5 Ways to Extract Value from your CRM investment

1) Continually Align Technology and Business Process

When you first implement your CRM, it is imperative that your organisation be prepared to bend its business processes around the technology rather than the other way around. Why? If you bend the software (which most good consultants can) to meet your proceses, you end up with pretty much a bespoke solution that may not be upgradeable, and will also age as it will not be automatically upgraded to the latest and greatest features should you actually be able to upgrade. Software companies generally add new features to their core processes on a regular basis as customer needs change, so to be able to take advantage of this, you need something as close to their core, out-of-the-box setup as possible.

Also, most off-the-shelf CRM systems come with a degree of best practise built in, and certainly the Not-For-Profit specific CRMs have evolved enough to be able to handle most NFP business processes. There may be some value to you organisation in reviewing your processes in this light.

Keeping business process and technology aligned also means lower cost of implementation and better support (its easier to support non-custom applications). We also know that organisations evolve over time and new business processes constantly crop up. It is therefore wise not just to keep this point in mind during initial implementation, but to adopt it as a motto going forwards.

2) Choose future-proof technology

Yeah right - is any tech actually future proof? The philosophical answer, of course, is no, but there are some simple steps to be as diligent as you can in this regard.

Firstly, choose a system that is browser-based and accessible from any device - nowadays web browsers are common to most devices and look set to be so for the foreseeable future.

Secondly, choose a system built to play with other systems on the web. This means that it should have a robust web-API (see our post here on evaluating APIs)

Thirdly, invest in a system that is easily upgradeable and that has a clearly defined roadmap - upgrades are the most efficient ways to bring in new technology to your systems. Note here that you want to ensure that your vendor's roadmap is aligned to your organisation's strategy, if not, you are going to need to tweak one or the other. My experience is that it is easier to tweak your organisation's strategy around available technology rather than trying to bend a vendor's roadmap to meet your strategy. If you are continually finding that you cannot align your strategy and the vendor's roadmap - it may be time for some new technology (and we would be happy to advise you on what is out there with our Tech signposting services)

3) Have an upgrade plan

Your system is upgradeable, right? (see point two above). And you have implemented in such a way that upgrades are still possible? Assuming these two things are true, the next thing is to adopt a formal upgrade plan. Most CRM vendors release major product versions one to three times annually, and so it is wise for organisations to be upgrading at least once a year to take advantage of this.

Choosing exactly when to upgrade is a balancing act. Upgrade to soon and you risk being a guinea pig. Upgrade too late and the features may be out of date befpore you have adopted them. Generally we recommend to clients to upgrade around 3 months after a general version release.

4) Invest in staff training

Typically Not-For-Profits experience larger than average staff churn because their pay is slightly below the commercial pay rates, and they are also often heavily volunteer resourced. What this means is that unless your staff are continually educated in how to best use their systems, they will start blaming the systems for not being able to do the things they need to do. Many times I have seen this lead to organisations throwing out perfectly good CRM systems because staff don't know the capabilities of what they have.

The answer it to adopt specific onboarding processes for new staff - preferentially with some kind of certification or rubber stamp that they are qualified CRM operators. Check if your CRM vendor has online courses or documentation that you can use for this purpose, and also, do document the process to make it easy for new staff members to follow.

Mentoring is another way in which new adopters can make fast inroads into extracting value from your technology. Make sure your experienced users are in regular contact with the new users and that you promote a culture of knowlege sharing.

5) Work with specialists on an ongoing basis

Not-For-Profits have their own missions and strategies to achieve - and being technology experts is probably not high on your organisational strategy list. If organisations need to pay technology experts to be on their staff, they are probably taking away resource from some other vital area. Therefore, it makes sense for organisations to use trusted specialist advisers to keep them abreast of what is happening with technology, where they can benefit and what they should do. Organisations are rightly sceptical of these advisors coming from their software vendor (since the software vendor's objective is to sell more software). This is where a consultancy like Zengagers is really able to impact how an organisation gets value from its tech investments. We offer services around technology signposting and continuous performance improvement programs that are geared specifically to  advise organistions on where, when and how to move ahead with tech.

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