Why Finishing Your CRM Implementation Doesn’t Mean You’re Done



Why Finishing Your CRM Implementation Doesn’t Mean You’re Done.  There was a time in the nonprofit sector when organizations would identify a technology need and say, “We need something to send out email, or track donations, or manage our events. Let’s get that one!” These types of technology are called “point solutions,” and are designed for and meet specific, relatively one-dimensional, needs only. As a former technology manager, I’ve seen similar hardware acquisition activities take place in many nonprofits: “We need a computer, let’s get that one!” It wasn’t until that computer, new in 2007, became so decrepit and slow in 2012 that a need for a new one was considered. In either case, the technology need was relatively straightforward, and the implementation victory was clear: we’re now using the new tool. The tool fits a specific job, and we tend to continue using it as-is until the job outgrows the tool, or the tool breaks down.

At today’s nonprofits, directors, board members, and managers are saying, “I could do my job so much better if I could see more information about our constituents faster and easier.” And this is where the one-dimensional world of point solutions breaks down: Information is locked up in X donor database, and Y email campaign solution, and Z events management platform. None of these point solutions talks to each other; seeing complete information about constituents is fragmented, and it’s time consuming to produce a complete picture of their behavior, interests and motivations.

The “faster and easier” need is driving the adoption of Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) platforms such as Salesforce.com in the nonprofit sector. CRM platforms are multi-dimensional systems that bring information together from many places to achieve many goals.

Time and again, I see nonprofits stumble when implementing CRM platforms using the same methodology as they used with point solutions. They say, “We just needed to pull all this information into the same place. Problem solved!” Ergo, CRM was successfully implemented because of all the previous experience the organization had implementing point solutions.

However, using a point-solution implementation methodology with a CRM platform neglects to consider the fundamental difference between these entities: Point solutions meet specific process needs that may not change substantially for long periods of time. CRM platforms not only meet specific process needs, but also paint an evolving picture of the outcomes of these processes to help an organization make programmatic and fundraising decisions. And, successfully using CRMs requires determining which outcomes based on what data are most important to understand.

Answering the Evolving “Why”
A donor database will give a bottom line total of how much a constituent has given across a year, but it won’t necessarily help to answer why the constituent gave, which the aggregation of information within a CRM platform helps to accomplish. Organizations can have at their fingertips not just the bottom line giving total for constituents, but also how interested constituents are in email information, what events they’ve attended, which advocacy campaigns they’ve responded to, and so forth. The one-dimensional picture of asking a constituent for a donation and tracking its progress and receipt is suddenly informed with how that constituent’s relationship has grown and changed with your organization.

However, asking “why” can evolve: Because “why” today won’t be the same “why” in a year or three years, even if the processes feeding that “why” don’t change — you’re still sending email, still asking for money, still engaging constituents in political advocacy. So, to support the ever-evolving “why,” organizations need to put structures in place to care for their CRM platforms after their implementation. These structures take many forms, and include both people and strategies. For example:

  • CRM Administrator — A lead within your organization that has collaborative access across management and programs to help drive adoption, manage platform release changes, help to set and govern best practices for use, and help determine security policies and procedures. Learn more.
  • Internal governance and change management committee — Provides a feedback loop for users, programs, and CRM administrators to collaborate on existing and emerging needs and changes to the CRM platform.
  • Following CRM platform changes and evolution — CRM platforms themselves are vibrant and changing, adding new capabilities and processes all the time. The implementation of these changes (or not) should be monitored and structured around supporting your organization’s business processes and the needs surfaced by internal governance committee.
  • Training and documentation — What long-lasting structures are in place to help new staff members using your CRM platform to take over for departing staff members?

As an old Public Service Announcement once said, “Knowing is half the battle.” And knowing that you’ve successfully implemented a CRM platform is only half the task to owning and maintaining it. Remember that the mission of your organization, not individuals, drives your CRM platform use and therefore requires structures to help ensure that the legacy of its use outlasts any one person.

Tracy Kronzak

About Tracy Kronzak

Tracy is a CRM implementation strategy, change management, and organizational leadership and technology adoption expert. She has more than 15 years of experience in the nonprofit sector and its related industries, including philanthropy, activism, research, technology management, and Salesforce CRM platform consulting. She holds a Master of Public Administration degree from New York University, and is a Salesforce.com Certified Administrator and Developer. Tracy frequently presents on CRM selection/implementation and technology strategy, and is a proud member of the NTEN Community, serving in an advisory capacity to the NTC and Leading Change conferences. In August 2014, Tracy was recognized by the Salesforce Foundation as one of 30 Community Heroes for her contributions to the advancement of nonprofits using Salesforce.com. In her free time, she is a ceramic artist and potter, avid bicyclist, and burgeoning markswoman.

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