Whenever an organisation is reviewing or implementing a database, it is important to understand that it is not just the CRM software/the database which needs to be considered. There are at least five other key factors which influence any CRM system.
- Strategy - i.e. your fundraising strategy, management structure, communication strategy etc. This may sound obvious but if your fundamental strategy for fundraising, your communication policies, your IT strategy, even your management structure is not well structured then how can you expect your database to support your requirements. This underlies all aspects of CRM and indeed most technology projects. (And trust me, I have consulted at one or two organisations where some of the above were definitely not in place).
- Data: The best CRM system in the world will not be efficient for your use if your data is not up to scratch. You need to consider what data you are recording, how you capture it, data quality issues, data consistency, data integrity across fields and tables and so on. (There are plenty of other posts on this blog about data if you want to read more). Of course, any CRM software needs to be able to store the data you want and manage it well, but these days that should be the case with most contemporary solutions.
- Processes: When reviewing/implementing a new fundraising or CRM system, you should review your business processes. In my experience, there are three reasons that any process linked to your CRM software exists:
- No-one knows why they are as they are, it is just done that way because it is..; or:
- Because your current computer software makes you do it this way; or:
- Because you have thought about it carefully and your current process is the most efficient way to do things.
- Sadly, as much as I wish it was, the third option above is rarely what I find when I talk to charities. So: before you blame any poor database for the situation you might be in with it, have a look at your business processes and decide if they really are setup as best they could be, or whether there is room for improvement. I would bet there is.
- People: Are your staff trained on how to use the software? Who by? How is a new starter shown what to do? Do you have enough and the correct database support staff? And if you are going to buy a brand new CRM system, then be aware that your current database staff structure might not necessarily be what you need going forward.
- I also used to say the same about the final, fifth factor: your IT infrastructure. I would describe how if your server was too old and under-powered, if your internet connection was too slow, then again, your CRM software would suffer. And of course that is still true. But with hardware being so much more affordable and powerful now, with Cloud systems and access to the cloud so much more robust, I hope that this is now rarely such an issue. Of course, it is still important and it can still mean that good software will not work so well, but it is one of those things - given the correct budget - that should be more manageable.