Inertia; Noun; a tendency to do nothing or to remain unchanged


It’s something that operational staff at non-profits, charity and membership organisations alike, can suffer from. People generally don’t like change and can become very comfortable with the systems and processes they have in place. So when you’re trying to introduce change – as in the introduction and implementation of a new CRM system – inertia often comes in to play. ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ is often the mind-set.

Not achieving successful user adoption – i.e. not getting people on board – is one of the biggest reasons why CRM implementation projects fail. That’s why it’s vital that all staff are involved with, and informed about, the implementation of a new system from the outset, not just towards the end when a system is ready to ‘go live’.

Overcoming barriers

There are some barriers that are fairly unique to non-profits and member organisations which can impact successful user adoption:

  • Non-profits often have very loyal workers who have 10-15-plus years of service. Having consistent and knowledgeable staff members is a real benefit, but it also means that they get very comfortable with the way they work – and change can often be a tough ask
  • Many have regional or national offices and relationships between the two can often be strained, with a sort of “us and them” mentality stockpiled over time
  • Staff are usually keenly aware of finances and can be sceptical about what might be seen as an expensive new CRM system

Breaking down these barriers is a fundamental part of user adoption, and revolves around understanding the viewpoints of all staff within the organisation, and instilling confidence in the benefits that new system can bring.

The value of training

According to a Forrester Research report, some 70 per cent of process initiatives fail because of poor business change management. Reams could be written here about change management, but arguably at its core is training.

We’ve found that, through the countless CRM implementation projects we have been involved in, continuous training starting early on, and not just at the end of an implementation, is highly beneficial.

A lack of training can seriously impact user adoption and the subsequent success of a project. We believe that bespoke training on an organisation’s own system, using its own data and business processes, is the most effective way to get user buy-in and increase staff’s usage of the system.

Avoid users being marginalised

Another key area of project failure can arise when the main users of a CRM system somehow become ‘marginalised’ by the implementation phase and are not informed sufficiently of the benefits a new system can bring

Any negativity around a new system can often be driven by a sort of ‘fear factor’, e.g. “I know how to use the current system but I don’t think I’ll cope with a new one,” or “I’m not an IT person so how will I get on with this thing?”, or “Will this mean that my work will be done automatically and ‘management’ will decide I am not needed?”

More often than not, these fears arise from a lack of knowledge. To encourage successful user adoption it’s important to understand and address these concerns. That involves understanding why people feel as they do and providing information and feedback which helps to meet their concerns.

The value of external specialists

In many organisations, implementation challenges can be difficult to address internally. That’s why we’re unique in being able to offer organisations a level of expertise and planning which might otherwise not be possible internally.

We can play a “mediator” role. As external specialists we are able to distance ourselves from internal issues and politics and can get much more honest feedback from staff. By remaining impartial, we can investigate issues surrounding a system, listen to user feedback and find solutions to problems easier and faster.

Ultimately, we believe that the goal of any CRM project is to achieve a transformative effect – i.e. users of a new system should end up saying, “How did we ever get by without this?”