What to consider before embarking on a CRM Journey

8 March 2017

Many charities and social enterprises are under increasing pressure to improve the flexibility and efficiency of their systems and we’re no different. We’ve recently put a new customer relationship management system (CRM) in place and learnt a bit along the way.

Many people will have heard the acronym “CRM” but the advantages and challenges of putting a system in place are less well known.

A good CRM system can help you increase your chances of winning new funding, improve your reporting to funders or support your fundraising efforts.

I started at Social Investment Business three years ago with clear objectives: implement a new CRM system, improve our IT structure, enhance the customer journey and provide the tools needed to make the most of 13 years’ worth of social finance data.

Every journey has a beginning. Mine started with a clear strategy and implementation plan.                                                 

There was a clear and urgent need for a good CRM from the get-go.  Without integrated business systems we weren’t making the most of our data or being as efficient as we could have been.

I drew inspiration from the age-old data fable of failed CRM projects:

  • 45% of failures are due to a lack of executive support.
  • 40% are because of implementation issues.
  • 15% are because of the platform itself.

Using this as a starting point I laid out a strategy that looked at each of the three elements in turn: people, process and platform.

1. People

A CRM project is a cross-departmental change exercise. It engages people at all stages. Having support from a ‘project sponsor’ in the executive team to help communicate the change ahead is very important. Without it, there’s a risk that the project becomes a low priority. This change element is often overlooked by organisations that consider implementing a CRM system as ‘just another IT project’.  

2. Process

Looking at our processes and how we could make them more efficient had helped us massively in planning the implementation. Finding the right implementation partner (the organisation who would help us put the system in place) was also equally important. Overcomplicating the solution or missing important elements in your processes will affect the budget, timeline and how well your colleagues adopt to the system.  

3. The technical solution

A lot of emphasis is often put into choosing the right technical platform (e.g. Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics). And I agree with that to a certain extent since your colleagues won’t put up with a clunky solution. However, avoid the classic pitfall of prioritizing the platform over people and processes.

Another important aspect to consider from the beginning is what state your data is in and what actions you need to take.  I knew that the quality of the data we held about the organisations we worked with varied and needed to be addressed.

Before implementing a CRM project, I would recommend launching a data-cleaning project. This should be a project separate from the CRM as it requires different types of resources and should have a separate budget allocation.

It’s a common mistake to leave the data until the end. This is risky and will likely result in your project going over budget, being delayed or simply result in a brand new system with rubbish old data.

So where to start?

Bringing in a CRM system is complex. Preparation is key and learning from mistakes made by other organisations helps you avoid common pitfalls. If you arm yourself with the understanding that putting in a CRM system is a journey, your chances of success will increase.

Implementing the system is just the beginning. Ongoing user adoption and continuous system improvements are almost always necessary to ensure that the system will help you and your organisation achieve your goals.

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Florentina Sandor

Head of Business Systems
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The Social Investment Business is the trading name for the Social Investment Business Foundation, Registered Company No. 05777484 (England), Registered Charity No 1117185 (England & Wales), The Social Investment Business Limited, Registered in England No. 06490609, VAT No. 927456693 and Futurebuilders-England Limited, Registered in England No. 05066676. Registered Office: CAN Mezzanine, Borough, 7-14 Great Dover Street, London, SE1 4YR

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