Tuesday, December 20, 2016

12 Key Lessons From My Last CRM Project

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my truelove gave to me... Twelve Key Lessons I Learned From Managing My Last CRM Project

I thought I would finish this set of blog posts with a quick-fire set of some of the most important lessons I learned from the last CRM project I managed. Each point really deserves its own dedicated blog post, but I hope they provide a succinct set of tips in themselves:

  • Configuration not Customisation where possible: I have blogged about this before and it remains true. The more you can Configure and use the software's built-in tools and GUI to configure and define your system, the better. Each bit of Customised code will add cost, time, risk, pain and something you should try to avoid unless you can see real benefits, at least during implementation.
  • Don't try to re-create your existing database: It is so easy to go down the path of replicating exactly what you do now but just in a new CRM system, when what you should be trying to do is use the functionality and approach and benefits of the new CRM system. If you have bought system X then use it as it was meant to be used. Long-term that will set you up so much better.
  • Yes, ask users what they want, but then start with a simple base configuration and go from there: i.e. don't try to do every little single thing which users ask for, don't try to change every form on every screen for n different teams, don't bend and change the software in complicated ways when you are still learning and building it. Instead, get the basic requirements, use the software in as simple way as possible to get a starting point and then show the users that - if there are then things which you really have to change then you can consider them at that point or even post-live.
  • Don’t under-estimate the challenge of data integration: Integration is hard, no matter how you do it. Think of all those external data sources you need to import, that other system you want to share data with/update from your new system. It takes time, effort and money. Some suppliers may have starting points for some things such as JustGiving etc and that's good, but you may still need to change things.
  • Treat reporting as its own workstream: Reports are always one of the things in a project where you start off with great intentions and then as the project goes on, you can find they slip down the order of priority. I would recommend managing them in a dedicated workstream, with a dedicated member of staff leading on them. Remember: reports are one of the key reasons you have a fundraising/CRM system in the first place!
  • Work hard at supplier relationships: At some point in your implementation, it is highly likely that something will go wrong and you will need to discuss something painful with your supplier. The better your relationship with your supplier at that point, the more likely you will be able to come to a mutually satisfactory conclusion. It needs work but it's worth it.
  • Consider a Product Owner/Solution Owner: In a large CRM project with a significant timeline and budget, consider including a role of Solution Owner (aka Product Owner). This is a role for someone who understands not only the charity's requirements and strategies but also fundraising/charity requirements more generally, as well as CRM software and technology. The reason for this is because the implementation of sophisticated, flexible (and often expensive) CRM software systems is of course not just about the software but about building/configuring and using it with the people and processes in mind - and understanding the whole approach, design, dependencies and implications of design. The role provides a central point of contact for design understanding and fundamental decision making.
  • You will always need more people on your team: As the project progresses, you will no doubt find that you could do with more people working on your project, although it could be that you don't know all the exact roles when you start the project. So think about this up-front, budget for it and bring on some roles as you go through the project. Ideally, have a budget for future roles but have an agreement with your project board that you can define the actual roles later. And backfill if you can - always good to up-skill both the people you bring on to the project and the staff who step-up to do the BAU whilst those other people are on the CRM team.
  • Think about the post-live structure of your database support team ahead of time: It could well be that the roles you have in your current database support/CRM team will be different to those which you will need with your new CRM/fundraising system, especially if you are moving from a traditional/proprietary software to a CRM Platform,  Think about this as far ahead as possible and make plans.
  • You can mix-and-match your approaches to cost within the project: There is always the question of whether you should go for a Time and Materials (T and M) or a Fixed Cost budget. In fact, you could mix and match even in the same project. For example, some of the development work might be T and M but the data migration could be a fixed cost. Etc.
  • Post-Live: Use a Roadmap, not Phases. I will point you to my older blog post on this as the principle still stands. I believe that having a roadmap approach to post-live development is far better and more efficient than the concept of Phase 2, Phase 3 etc.
  • The importance of fun in internal comms: When you are engaging all your users, staff and stakeholders with your regular communications (which you have planned, yes?), then think of the one word which many people would describe such comms. Go on, close your eyes now and do it... Okay, got that word? Was it... "Boring"?! Sorry, that is often how it is! So make your internal comms more fun: whether it is with more innovative emails, interactive demos, screens in the staff room, lunchtime meetings with food, competitions with chocolate... It doesn't matter so much what it is, but try to think what would make you read something you didn't want to read and do that.

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