As a former Convion going to my first Blackbaud conference, I have to admit I wasn’t sure what to expect—what would the crowd be like? What would people want to talk about? Would anyone show up to a session on the last day of the conference first thing in the morning wanting to talk about the trials and tribulations of what it really means for an organization to embark and live through a conversion to a CRM way of life?
What I learned and heard over and over again during the past few days, from talking to clients, partners, fellow Blackbaudeans and during our session, was just how difficult the CRM experience has been for the nonprofit community and the heroic stories of folks persevering for the belief that at the end of the process, engaging with constituents in a more meaningful, insightful, and interaction-led kind of way is not only something organizations believe in, but now come to accept as a necessary next step in preparing for having the right tools to continue to solve the world’s problems and support our local communities.
Sounding a bit soap boxish? Perhaps. But the past two days have really reinforced the message I hoped to communicate with my co-presentors at BBCON: it’s ok to feel bogged down and like you don’t have it all figured out. It’s ok to not know exactly how things are going to work. It will not feel ‘awesome’ a lot of the time, but there are definitely steps every organization embarking on a CRM software conversion project (or already in the midst of), can and should take to improve the outcomes and experience for everyone involved:
- Have a plan. Sound silly? I hope so. Having a plan for how you are going to integrate all the systems and what that really takes, including contingencies, assumptions for timeline overruns, and unexpected hiccups that can be shared with key stakeholders and adjusted as needed will significantly improve your CRM conversion experience
- It’s all about the people. Think it’s all about the technology and software? I doubt you do. The impact of integrating data sources and silos into one central place on your organization’s people and processes cannot be underestimated. Organizational change (and upheaval) will happen, and this is possibly the most important element to get right. Buy-in, training, explaining the “why” will mean you end up with an empowering technology, not just “another system we have to learn and don’t want to use”
- Your biggest battle will likely come from developing new business rule, metrics, and reporting structures from having all your data sources in one place. “Owning” names will have to be figured out. Permissions will have to be granted or taken away. Rules will need to be developed and put in place about who gets to market when. Prepare your internal stakeholders for these discussions and ensure key stakeholders are at a minimum included. Bonus tip: don’t underestimate who your key stakeholders really are. That guywho runs your caging—you should really make sure to hear what he has to say.
Clearly, the above points are by no means comprehensive and are just the tip of the CRM iceberg. Myself and my fellow CRM blog colleagues look forward to diving further into this complicated world of data, constituents, and you, and hope you’ll join us in the conversation.