Change Management for NetSuite Install Prompts Funeral, Birthday Party at Blandin Foundation

David Geilhufe, Program Manager, 

May 31, 2017

Change management(opens in new tab) is often a make-or-break component of any major technology project and sometimes it takes serious steps to get it done right -- as serious as a funeral.

The Blandin Foundation, Minnesota’s largest rural-focused foundation, serving these communities with grants, scholarships, community leadership programs and public policy advocacy, took a creative approach when it implemented NetSuite recently.

Instead of following an antiseptic, formulaic approach that a Big Consulting firm might recommend, the foundation held a “funeral” for its old ERP(opens in new tab) system, and similarly announced the “birth” of the new solution from NetSuite and partners. Recently the foundation celebrated the new solution's first birthday, complete with reminders that one-year olds are still growing up and require special care and feeding.

The Grand Rapids-based Blandin Foundation completed the project with the help of, the corporate citizenship arm of NetSuite, which makes software donations to charities and social enterprises.

NetSuite’s ability to significantly improve the Blandin Foundation’s grant management processes and back-office accounting software(opens in new tab) is important, but isn't what makes them truly unique as a stand-out grantee. The foundation took an exemplary, creative and highly effective approach to selecting its technology partners and introducing change management to its organization beyond the “birth” and “funeral.” Blandin’s approach offers valuable lessons for other organizations to follow.

Instead of a sterile RFP or hands-off vendor selection process, the Blandin Foundation asked its potential partners to take an extremely hands-on approach. NetSuite and our partners NPower and Celigo traveled to the foundation's rural Minnesota headquarters to spend time on the ground getting a true feel for how the organization operates. That cooperative visit set the tone for the entire project. NPower provides the FoundationConnect vertical functionality for grant management(opens in new tab), and Celigo delivers the integration between NetSuite and FoundationConnect(opens in new tab).

Traci Gangl, the foundation’s IT director, and Jean Lane, director of finance, were both key contributors to the success of the project, but they also made effective strategic use of a dedicated consultant with expertise in software for foundation operations. The consultant was not primarily there to take part in the technological implementation, but to ensure that the technology partners and the foundation were speaking the same language. With this input, the technology team was able to hit the ground running and get the business processes right the first time.

The heart of effective change management is understanding the transition from old ways to new, and Blandin Foundation found a smart way to tie that process in with the personalities of their staff.

Blandin Foundation, NetSuite and our technology partners all made a significant up-front investment in solidifying relationships before the project started, and that paid off handsomely in the form of a smooth implementation and an effective transition. Their vision impressed me greatly, and their commitment to collaboration and clear communication is an inspiring example not just for other private foundations, but for the broader business community as well.

Are you interested in learning how in new tab) could help your foundation? Let us know

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