What makes a successful CRM implementation?

Tl:dr

Always allow for a wide variety of input early on, don’t underestimate the knowledge of your staff and volunteers, and factor in time for the system to ‘bed in’.

Key Factors to Account for in new CRM Implementations

While I write this from a CiviCRM perspective, the vast majority of factors that dictate the success of a project are not related to the system at all. We can often underestimate the people side of a project, and in the end this is probably the most critical factor.

Before Implementation

Often, our staff and users can become experts in the way our organisations work, and will understand the nuances in processes in a way that managers don’t need to know. They are the front line of operations and are the ones who have to deal with the day-to-day running of the organisation.

It is this experience that is valuable for CRM implementers to understand – what are the issues that always come up? How do people work around existing problems, and why?

It’s important to quantify all the existing different data sources that will be affected by the CRM implementation, and it can be very valuable to spend time understanding the processes, for example who does what, and when is data shared from one individual or team to another. This is time well spent, and the more time allocated to this data mapping and process review, the better.

During Implementation

Each CiviCRM provider has their own method for implementation. Here at Ruza Solutions, we adapt the process to the organisation and the needs of the project. Large projects often need clear communication channels and deadlines because there are several people involved, while smaller projects tend to be more informal and one-to-one.

Face-to-face meetings are useful for key milestones, and feedback is always welcomed. Clients are given access to the new site early on and are actively encouraged to give feedback.

This is also the period where the processes that were reviewed at the start are now implemented within the CiviCRM infrastructure. Sometimes this has an impact on how it is implemented, and the processes are refined accordingly.

The end of this stage involves the roll-out and training of staff, which may happen in stages for large organisations with several teams.

After Implementation

In theory, once the site has been rolled out across the organisation and staff have received training, it is tempting to mark this as ‘job done’. In one sense, this is true – the site has been installed and implemented for the organisation and is now live.

However, in practice, what can often happen once the site is live is that front-line staff have more smaller changes, requests, refinements and suggestions. These are frequently the issues that were not anticipated in the earlier stages for a variety of reasons.

It may be that only certain staff were involved in the process reviews to make sure it is not too onerous for staff, but this may mean that things crop up later from others who were not directly involved. Equally, if the first stage is rushed or not given enough time, this can often lead to issues being overlooked until the site is live.

Or it may just be that, now that staff have a more effective system, they make new suggestions that help to make life even easier. The implementer should be making suggestions during the second stage, but there may be additional functions of the organisation that are not discussed and the implementer is unaware of the potential applications in the organisation.

Whatever the reason, it is very normal to have a period of ‘bedding-in’ where things crop up and changes are necessary. In fact, a good sign of a healthy engagement with a CRM within an organisation is when these suggestions and requests never stop entirely. The site should continue to evolve as the organisation grows, adapts and changes.

To conclude, implementing a new CRM in an organisation is no small undertaking, and can sometimes be quite daunting. Ruza Solutions always strives to make the process a positive experience for all involved, resulting in a fit-for-purpose database, and staff confident and engaged with the new site.