5 Keys to Preparing for Your CRM System Implementation
[Editor's note: This article is based on the 2012 Nonprofit Technology Conference session, "Implementing CRM: What Works, What Doesn’t, and How to Make Your Project a Success!"]
Implementing a new constituent relationship management (CRM) — aka donor relationship management (DRM) — system doesn't have to be painful. Concerns about implementation and scars from the past don't have to hold you back from adopting a CRM system that will truly support your strategies and drive your organization's growth. Planning is the key to success. The results, if you plan well, are well worth the effort.
Fundamentally, implementing a CRM system means using a single database to manage all of your relationships with your constituents — from donors and volunteers to colleagues. Before you get started with your CRM system implementation, you should ensure that your objectives for implementing it are in sync with the key benefits of CRM. If not, it might not be the right time for you to implement a CRM system. The key benefits include:
- Consolidating to as few systems as possible so your IT team has fewer systems to manage and your team has fewer systems to be trained on.
- Reflecting all data in a single system so data maintenance is easier and you have easy access to more accurate reporting.
- Putting in place an agreed-upon set of rules for your organization's key processes.
Which is more important: The technology or the plan?
Assuming your objectives are in sync with the benefits of implementing a CRM system, it's time to start planning. Despite what you might think, successfully implementing a CRM system depends less on the actual technology you choose than on figuring out a few things from the outset. Those things include:
- what you want the system to do
- who's going to be using the system
- what business processes will meet those people's needs
- how the system can be implemented in a way that works well for future stakeholders; this includes staffing the project appropriately, and training system users adequately
Before you implement your CRM system (and preferably, before you even select your CRM system), be sure to do your prep work. Start by thinking strategically about your organization's mission and goals, and how you will measure progress toward your goals. Then, think tactically about your constituent groups and what you are doing with each of those groups. This helps you define what information needs to be stored in your CRM system and what types of processes you need to carry out — such as list management, communications and program tracking — within the system.