An open letter to complex organizations upgrading to the NPSP3 Household Account Model
I’m so happy to hear you are going to upgrade to NPSP 3 with the Household Account model. It offers a lot of great benefits, not the least of which is a platform that is being supported, maintained and evolved on a regular basis. We completed a similar project for The Marfan Foundation and they immediately saved time and experienced less hassle on a day-to-day basis thanks to how addresses are handled at the Household account level (among other things).
“We needed to work with a partner who was knowledgeable and experienced in the upgrade because we had to complete the upgrade in a short period of time. If we had attempted to do it ourselves, it would have taken much longer and would have had a negative impact on our operations.”
– Brian Polk, Senior Director of Technology
The bottom line is whether you use a partner or not: organizations with complex Salesforce instances such as yours need to take extra precautions. I define “complex” through a rough combination of factors including:
- large volumes of records
- heavy customizations within Salesforce
- multiple integrations with third-party systems
- dozens to hundreds of users
- broad use of Salesforce for multiple departments
Ultimately what this results in is a web of interconnectivity that currently is based around the 1:1 or Individual Bucket model; the only choices in prior versions of the NPSP. With the underlying data model being changed to Households as the Account the ramifications of this change could be vast.
Fear not though, when it comes down to it the project model that complex organizations follow for NPSP 3 Household Account upgrades is structurally not much different as compared to simpler set-ups. The volume of details is much higher though which therefore requires a more technical approach which I’ve outlined below with some resources that should help you get started.
Phase 1: Assess
The first important milestone is a technical audit specifically to identify everything that will be affected by the change to the Household model. This involves looking in the nooks and crannies inside of Salesforce as well as evaluating third-party integrations outside of Salesforce to see what is dependent on the current data model. Although not a complete list you’ll want to look at:
- All fields on standard and custom objects (especially lookups and formula fields)
- Custom Report Types
- List Views
- Custom Buttons
- Workflows, Process Builder and Flows
- Custom code (apex classes, triggers, etc)
What you’re looking for is uses of the 1:1 account or references to the old Household object. Catalogue the results of this Audit in a spreadsheet for use in creating the Build Spec (more on that in a sec). Here’s an example of an Audit spreadsheet: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1EAkYqGkecACw-OhIKhAlUCInFoGkFU-RkQaWC5tSO3s/edit?usp=sharing
Pay particular attention to third-party apps and integrations. If they are nonprofit specific then confirm with those providers they work in the NPSP 3 environment. Include all third-party apps (nonprofit-specific or not) in your audit. The audit template above includes sheets for Rollup Helper and Conga Composer (two common nonprofit apps); add any others being used.
Third-party integrations also need to be assessed especially online donation service providers. Talk with these providers about what steps have to taken to ensure their tool integrates properly to Household Accounts in NPSP3.
“We had custom fields and workflows which were integrated with the Household Object and needed to be reconfigured around the new Household Account object. We also have a sophisticated website integration using Springboard that needed to be updated for the transition.”
– Brian Polk, Senior Director of Technology
Out of this audit comes what we call a “Build Spec” which I don’t have an example to share but is in essence a detailed catalogue of all the configuration changes that need to take place in this transition to the Household Account model. This is your roadmap for the changes that will be performed in the Sandbox in the next phase.
Once you know the changes that will be made you can build a “Data Migration Plan” to normalize the data around the new model. Yes, there is a conversion tool within the NPSP3 upgrade process which will handle conversion of Households to Household Accounts as well as re-assign Contacts and Opportunities appropriately but there will likely be additional data migration steps required especially if you have custom fields on the old household object or are using other objects that lookup to Accounts (I’m looking at you Cases).
Phase 2: Test
With most complex NPSP3 migrations we recommend completing a front-to-back test-run in a Full Sandbox (i.e. – with a copy of your full database). This involves:
- Refresh a full sandbox so it has the latest copy of production
- Complete all configuration changes outlined in the Build Spec except for maybe reports and list views ~ too time consuming
- Perform the Household > Household Account conversion
- Complete all other data migration tasks
- Set-up third party apps and integrations.
“Regarding the use of a Full Sandbox it just makes sense to test out as much as possible before putting into production given how important Salesforce is to our operations.”
– Brian Polk, Senior Director of Technology
The unwritten component to each of these steps is to TEST! Once the step is finished perform as many tests as you can think of to ensure the step was completed without error. Spoiler alert! There will be errors and omissions; many of which tie back to inconsistent data issues. You will need to remediate until those errors are resolved.
The point is to learn everything you can about the upgrade process and document very clearly the steps you will take. You’ll have very little time to complete the upgrade during the actual launch which makes now the opportunity to streamline that process.
Step 3: Prepare
It’s never too early to prepare for launch. For example, during the Testing phase you should be drafting your Launch Plan. This is the document that lists chronologically all steps you will take to initiate, complete and launch the NPSP Household Account upgrade. For complex instances this is likely a long list of to-dos (e.g. Marfan’s’ was 35 steps).
Other common tasks to prepare for launch are:
- Communicate with staff. Let them know the schedule for launch and what will change after the upgrade. Give them access to the Sandbox to play around with the Household model if they are so inclined..
- Draft a training plan: All good training sessions start with a plan (is our motto!).
- Update internal docs if you’ve got them (user manual, one-sheets, etc)
- Resolve data issues uncovered in the testing phase so they don’t trip you up during launch.
- Prepare reports to check for data migration accuracy
Step 4: Launch
It’s Go Time. With a date selected for the launch be sure to communicate well internally so that everyone is ready for the big move. It’s likely your staff will need to be out of Salesforce for the day (or longer) that it takes to upgrade. As well they must be ready to use the new Household Account model once they are let back in. So communicate early and often with your team and plan those training sessions appropriately so the information is fresh post-launch.
The launch itself will be a heavily condensed version of the testing phase. Since you’ve done it before and documented every step it will go fast, but the most important thing is for it to be precise. So once again, you’ll have test after every step to ensure nothing was overlooked or executed incorrectly.
When you’re done with the NPSP3 Household Account Upgrade staff can be invited back into Salesforce. As with any major change the need for System Admins to support and perform follow-up training will be higher right around this time so don’t be surprised if some extra TLC is required to ensure a smooth transition.
All in all the project should take 1-3 months depending on how much configuration, integration updates, data migration and staff re-training is required. You’ll know the timeline better after you’ve completed the initial assessment. If you need any assistance or would like to offload any work in this process, feel free to get in touch with us.
Founder and Senior Consultant
North Peak Solutions
North Peak brings together two of Brian’s great passions: supporting nonprofits and operational excellence. Early in his career Brian worked at a CRM software company, for a CRM consulting firm and as a CRM administrator for an early cloud computing firm; all formative experiences that created a vision for how CRM tools can emblazon organizations to be more effective with their limited resources. Brian has spent the last 12 years working exclusively with nonprofits, helping them succeed through integrated technology solutions using website, CRM, email, advocacy, online donations, and other tools with Salesforce at the core.
Brian lives in San Diego with his wife and children, and sneaks out to go surfing whenever the opportunity presents itself.