In less than a year, myScouts, the Web portal for Scouts Canada, has attracted more than 30,000 active users. Not bad for an organization once labeled as being “stuck in the past.” At the Avectra Users and Developers Conference, I learned from Stephen Kent and Adam Benson how Scouts Canada transformed itself with the help of Avectra Social CRM.

A volunteer-led and staff-supported organization, Scouts Canada has more than 100,000 members – boys and girls, men and women, from ages 5 to 26. A few years ago, their leadership realized that technology, for example, paper-based processes and disconnected systems, was holding them back from success. 

Scouts Canada had a vision of a management system “hub” supporting integrated “spokes” – website, online learning, accounting, program resources, group locator, communication platform and more.

One year ago, they launched their new hub — netFORUM Enterprise. Stephen appreciates “Avectra’s commitment to growing the product and adding new features. We didn’t want to buy a piece of software; we wanted to invest in a partner that will grow with us.” Its scalable architecture allowed Scouts to solve its business process and integration issues. Avectra’s integration partners provided the new spokes for the netFORUM hub. The Avectra API solved another critical requirement – a bilingual interface – by providing integration with Drupal CMS.

During the session, Stephen and Adam shared lessons from their implementation experience.

Business processes

Scouts Canada is a complex organization with five levels, 200 different fee structures, and multiple discounts, incentives, hierarchies and permissions. Like many associations, they lacked consistent documented processes and policies. “We didn’t understand just how much,” said Stephen.

In retrospect, they would have pushed harder to streamline more processes before implementation, but they couldn’t get the organization to change in time. “Business processes can take more time than the technology solution,” said Adam.

Change management

System implementation is a change management process requiring a great deal of time and focus. “Any change is hard for the user community, and we made many organizational changes in tandem with implementation.” Although they shared timelines and expectations, they didn’t communicate enough with members about what they were doing and why.

Even a year later, some staff and members still resist new processes, for example, different staff workflows and online member registration. However, local evangelists are providing support to those adopting and adapting to the new system.

Testing

Volunteers and staff helped them test the system, but, Adam said, “We really didn’t know how to do it properly.” In hindsight, they would have hired usability consultants to help with testing.

Migration and launch

They did a test migration first and found a lot of “dirty” data and duplicate records to clean up before moving forward. Instead of running simultaneous systems at launch, they took a short black-out and came back on running Avectra. On the day of launch, they also opened a help center to provide immediate support for users.

Training

Scouts Canada used a variety of training methods:

  • Train the Trainer sessions were held in the four weeks leading up to launch.
  • Interactive webinars, although requiring a lot of staff time, made a huge impact.
  • Some one-on-one training was provided for more advanced users.
  • How-to videos, for example, how to change an address, were posted.
  • Written materials were a failure.

Stephen and Adam had some additional implementation advice: 

  • Release at the appropriate time in development; it will never be finished.
  • Build for future changes.
  • An effective project manager is key to your success, especially if, like Scouts Canada, your aggressive timeline leaves no room for error or change in direction.

“More than a database, we built a platform.”

Everyone in Scouts Canada – youth members above a certain age, volunteers, parents and staff – can now access its user-friendly Web portal, myScouts. The number of users is growing rapidly, especially mobile visits. Stephen said, “There’s so much possible now that wasn’t possible even a few short years ago. We are successfully positioning Scouts Canada as a 21st century organization and Avectra has been a big part of that transformation.” 

Deirdre Reid, CAE is a freelance writer who is also a proud former Girl Scout.