Wednesday, August 15, 2012

What is the best way to invest additional budget in a CRM implementation?

Extra money

I have this little dream that a charity phones me up one day and says to me, Ivan, we have some spare money we want to invest in our CRM implementation - where do you suggest we spend it? Unfortunately, before I can say, "Me! Me!", I of course wake up.

But it has made me think: if someone was to ask me, if we wanted to spend more money somewhere on our CRM project, then where should we spend it - and assuming that I am wearing my incredibly self-righteous hat so that I don't of course say me - then what would my answer be? I'm also assuming for the purpose of this hypothesis that they already have an existing budget which is "satisfactory" and certainly enough so that the project could at least be completed "satisfactorily". Thus, any extra money would be a complete bonus to add real extra value.

So, what would I do with such a windfall?

What I wouldn't spend it on
Interestingly, when I challenged myself to answer this, I found it harder than I thought I would. So let me start off by saying what I wouldn't spend it on.
  • Extra software licenses. I don't think you need more licenses at the start of an implementation and, ironically, if you did buy more licenses then it would probably mean the need for an even larger budget to cope with the extra demands.
  • Better Hardware. I don't think more powerful hardware will add as much extra value as other places.
  • Data cleaning. Again, important, but not as important as other points.
  • More training. More controversial perhaps, but, assuming we would be spending it on more training from the database supplier, I think extra training could be delivered in-house by the charity's own trained staff with more time... see below.
  • Additional project management. As I am often a PM, this might be surprising, but there is a limit to how much project management a project needs and anything above that isn't going to provide the same benefits as other things.
  • Software customisation. I've written before about how I believe we should keep a new CRM system as "vanilla" as possible, so I don't think spending money on more customisation up-front is the best approach.
  • Integration. I was close to including this in the list below in my short-list for consideration. There are great benefits from integrating a new database with, say, another database in your organisation, or your website if it hasn't been linked before, or with an email marketing system. And the only reason I am not suggesting the money should be spent on such budgets in this scenario is because I think, if it wasn't already in scope then it would make the project larger and harder to implement in Phase 1. But if I had more money which I could spend later then, yes, this would be a prime budget to use it on.
What I might spend it on
My short list:
  • Consultancy from the Database Supplier - post-live. (I can just hear the CRM suppliers cheering whilst reading this!) One of the key things about implementing a new system is understanding what it can really do for your charity which will provide real, solid benefits, aligning it to your processes, and enabling your staff to understand what the new database can truly manage. And for these reasons, I would consider buying more post-live consultancy time from the supplier. Not more time during the requirements gathering stage etc, but after we go-live when we actually get down to using the darn thing. That's when I think we can get most benefit from such consultancy.
  • More resources (people) during the implementation. i.e. most likely, freeing up the time of the existing, key staff who could be involved on the project, but because they often have to consider their Business As Usual, they too frequently cannot dedicate the time to the project which ideally they should. So getting in more resources to do their BAU so they can concentrate their efforts on the project will pay dividends in spades. It will mean they get more involved, earlier, with more understanding of the new system and the charity's systems/processes, will become stronger advocates and supporters of the database and will mean that the whole thing will stand a much better chance of going live successfully.
  • Creating reports ready for go-live. This is sadly one of those areas which is often under-budgeted for (and under-scoped) but can provide so much benefit: being able to implement reports as soon as you go-live - being able to uncover and streamline benefits from data and information. Indeed, the difference a new system can make and through reporting and analysis is an immense benefit to have.
My final decision
So if I am offered my extra budget then, weighing up the above options, the area which I believe would give the most extra benefit and value would be spending it on "more resource during the implementation"; or as I said above, probably back-filling existing staff's roles so that they could be freed up to do more work on the project itself.

I think that this would mean so much more to a charity and would not only help the initial implementation, but would provide a far stronger base for future development and on-going use of the new system.

Now over to you...
What would you do? What would spend it on if someone gave you an extra wad of cash to invest in a new database implementation? Answers in the Comments below please!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

CRM Gamification - Useful for Charities? Or Just Not Right?


I don’t know yet if I think it is cool or whether I really hate the word, but Gamification is one of the latest buzzwords to hit the commercial CRM marketplace, and I’m wondering if it is something which could also be adopted by charities with their CRM technology. There is even one CRM supplier, Zurmo, who provides open source CRM software and their whole business model is based on Gamification. Fascinating.

What is Gamification?

For those who don’t know, Gamification (within this realm) refers to the adoption of using gaming techniques and ideas within business systems. So, for example, within the area of CRM and Sales,  salespeople are encouraged to identify more opportunities, have more meetings, close more sales etc by winning points and gaining more awards the more they do. Commonly this is in the form of ‘badges’ and different levels of badge, league tables, points and so on. i.e. it is not just financial, although in theory the financial rewards will come for the better “Gamers”.

Unfortunately, this is why my initial thoughts are that Gamification might not work in the NFP sector for database usage. After all, fundraisers are not paid commission, they are not “just selling something”, they are not competing internally within their charity and they are hopefully already driven by honourable motives to raise as much money for their organisation as they can anyway. And fundraisers often work together and (hopefully!) do not try to undermine colleagues and just raise a few pounds towards their target from a particular prospect when the charity could better benefit by another fundraiser raising a lot more from that same prospect.

On the other hand, I’m certainly not saying that fundraisers aren’t competitive! I know many who are! So maybe there is a way in which Gamification could be used in charity CRM systems too? (An example of Gamification within the realm of campaigning/the public fundraising for you was recently discussed in The Guardian).

level magnificent badgemega-achiever badge 

User Engagement

One of the key issues for charities is User Engagement/User Adoption of fundraising and CRM systems. As much as we all know how important the database is, and as much as we try to make it user-friendly, quick and easy to use and provide better user interfaces, there are still very few fundraisers who love databases (in the way that that tech folk do!). So could Gamification make users use databases?

Maybe such awards and rewards could be focused differently? Maybe less directly competitive and more recognition-oriented, or even an attempt at fun! Maybe teams could “compete” but not necessarily on financial targets – could there be other goals (KPIs?) we could use? Maybe even something as simple as running reports! Or perhaps volunteers could be encouraged through Gamification more attune to the commercial approach?

I know one organisation who, during their implementation of a new database, introduced an incentive scheme to encourage users to make themselves familiar with the new system: each month for several months, they had a mini-competition/challenge amongst the users whereby staff had to use some aspect of the forthcoming database in order to win a prize. In the early months, this was a simple as getting users to look-up a specific record on the database and email the competition organiser with, say, a donor’s last donation on that record (which of course meant they had to learn and understand the system to find that information), and for that they got a chocolate bar. But by the time they were going live, the challenges were more difficult/involved and the ultimate prize was a day’s leave (just for one person of course!) – something many staff would certainly value.

So I don’t know…

When I first heard about CRM Gamification I was fascinated and desperately wanted to believe charities could use this, but then I thought not. But now I am trying to look more laterally - are there in fact other ways in which we could adopt such processes? Or is the whole approach just wrong in a sector whose very basis could be seen as the antithesis of commercial competitiveness – at least within an organisation.

Any thoughts?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Why a Database Manager is like an Olympic Triathlete (sort of)

Alistair Brownlee (Great Britain) 
It's taken me 2 weeks to come up with some sort of link to the Olympics, and, just as it's ending, I've finally done it. So, with my tongue pressed firmly into my cheek... here is why I think a Database Manager is like an Olympic triathlete. Well, sort of...

  • Endurance: You think it's difficult to swim a few miles, cycle some more and then run 10k? Then you haven't had to cajole users to actually enter data in your database (consistently) or persuade trustees to cough-up some money for a new system, or keep those data quality checks going not just on day one, but months or years later.
  • Giving up one's social life for something you believe in: Triathlete's think they have it tough when they do a bit of training every day, but trust me, until you've done the late shift 3 nights running because there is an urgent mailing which is going out next week (well, probably going out), then you'll know all about commitment to one's cause.
  • Training: Yes, well, not exactly the same, but you'll know where I'm going with that.
  • Not willing to accept second best: Absolutely. When you're locking horns with your database supplier, or doing the latest fulfillment import or trying to work out just why that little function has stopped working which had been working so well until last Tuesday's upgrade... then you know all about the urge to win.
  • Belief in data: Triathletes love data - they track how quick they've run this week, how much time was lost in transition, how their competitors are doing. They might make quite good Database Managers.
  • Falling down and getting up again: For one of these groups of people there are going to be times when it's tough - when you don't quite make it the first time and you need to pick yourself up and try again; when everyone says you're stupid for persisting; when you injure a wrist from pressing too hard. But that's the life we accept as Database Managers. I suppose triathletes do something similar.
(I could go on but you'll probably be glad to know I'm not going to.)

Anyone got any other suggestions as to why a Database Manager is like an Olympic triathlete? Enter them in the Comments below.

The Impact of the New CRM Systems for Fundraising Database Solutions: Free eBook

Earlier this year, I wrote a short series of posts about the impact that the New CRM Systems are having on the Fundraising Database Market (i.e. Salesforce, Microsoft CRM Dynamics et al). I have now compiled those posts into a free, downloadable eBook which brings all the information into one easy-to-read document.

You can download a PDF copy from here.

The book covers:

  1. An overview on where we are now with such systems;
  2. What are the potential benefits of the systems;
  3. A guide to the different ways in which you can implement the systems;
  4. How do costs and implementation timescales compare with dedicated fundraising databases?
  5. What you should specifically consider if you are considering buying such a system.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Learning Lessons from ThankQ in America


A little while ago, fundraising database supplier (and UK company), thankQ started a blog about a new implementation of their software at their first US customer, Scripps College in California. In it, they said they would be "keeping you up to date with everything that’s happening right now (the good and the not so good!) [and would] share the highs and lows." Nice idea but it needed to deliver what it said on the tin.  And with their third blog post just written by their projects director, Kevin Weaver, I'm starting to now think it might be quite an interesting read.

I do like the idea: a supplier being open and publishing their experiences and lessons from a very new environment for them. I guess the question is, Will this prove to be a useful tool to assist their own customers and even other charities with their CRM implementations? And could it inspire other suppliers (or even charities?) to do the same?

Okay, so I realise that thankQ's blog could be considered to be almost as much a PR tool as it is a series of open blog posts, but I don't think that necessarily matters. If thankQ keep to their word (and they are a good company for doing that) and highlight the good, the bad and the ugly then that will show openness and honesty and will be good for helping all charities learn, and will by definition also be a good sales tool as well.

And okay, they will of course want to report on the implementation going well in order to make other charities want to consider buying thankQ, but that's understood. It's similar to asking for references when you buy a new database. Any supplier can of course provide a reference from a satisfied client. But when I was a salesman, one of the best questions I was asked by a prospect was for a reference from a client who used to be unhappy but which we had turned round so they were happy now. It's a powerful thing to show how, if something goes wrong, then what you did to correct it.

Of course there is the question as to whether thankQ might not write about every really bad thing that happens and one could hardly blame them for that. (Although I could well be proved wrong?!) That is, if something really had happens of course! I've no reason to believe it will but it's a rare CRM implementation where everything is just hunky dory...

And in this instance they do have the client to potentially keep them in check, as Scripps College can blog and tweet about the project too. Which is of course the beauty of social media - there's nowhere to hide!

So cudos to thankQ for this approach - I'm watching with interest. I hope that thankQ, and the rest of us as a community, really can get some interesting learnings from the blog and "thankQ's journey".

You can read the whole ThankQ blog at:

Any other suppliers up for a bit of similar blogging?

Monday, August 06, 2012

What I've Written About So Far in 2012: According to Wordle

Word cloud

Just for fun, I plugged all my blog posts I've written so far this year into Wordle, and the above word cloud is what came out.

It's mostly what I would expect although I'm a bit disappointed that words such as 'support', 'costs' and 'processes' are so small - and maybe 'data' and 'people' should be larger. But I'm glad that (apart from my more obvious keywords) that 'suppliers', 'requirements' and 'need' stand out.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Only pay for your new database if objectives are met? How does that sound?!

No win No Fee

Cloud CRM Supplier,, recently announced an innovative approach to implementation pricing: Customers now pay half project fees upfront and if objectives are not met then they do not pay the remainder. And I’m wondering if this is a model which could be brought to CRM and fundraising database implementations in the NFP sector?

Of course there are challenges to this approach, the most obvious being, How do you set the objectives so that they are appropriate and fair to both the vendor and client? And measurable. say about this process: “SME CRM projects often fail because businesses struggle to set goals [so] Workbooks helps set objectives.” Which rings true. But set the objectives too "low", which of course the supplier should be able to meet more easily, and the client won’t get any business benefits from the implementation; too “high” objectives and the supplier won’t be able to meet them and thus it won’t work for them (or the client...)

You also have the potential issue of a client not "working hard enough" during the implementation so that objectives are not met and thus they don’t have to pay half the fees. And although that is possible, I think this might be mitigated and “self policed” by the client’s management team wanting to see results from their investment as soon as possible and not expecting there to be delays in benefits because of lack of impetus. And if there is a proven, expected ROI from the implementation (perhaps more likely in commercial CRM implementations than nonprofits) then why would a client want to delay that? This though, is a risk I suspect the supplier might have to accept.

On the other hand, a client also has the risk that a supplier might just focus their efforts on the key deliverables which would mean the objectives would be met and not "care" about other aspects of the project; but, providing those objectives are good for the client and mutually desirable to both parties, then that might be no bad thing as a starting point.

Indeed, the potential benefits of this approach are attractive. In theory, such a process could therefore mean you could get a very good scenario: because the client is of course going to want to get as much benefit as they can out of the implementation, and therefore be keen on pushing the supplier to provide “higher” objectives, but if the supplier keeps this in check so that the targets are achievable (and therefore they will get paid) then the client should also implement something which is not beyond their means. And over-expectations and under-achievements are the bain of many a CRM implementation.

It should also give clients some belief in the supplier's workload and project approach. If a supplier doesn’t match-up to expectations then of course they won’t get that part of the payment. That said, I suspect many clients would rather the supplier did meet their objectives and would rather they didn’t have to chase the supplier to do the work, even if there is a financial benefit to them if the supplier stalls.

I also wonder whether this model takes a step towards the mythical “partnership” which CRM suppliers love to talk about during sales processes, because this model would have to be a partnership for both parties to benefit appropriately.

The key to the success or otherwise of this approach is of course the ability to set the correct, achievable, beneficial and measurable objectives/goals/benefits of the CRM implementation. But that really shouldn’t be beyond the wit of smart and willing people who all ultimately want the same goal.

So, fundraising database suppliers, charity CRM solution providers, what do you think?! Have I missed any critical points? And who’s up for it…?!