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How to run a successful CRM project

Some tips on how to make your CRM project a success, focusing on leadership, project management and other ‘people’ stuff, rather than the technology.

Things you'll need

  • Lots of commitment and patience

Think about it as a change project, not a tech project

Frame your CRM project as a major change project, and only secondarily as a technology project. Changing culture and behaviours, ensuring buy-in and (post launch) celebrating successes are all essential to a successful CRM project. 


Get someone neutral to lead it, so everyone buys in

If this is a change project, then who is best placed to lead it? Some parts of your organisation will be more heavily involved than others, because they have the most to gain. But if they lead it then there is a risk that other parts of the organisation will think that the project is not going to meet their needs, and may not get involved and support it. 


Get as much staff time onto the project as possible

CRM projects are hard work. It’s important to recognise this before you start and make sure you have the staff time you need for the project. As well as a project manager, aim to form a project team which involves people from across the organisation, and make sure they have time to contribute. You'll also need a group of senior people overseeing the project. Depending on the size of your organisation this may involve trustees or senior staff. 


Get something into the hands of your staff as early as possible

IT projects can sometimes fail because too much time is spent gathering requirements on paper, which turn out not to be what users want or need. Chunk your project up, focussing on the most important things first, and get something into the hands of your users as early as possible. Then improve it. This quick and continuous feedback from users will help ensure that you build something that works and meets your needs. 


Start talking about your processes before the project starts for real

CRMs help with processes and workflows. But to build one you really need to know what your processes are. They might not be as efficient as they could be, but do you at least have them written down? If not, it will add a lot of time to your CRM project.


Be aware of how tricky integrations can be

Integrations between systems are hard. If you need to integrate systems then make sure you have access to really good technical expertise about every system that will be talking to another one, and expertise about how they talk to each other. 


Remember, the project never ends

A CRM Project is a massive undertaking, which is no doubt why it’s tempting to think of it having an end date, after which resources (staff and financial) can be reduced or reallocated to something else. The problem is that most voluntary organisations are constantly evolving. Just as your website is never finished, your CRM project is never really finished either. Planning adequate resource for after you go-live will be critical to making sure that you retain buy-in and enthusiasm across the organisation, as well as making sure that things continue to work as they must.


Be kind to yourself

CRM projects are difficult and everyone struggles with them!

Further information

This report from CharityComms provides some information on which CRMs charities use. 55 responses: Blackbaud systems (49%), Salesforce (31%), CiviCRM (22%) and Microsoft Dynamics (20%)


Page last edited Jun 01, 2021 History

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