You’ve been running Banner Advancement for years, and we get it. It was a dependable, reliable system. Not perfect, but honestly, what is? But times have changed, your constituency is more savvy, and your needs have grown beyond the functions of the system. It’s time to move on.
We also get this: moving on isn’t as easy as those two simple words. A database replacement project is a monumental undertaking; one which requires extensive planning, thoughtful consideration, detailed functional requirements gathering, and significant change management. So, before jumping headlong into vendor demonstrations and signing contracts, let’s press the pause button.
Below, we’ll walk you through the CRM evaluation process we’ve employed for years. A time-tested, successful methodology which we’ve perfected over our nearly thirty years of consulting with organizations just like yours.
Slow Your Roll!
Bells and whistles are awesome—believe me, I get it. On a recent visit to the dealership (time to replace the car) the first thing that grabbed my attention was the sleek and sexy 8” touchscreen, offering me up a simple way to access my Pandora, Amazon Music, Navigation system, and even my Instagram feed (‘cause that sounds safe while hurtling at 70mph down I-95). But, did I step back to ask myself what I really need—7 seats for my family and their sporting equipment, fuel economy better than what I used to have, a car truly built for a New England winter? No. I zeroed in on the touchscreen. Then, I took a deep breath and forced myself to hit the pause button and take that step back. I inventoried my actual needs, considered what was required of a new car, and which model would serve me and my family best.
Well, translate that same ideology to a system replacement—you need to step back from the “look and feel” for a minute (not discounting its importance) and consider your real needs. While usability is critically important, a pretty welcome screen which doesn’t actually allow you to set up an Alumni event in the particular way your institution requires would be pretty useless in the end. Here are some tips to help you be successful.
For your evaluation process, you'll want to establish project scope, identifying key stakeholders, develop a communication plan, and articulate any project risks (and strategies for dealing with such). This planning work before reviewing systems can prevent your organization from getting stuck partway through your process, and is important to the success of your eventual implementation as well.
Interview the Team
Your system is only as good as your team, and your evaluation is only as good as your complete understanding of its use. It's important to explore key questions at the big picture level as well as in the details. Where are our advancement and CRM strategies taking our organization? How does this advancement system fit in the ecosystem of other technologies at the institution? Will there be new staff accessing the system? Are there procedures in place that need to be defined (or simply re-worked)? Is there a gap in documented procedures? Has your gift processing manager been doing the same thing for the past 32 years, and you’re terrified of the day she resigns? It’s imperative to analyze across several levels and areas, to ensure you have a complete picture.
For example, when clients ask us to help, we typically like to meet with multiple groups (your departments are likely to vary)
- Gift Processing
- Prospect Development and Research
- Advancement Services
- Donor Relations
- Alumni Engagement
- Leadership/Principal Gifts
- Annual Fund
- Planned Giving
- Corporate, Foundation and Government Relations
Analyze the Information
Analyzing all of the information you've gathered can be daunting, but it is important to document your needs, your decision-making process, and observations about potential implementation risks and benefits.
One of the most significant issues in any system replacement is organizational change management. It's important to consider how your system change may provide an opportunity for implementing practices. Efforts to loop in the entire staff in these considerations can really pay off, and get all of your users “on board”. Of course, we’re not so naïve as to think that there is a magic wand to get everyone singing Kumbaya, but often a few pointed discussions about expectations at this point really have a positive impact on implementation success.
Review the Marketplace
The marketplace of technology and CRM options for institutions is changing rapidly. Now, more than ever, you'll need a thorough understanding of the status of options, old and new, traditional and bleeding-edge, to chart a course. It's important to understand the picture before your team begins reviewing specific system functionality.
Wrapping It All Up
Taking a step back and really understanding your needs will save you significant effort and real money. Evaluating and analyzing indeed adds a bit of time to the beginning of the project, but our experience shows that, in most cases, it actually saves time in the end, by allowing you to more thoughtfully and pointedly move throughout the future stages—vendor review, selection, and implementation.
So, bells and whistles: great. Evaluation of real needs and requirements: essential. Getting both aligned: nirvana.
Sign up for our monthly newsletter to receive the latest tips from our consultants on fundraising best practices, optimizing your technology, and more.
Need help with any of these steps? We're here for you. Contact us for more information about managing a successful CRM evaluation.