Many organisations understand that they could benefit from using a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system. What often happens though is that they jump into the deep end without proper due diligence.
Shiny demos, systems that have been used by a key staff member or have been referred by a peer or an offer too good to refuse are often the key determinants when choosing a system without evaluating the options available in the market.
I am not saying that you need to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a tendering process but there are questions that need to be answered before you select your CRM system of choice and start implementing.
There are an endless number of questions that you can ask. I have listed a number of the questions that I think are really important to ask yourself to make sure you make the right choice. If you don’t you could be wasting a lot of money and maybe even more importantly wasting your own time (you will never get it back!!!) and the time of your staff by implementing a system that will not be adopted very well by the users.
If it is not your first attempt to implement a system you will know that a second chance means a lot more critical users and more effort to increase user adoption.
So please answer at least the following questions before you select a system and an implementation partner. You are not spending money on a CRM system instead you are investing the money so you can run the organisation a lot more effectively after the implementation and get more than just a quick return on investment!
- Objectives: Make sure you have determined the business objectives. Never start a project without having clear goals on what the project needs to deliver at the end of the run. Set measurable goals and success criteria! And measure them during and after the project.
- Integration with existing system: Does the CRM system work with your existing systems and how well does it work with those systems such as Microsoft Outlook, Excel, Word, Gmail, Email Marketing tools (like MailChimp) and hardware/Operating Systems? Make sure you ask people that use the CRM system to get a good understanding how well it work in practice for them.
- Cloud vs Onsite: Can the system be set up in the cloud or only onsite on your own servers or are both options available if you should want to change it later on?
- Ease of use: Will the system be easy to use for the staff? A lot of CRM systems offer similar functionality but not all of them are as intuitive and simple to work with. Make sure that you choose a system that is easy to use and helps the users to be more productive. This will greatly increase the user adoption rates and therefore the return on your investment.
- Allow for future changes: How well will the system cater for changes in processes and in the organisation and can the system grow with you when you have the need for more advanced functionality? Can you start off small and add more functionality later on donation management, volunteer management, skill matching, event management, stakeholder management, etc.?
- Right Partner: What is the reputation of the CRM vendor and your implementation partner? Make sure you do some background checks and get real life stories regarding the expertise of your implementation partner.
- Cultural match: Will I be able to work well with the implementation partner? This is often overlooked but it is very important that there is a cultural match between the two organisations to make the project a success. Little tension during the process can easily lead to unsatisfactory results whereas mutual understanding of situations and a little bit of give-and-take can make the project a more enjoyable and provide more successful outcomes.
- Industry Experience: Does your implementation partner have experience with Not-For-Profit organisations or even better do they have pre-built solutions for NFP or your specific needs that speed up the implementation process? Often your will be able to implement pre-built solutions that cover 80-90% of your requirements. Apart from speeding up the implementation process and it also will take out the risks of custom developing a solution from the ground up for your specific needs. Think of risk in terms of time (project overruns), understanding your needs (scope creep), being able to deliver a solution that meets those needs. It all sounds like common sense but you will be surprised how often this risks are overlooked. You can then decide how much it is worth to you to get the remaining 10-20% of functionality delivered or that you might be able to live without it.
- Support: What level of ongoing support will be available? How responsive will your consulting partner be and how will you talk to? How experienced are the people on the other end of the phone when you have a complicated question? A 24/7 helpdesk is only as good as the people that will answer the phone.
- Flexibility: Can the implementation partner work the way you want to work or are you happy to be guided by them?
- Guarantees: If you choose a cloud based CRM solution: What service level agreement does the CRM vendor offer? Some CRM vendors will commit to a 99.9% up-time of the solution with financial compensation if they don’t meet that where others don’t offer any kind of guarantee regarding up-time of the CRM solution.
- Is it really cheaper?: Does the CRM vendor and the implementation partner offer discounts for Not-For-Profit organisations? Many vendors will offer a number of free licenses or heavily discounted licenses. Make sure that if you start of small with the view to expand later you keep this in mind. What initially looks like a great deal 10 free user licenses can become an expensive exercise when you want to roll the CRM system out to the whole organisation. So sometimes it is more cost effective to pay for a heavily discounted price for all the users than get locked in with a small number of free users. You don’t want to start over from scratch when you find out that the organisation wide roll out is way beyond your budget.