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12 reasons CRM projects succeed – part 4

So now we have a well-planned project with clear objectives and a sound approach, we’ve worked out what we’re looking to deliver and how it will benefit all of our stakeholders, and we get to the phase where we start to look at a range of technologies and to get feted by suppliers whose solutions have bells & whistles beyond our expectations…

Not only has that requirements definition been a robust process but you’ve engaged widely and communicated clearly, so it’s important to maintain that positivity through a potentially quite fraught process. Having been through countless vendor and technology selection processes we know there are a variety of methods to use; the nature of the solution, the scale and scope of the requirements, your priorities and preferences should affect the nature of the process, but it is vital to maintain a robust and inclusive approach. What can still surprise us is how entrenched opinions can be when it comes to technology selections, and how we regularly tend to see a divergence of opinion among stakeholder groups as to the most suitable solutions to consider for their organisation.

There are several tips and techniques which help to manage these challenges, but to enhance your chances of a successful process some specific areas to avoid include:

10. Failing to undertake an objective selection process

Two of the key messages we promote within all of our projects are to be sure to learn from each activity and not to pre-judge anything. This applies and is valuable throughout every phase of a project and is especially relevant when it comes to the selection of the technology element of the solution.

The investment in understanding and reviewing business processes, then in deriving functional requirements, is intended, among other things, to ensure that you are as informed as possible about the core features you require from the technology and about the

priorities and nuances which will really make a difference to the long-term success of the implementation.

There are many ways to undermine all of the good work leading up to the selection process, the most common of which are allowing an elite group to select the technology solution, or only considering a select range of solutions based on previous experiences or perceptions.

At their best, these factors can impose artificial limits on the range of options you can evaluate and, at their worst, seriously undermine the efforts and advances made during the requirements gathering exercises.

Investing in a comprehensive project to review your business processes, derive functional requirements and agree priorities is all intended to enhance your understanding of what you’re looking to achieve and how you think technology can best support you. There are many purposes to this exercise and many benefits of going through it but with respect to the technology selection to follow, the key objective is to find the most appropriate solution(s) for you, based on a wide range of factors. Those are the factors to provide guidance through the selection process.

Equally you have a project team in place and you’ve been sure to engage and communicate widely through the preceding phases so it makes no sense to now effectively say that you’ve taken contributions from across the organisation so a small group will go off to identify the best technology solution to meet those objectives. One key to long term success is that the technology, once deployed, is widely adopted; it is the staff who will have to use the system, and if they’re not involved in the specification, definition, and then selection then they’re less likely to buy in to the decision.

So be open, continue to engage and to seek contribution and opinion across your organisation; you will probably get suggestions you didn’t consider or that you will quickly know aren’t going to meet your needs but you can respond to each suggestion by referring back to the requirements and the priorities garnered and agreed in the previous project phases, all of which reinforces those core objectives and success factors, as well as demonstrating the robustness of the process.

11. Failing to accommodate previous technology investments into your thinking

Whilst the message to incorporate existing technology infrastructure in your thinking may seem to be contradictory in recommending the introduction of a restriction to your technology options, the opposite is actually true. Our recommendation is to incorporate and acknowledge, not to be constrained by. The point here is that most organisations have already made investments in technologies which shouldn’t be disregarded and probably shouldn’t be replaced wholesale.

Taking an active approach to this means the existence and value of the infrastructure should be accommodated in your selection process. If the new system is on a completely different platform then that may make required integrations between line-of-business systems overly complex, expensive or risky, so this needs to be addressed openly and explicitly within the requirements documentation and the initial solution research.

Likewise if potential new systems are only accessible by a convoluted or complex method, distinct from and out of kilter with the existing technology then that may be a barrier to use you can’t afford. In reality we are entering an age where such restrictions are really ceasing

to exist, and where we can say with some certainty that these considerations are no longer likely to significantly reduce the options available to you, but this does still need to be ensured; most of us now expect our core systems to be available 24×7 anywhere from any device, but it is not the case that all technology solutions meet these expectations, or meet them as smoothly and reliably as we would want so there is differentiation to be had here between competing technologies.

12. Expecting the selection process to be an exact science

Whilst robustness, fairness and transparency, diligence and governance are vital components of the process to select your technology partner, the most successful outcomes are usually achieved by understanding that the selection is not a purely scientific and factual exercise. The cultural fit between your organisation and your technology partner is going to be crucial to the success not just of the initial implementation but also of your ongoing use, development and evolution of the solution.

To that end, we encourage our client to take every possible opportunity to engage with potential suppliers, and to be influenced by every engagement they have. Every communication, every response, every interaction should tell you something about the nature of the supplier you’re looking to enter into a significant relationship with, so be open to those influences and when it comes to making your selection, use every available piece of your knowledge to inform that decision.

An ideal selection process will see you whittle down the available options by a variety of means through a series of filtering processes based on the functional and factual criteria determined by the requirements gathering and tender preparation activities. In the final analysis then you should expect to have more than one potential supplier whose solution will meet your requirements, within your budget and timescales. At this stage you can start to incorporate soft factors into your decision making, factors which can’t form part of a scoresheet or a tickbox exercise, but which will have an important part to play in the success of your implementation.

Prepare for this time by engaging where possible with your long list of suppliers. They’re not all sharks trying to blindside you or pull a fast one. If a supplier asks to meet and you can accommodate it then do so, you’re not undermining the other bidders or being unfair. So long as every supplier would be treated the same way then the fact they’ve taken the initiative should be seen in a positive light; if some other suppliers don’t do the same then maybe that tells you something about your value to the supplier and the customer care you’re likely to receive.

This shouldn’t be a purely responsive or reactive engagement either. Assuming you send out an ITT or RFP to a long list of suppliers, against which they need to submit a written response, then invite them to meet with you in a relatively informal manner during that response period. If they have time to review and consider the RFP then meet with you to pose some questions and explore any specifics within the requirements, the intended outcome is that their response is better informed and you get the opportunity to engage with them and derive some notion of their approach and fit along the way.

You have a big decision and a substantial investment to make so you want to know that the partner you select is equally committed to you and to their solution. What’s to lose?

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
info@hartsquare.co.uk
Or sign up to our newsletter and be the first to hear about subsequent articles.
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. 

12 reasons CRM projects succeed – part 3

When considering how to minimise the risk of a CRM project failing a lot of copy is published arguing about the best approach in terms of project management methodology. Adherents to Prince II will argue that it is the only way to guarantee successful delivery, whilst Agile practitioners are equally certain that their “new” way of working significantly improves your chances, whilst disciples of Waterfall lay claim to taking the best of both worlds. 

Whilst the project methodology you do adopt will play a part, we think the critical aspect of that decision is that the methodology is appropriate for you, that it’s a cultural fit for you, not that it’s a methodology imposed upon you by your implementation partners. What’s more we don’t think you have to commit to one and only one methodology; different phases of your project may well be best supported by different approaches, or at least by adopting the guiding principles of different approaches. 

So when I came to thinking about aspects of “Approach” which affect the success or otherwise of a CRM implementation project I came at it from a different angle and wanted to share some considerations about your mindset rather than your methodology. Specifically we would caution that you reduce your chances of success if you:

Part 3: Approach

7. Approach CRM as a technology project 

Customer Relationship Management is a philosophy, a way of working and to succeed you have to introduce (or reinforce) CRM as a cornerstone of your company strategy. Whilst it’s true that there is a specific and critical element of your project which is about the successful configuration, testing and implementation of one or more pieces of technology, what you’re really looking to deliver is business change. The technology implementation is about enablement, effectiveness and efficiency; what you’re seeking to do is to enable your teams to efficiently develop and manage effective relationships with their customers. 

When we work with clients on “CRM projects”, whilst the scale and scope varies from client-to-client, we are always sure to understand the underlying organisational strategy, and to review business processes before we start to consider the functional requirements we would be looking for of any new technology. This focus on business objectives and business processes helps to frame the projects as change programmes, which in turn reinforces the need for a clear and coherent communications strand. 

Even when you’ve been through the strategic and requirements gathering phases of the project, have potentially reengineered some of your processes and are starting to home in on the technologies you want to deploy, it’s more than helpful to keep a strong connection back to what you’re trying to achieve and why, such that you focus on the technology as an enabler, not an end in itself. 

8. Are too willing to customise the software

Having completed a review of your business processes and been through a robust requirements gathering process, you should then be able to embark on a supplier selection process intending to identify a technology solution (which may not be a single piece of software) which can meet your needs without being customised for you.  

Much as we value our uniqueness, embrace our differences and love our nuances, the reality is that there are probably lots of organisations doing the same thing as we are. By seeking out those technology suppliers with a well-established presence and experience in your sector or niche, you should be confident of finding a range of potential solutions which will meet your needs, and help you drive your organisation forwards, when configured to work best for you. 

And that’s the key, solutions which are configured for you are therefore maintainable, sustainable and have a future within the roadmap which are the foundation of your supplier(s) future business strategy. If you start to insist on customised solutions then the likelihood is that you’ve missed a trick in your selection process, you’ve closed your mind to best practice or process improvements, or you’re stubbornly refusing to accept that you are not unique! 

If you consider that the technology suppliers you’re engaging with are experienced in delivering solutions to like-minded organisations then it makes sense to allow them to demonstrate how their technology delivers what you need when you play to its strengths. You’ll then get a better experience, a more robust and supportable solution, and a more future-proofed outcome than if you opt for custom developments and bespoked systems.

9. Don’t address the possibility of poor data quality

Whilst we’d all love to believe that new technology solutions are the panacea to the data integrity issues we experience with our old systems, the fact is that the old rubbish in / rubbish out cliché is a reality and the project is our opportunity to address both the causes and the effects of the data quality issues which have undermined our old systems. 

A new piece of software is not suddenly going to make sense of that inconsistent business information, spot and merge all of those duplicate contact records, complete all those half-entered records, or finish off those tasks which were reliant on manual procedures being followed.  

What’s worse news is that the plan you have to migrate everything into the new system because it will be much easier to analyse, identify and clean the quality failings using the new solution is unlikely to succeed! All best intentions of course but once all of your data is in the new system there will be a raft of new activities which will prevent you from getting round to the data cleansing exercise.  

It’s hard to over-stress the importance of data quality and, significantly, the impact that poor, incomplete and missing information can have on the effectiveness of any system. Even the most basic core objective for a CRM system to be the master record or address book for your organisation will be swiftly scuppered if the early days post-implementation are undermined by the discovery that some key contacts details are still out-of-date, that some duplicates have surfaced and that “the numbers still don’t match”. 

Invest in a data integrity exercise prior to mapping and migrating your information into the new solution. On top of that, develop, share and agree a range of specific statistical measures that will be used to reconcile and sign off the migration. If there are any financials being migrated then we’re all very robust in our reconciliation, probably because it’s a central dark art within Accounts, but that principle of dedicating time and effort to match and reconcile numbers is what creates reassurance and delivers confidence.

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
info@hartsquare.co.uk
Or sign up to our newsletter and be the first to hear about subsequent articles.
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. 

12 reasons CRM projects succeed – part 1

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
info@hartsquare.co.uk
Or sign up to our newsletter and be the first to hear about subsequent articles.
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. 

CRM Strategy: People

No matter what approach you take to CRM and a strategy around it, it’s clear that people are at the very heart of it. CRM is about relationships between people and strategy is defined, designed and executed by people. Not always the same people but people nonetheless.

Even now with artificial intelligence and machine learning at the top of many agendas, for us and our not-for-profit clients, technology is at its best when it’s combined with humans.

When it comes to creating a CRM strategy it’s vital that the people who put it together invest in stepping out of their current role to consider their organisation as a whole, what it wants to achieve and who will be the measure of its success.

For our not-for-profit clients, the absolute focus of their work is on members, supporters, donors, students, visitors and beneficiaries. Whilst their CRM strategy may be centred on how their organisation can develop lasting relationships with these audiences, it comes down to how to create a connection between people.

Having developed a strategy, it is then down to people to implement it. In all probability, there will be an element of improved use of technology. That may be about getting more from current systems, implementing new solutions, or just connecting the existing ones, again it comes back to technology enabling people to do different things or to do things differently.

One of the mantras of digital transformation within not-for-profits is, or should be, “automate the information to make time for the conversation” because we know that to be at its best an organisation deploys technology to support people, to enable them to be their best, to give them time to have human interactions with other people.

As I read elsewhere recently, people are not only the cause of many of the problems we face, we are most certainly the likely candidates to provide the solutions.

If our pie was a homemade bake then people would be the filling, at the very centre.

CRM Strategy: Communication

For a CRM Strategy to succeed it takes a lot of people to have a clear understanding of the strategy, its purpose and their role in delivering it. Being able to clearly communicate the strategy itself to a wide range of audiences plays a significant role in the strategy’s success.

The strategy will need to be communicatied in person, to large groups, to small teams and to specific individuals. It will also need to be shared in writing, probably in long-form for those who need to see substance and detail, by email to those who want to see headlines and summaries, and then potentially via a number of different digital channels.

With this challenge to face it’s appropriate to use specialists to put in place a full communications plan, to develop clear and specific messaging for each audience and each channel, and potentially for each strand of the strategy. This will help to ensure that the core messages are agreed and prioritised in a consistent manner, and that more detailed information is available to support all of the headlines and themes used across the piece.

The final point to remember is that communication in terms of a CRM Strategy is not about a one-way transmission of ideas and actions, it needs to be bi-directional; those defining and describing the strategy have to be receptive to every comment, challenge, critique and piece of feedback available to them. Every response, whether positive or negative, is valuable; what’s more it needs to be seen to be valued, and this is delivered by responding to it, publicly, so that at a minimum everyone who heard or was party to the feedback gets to hear and see the response.

Achieving this level of two-way communiction will underpin buy-in and support from everyone who has a part to play in successful delivery of the strategy, and from a lot of other people too!

CRM Strategy: Vision

One clear distinction between tactical, operational planning and the development of a Strategy is to be found within the need for a Strategy to contain a Vision. The Vision lifts you from the tactical to the strategic and is driven by what you want to accomplish.

Vision speaks to what an organisation wants to become, where it’s aspirations lie and it needs to meets various standards. As Miller & Dess stated, a Vision is defined as a “category of intentions that are broad, all-inclusive and forward thinking”.

It has to be challenging and ambitious enough to be inspirational, to take you above daily and operational issues, and to reveal a true determination to shape the essential characteristics of your organisation

It has to be realistic enough to offer a genuine prospect of success, flexible enough to not be undermined by slow progress or early shortfalls.

It has to be tangible enough to be able to be achieved and updated in the future, but it has to be future-proofed enough to expect to have a life expectancy of five years or more.

It has to be optimistic to paint a picture of a successful future

As shown above, Strategic Vision is a statement of purpose, which provides guidance and inspiration to staff, members, supporters and everyone involved. It sets a tone for them to understand the importance of the strategy and provides an ambition for them to buy in to.

In action, the Vision sets a marker for activities to be related to and for success to be measured against.

The Vision itself demonstrates executive commitment to a particular direction, and can therefore be used to develop momentum for change. Where tactics and plans may have more obvious tangible outcomes, the inclusion of Vision within a CRM Strategy is key to elevating the perception of what you’re setting out to achieve.

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