’re serving clients. The more the project team use the program, the more they will benefit from their increased knowledge and user expertise.
In fact, one of the most important skills for members of the project team is the ability to act as a project manager.
The title of project manager is not a requirement, but being a good participant or student and having time to do a bit of homework, test the software and ask questions is a must. It’s always helpful if an organization can identify these individuals right off the bat!
The project team should also be able to self-evaluate and establish a firm grasp on what the various roles are and what they require to complete their tasks.
This self-evaluation will assist with the decision-making process of deployment. Whether decisions are made collectively as a group or by an individual, it's essential to have the ability to definitively answer the various questions that arise.
Without the ability to make decisions, the deployment can become delayed or even be taken offline while the executive team or board of directors review the decisions instead.
5 Tips for Making Deployment Easier
1 - Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
As any good coach with tell you, practice makes perfect and preparation for an opponent can sometimes be the difference between winning and losing. Bringing new software online is very similar - the more prep work that's done prior to your go-live date, the greater the chance of success and fewer delays.
While it's not a requirement, agencies and organizations can speed up the implementation phase of the deployment process if they investigate their processes, determine the ideal workflow they would like to see, and identify any current hiccups.
If an organization has gone through their documents, assessments and materials prior to implementation, we have found that it helps streamline the process and creates less wait time. This review process can also be done as homework throughout the implementation.
2 - Try it Out Ahead of Time
Some agencies or organizations may opt for a soft go-live date, where out of six total programs, for example, the project team initally chooses to go live with just two to start with.
The project team may find that the programs chosen to go live immediately will be excellent early adopters, and this may even create additional excitement about the project organization-wide.
3 - Get Users on Board
Explaining some of the benefits of Penelope during the initial stages of the deployment also helps build excitement and reassure employees about the software’s viability within their day-to-day workflow.
For example, Penelope includes a collaboration suite for secure internal communication. This means less time is spent emailing documents to different levels of the administration and eliminating miscommunication.
The software also helps eliminate format-related input errors, such as entering dates or identification numbers. In many areas of Penelope, this information is entered into the system once and then, depending on the security levels, everyone can share or view this data.
4 - Be Inclusive
Another way to ease the process and create excitement is by including members of the organization from various services, programs and different stages of the workflow as part of the project team.
Even just giving them the opportunity to provide input and collaborate on the deployment creates a more cohesive environment.
This allows the opportunity to discuss and identify difficulties throughout the organization, while also encouraging employees from all departments to take on more of a leadership role.
5 - Link Back In
Finally, agencies and organizations that use Penelope are encouraged to provide feedback to Athena, who can then help assist with any other difficulties.
For those agencies that adopted Penelope several years ago and have had some of their initial project team move on, Athena offers Penelope Health Check services, which gives organizations a chance to look at the system, walk through their configurations, and identify pain points or provide recommendations of how they could better use the software.
Some Additional Penelope Tips and Tricks
Penelope has a number of features both big and small that users may not be aware of. Here are a few tricks to help better use the software to its fullest potential and streamline your processes.
1 - Errors
Is there a data point that keeps slipping through your agency's fingers or is missing from vital reports? Many data entry fields in Penelope can be made mandatory, which helps eliminate key errors or missing information.
2 - Push to Outlook
For organizations that may not be entirely operating on Penelope software and have issues accessing each other’s schedules, try using the Microsoft Exchange feature which allows for a one-way push of appointments from Penelope to Outlook.
This allows individuals using Penelope to display their schedule to others who are not operating on Penelope. This can help eliminate scheduling errors and may be a solution for agencies where only a specific program or service may be using Penelope.
3 - Rapid Scheduling
Occasionally agencies will lose a staff member permanently or for an extended period of time due to illness or parental leave. In those circumstances, Penelope users have the ability to use the 'Rapid Scheduling' tool to easily re-assign that individual’s appointments to their replacement for the time being.
4 - Agency Events Page
An easy way to keep track of the various clients who enter the facility each day is through the Agency Events Page. As the title implies, this page has all of the events for the agency displayed in one convenient place.
This is particularly effective for front desk staff as they can track a client’s arrival from the moment they arrive until their appointment is over - and from the same screen, they can notify the case worker that the client has arrived. They will even receive a notification that the case worker has received the notification!
5 - Engage
The Engage feature benefits both the agencies and their clients. This feature allows agencies to send documents like satisfaction questionnaires or assessments to their clients via email.
When the form is returned, the information automatically populates in Penelope. The benefits are two-fold - this feature saves the organization time, as well as the postage and stationary costs associated with sending the same documents in the mail.
If your organization is ready to transition to a new case management software application like Penelope, contact us today to schedule a free demo!