There are studies, statistics, articles, reviews and infographics galore to tell us how many projects / IT projects / CRM projects fail every year. They may not all agree on the actual numbers, but the accepted narrative is certainly that a large number of projects undertaken by businesses of all shapes and sizes fail. What’s more, if the project involves the implementation of a new piece of technology then the likelihood of it failing appears to increase disproportionately.

You’ve probably heard all this before, and, to be honest, these grim facts aren’t very inspiring or very helpful.  So, let’s turn it on its head. Yes, many projects fail, but a whole heap of them succeed! When these projects succeed, that means the organisations involved set themselves up to achieve their objectives and deliver the changes needed.

At Hart Square, we specialise in supporting non-profits adapt to the digital age, which will often involve the initiation of projects to implement new technology. We want to share the knowledge and expertise gained through our involvement in numerous successful projects, to help others to succeed, so have put together a series of four articles which discuss some of the foundations of successful projects.

There are also various related discussions we could have about what is a CRM project (does that mean a software implementation, a “new database”?) and what success looks like. Putting that aside for today, here we share our current musings on why projects to introduce new CRM technologies more often than not do not solve the challenges they were intended to address and how this can be avoided with the correct Planning, Objectives, Approach and Selection. 

Part 1: Planning

There is no chance of success unless you PLAN!
For the non-profit organisations we work with, a project to introduce new CRM technologies will be a major investment in time and money and should affect every member of staff; what’s critical therefore is to make sure that everyone knows what’s happening, why it’s happening, and how they can participate. For those in charge of the project, the key is to make sure that it has a beneficial effect.This may not be the case if you:
1. Underestimate the impact an implementation project has on the organisation

It has been known for CRM technology implementation projects to be initiated under the radar or in the basement, where the majority of the organisation first hears about it when the announcement is made that “we’re going live with some software program next month”. This is not good!
CRM itself, the strategy rather than the technology, is all about positive engagement and about delivering value. So start with a bit of internal CRM and get your staff engaged with the change that’s coming from the earliest possible moment. Enthuse them about the possibilities the project and investment offers and encourage them to contribute to defining the solution of choice.
Whatever the strategic objectives are which lie behind the project, you want it to have a major impact on your organisation, and you want everyone to know about it, everyone to be affected by it, everyone to invest in it. Do that and you give everyone the opportunity to contribute to its success and to benefit from it.

2. Don’t acknowledge or appreciate user adoption challenges

Just because you and the project team think the new system is going to be great, is intuitive and will address the challenges you identified when making your original business case for the project, that doesn’t mean everyone else in the organisation will understand that, will get it, and will find the system as logical to use as you do.
On-going success will be measured by the long-term positive impact of a major investment like this, and that success will be delivered by the people who are going to be using the new technology every day. That may mean your internal administrators who can better manage their members or their events, it may be the marketers who can better communicate with more relevant audiences and more accurately measure the interest in their messaging, or it may be the members to whom you’re providing better digital services. It will probably be all three of them, and more.
What we do know is that when it comes to judge whether the project has been a success one key factor is going to be whether the technology has been deployed effectively such that the people who need to use it – to deliver the potential benefits you identified – are actually doing so. Don’t take user adoption for granted, you need to sell the benefits and advantages of the new solution to everyone.
3. Try to go live with everything at once
As I mentioned in my first point, a successful technology implementation will have an impact on everyone, but that doesn’t mean that everyone and everything has to be affected at the same time. Adopting a strategically phased approach to the implementation will increase the likelihood of success by supporting an organisational focus on different functions at different times, and by ensuring that each phase is manageable. It’s not always easy to see how a new system can be phased, particularly if it’s replacing an existing solution, but if you’re brave and creative you will be able to uncover and agree approaches where, for example, your core contact and Membership administration can be migrated to the new solution before your Events function or Exams management.
Equally your back office CRM database might only be part of the technology refresh you’re engaged in, as it is only one of the tools you’ll be using to support your CRM strategy. In our digital age so much CRM is delivered through our websites and associated technologies that they are likely to be either refreshed or replaced too.
So take a well thought out and planned, phased approach to your projects. You can play safe with the first Phase, build in some early wins and celebrate them. Your teams will then share the story of their success with colleagues, raising the profile of, and engagement with, the project; your project team will gain confidence, and the whole experience can give you great insight into what a CRM can do. Both in terms of functionality and project delivery, you’ll be well placed to learn from each Phase and be able to adapt for subsequent phases.
If you have any questions around the issues raised in this article, please feel free to get in touch with Hart Square.
+44 344 567 8790
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Note: the text from this article comes from an eBook, of the same name, launched at chase25, 5 July 2018.
For ease of distribution, we have divided the eBook into 4 parts and each part will be published on this website.