Does culture always eat strategy for breakfast, or is there room for both at the table?

Management Consultant and author Peter Drucker coined the expression: ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’ to illustrate that the realisation of strategic goals will be hindered if the culture of the team does not support them. This theory has sparked debate across all sectors but is particularly relevant to the charity sector where organisations often have a very strong and united culture heavily influenced by their mission and vision.

Why charitable organisations have especially strong cultures

Individuals tend to be attracted to work in the charity sector due to an affiliation with or belief in a certain cause, and therefore many charities are made up of teams of people with similar opinions and priorities. When a group of likeminded people are working in the same place, a culture is therefore borne out of the unspoken behaviours, mindsets, and social patterns that these individuals share. To illustrate, it is unlikely that a person who hates animals would choose to work in a donkey rescue shelter. Far from it, it can be assumed that the team would be made up of people who love and care for donkeys, and would put their comfort and wellbeing ahead of other responsibilities within their job description, such as reaching strategic targets and goals. Thus, a shared culture of ‘operate first, innovate later’ is born.

Why strong cultures can often be disabling

There is no doubt that a shared culture is an asset to an organisation and leads to effective execution of tasks that the team actively regards as important. However, it often results in mutual disregard or disinterest in tasks regarded as of lesser direct importance to the cause. In the case of our donkey rescue shelter, the team is united in working towards the outcome that donkeys receive the care that they need, but reflective and analytical tasks – perceived as inactive or indirect in meeting the needs of the cause – are often left to one side. Thus, if a strategy were to be introduced, requiring all members of the team to complete actions such as: data audits, user testing, and participation in discovery workshops, this shared culture of prioritising operation (basic function) over innovation (how to more fulfil the function more effectively) could easily become a roadblock. That is to say, it could result in a team of culturally aligned individuals who are misaligned with the wider strategic vision.

Why we need bring culture and strategy together

This by no means suggests that there is no room for strategy in the charity and third sectors. In fact, one could argue that a charitable organisation with a strong cultural alignment has the ideal conditions to host a transformational project, as the shared culture could be used to increase the chance of success when confronting change or challenges.

Why? The combination of a team with invested interests in the triumph of a project, with accountability on an individual level and teamwork to support each other in meeting the criteria for success, leads to faster and better decision making, no competing priorities, less possibility for scope change and less possibility for the project to derail.

Hence, strategy and culture can be compatible concepts, with the former providing a logic and plan to achieve the goals, and the latter providing the will, enthusiasm, and longevity of results.

In my next post on this topic I’ll cover “How to find a balance between culture and strategy ”

 

Interested in content about culture and strategy? Join us for chase.livestream from September 8th to 10th for more great insights. Register for free at https://chase.live

Is a digital strategy a thing of the past?

At Hart Square, we have a lot of conversations around digital strategy and digital transformation with clients across the NFP sector. As organisations continue to rapidly evolve their thinking in this area, one question keeps coming up again and again; is having a digital strategy an organisational necessity or should digital simply be integrated into wider organisational strategies?

For years, charities and NFP organisations have been trying to increase their digital capacity with increasing focus on developing more web-based offerings and harnessing new technology to raise more funds, engage more deeply with their audiences and collect higher quality data. But when asked in the Charity Digital study, conducted by Zoe Amar in 2019, 67% said that they still want to use digital to increase their impact. This would suggest that digital is still not ingrained in the culture and strategies of these organisations.

This is also something that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has been looking at, concluding that,

Transformation should be the focus not technology, technology enables an organisation to change and enhance strategies.

But how does this translate into practice? What would your organisation need to make lasting transformation happen? How do you focus on transformation without technology being your focus?

A critical factor here is that behind any change, there needs to be a focus on how this would integrate with your organisations’ overarching strategy and vision. When you know what you want to achieve and what benefit it will bring to the organisation, you can then start to look at what tools, resources and skills are needed to make it happen.

Equally key will be ensuring that there is enough digital leadership within the organisation. As with delivering on any strategy, everyone will need to buy into this transformation, understanding its impact and their part in making it happen. This will naturally need leadership at all levels of your organisation, something that not everyone feels they have.

To quote the 2019 Charity Digital study, 58% of respondents said their charities have fair to low skills in digital leadership.

With digital now permeating across everyday business as usual activity, it’s more important than ever to ask yourself how digital transformation can support the vision and aims of your organisation. Digital should be a key pillar of any organisational strategy, front of mind when looking at how to achieve your aims, whether that is in supporter engagement, delivering services or growing impact.

Digital and technology will continue to be omnipresent across the sector and leaders will need to adapt to ensure that they are able to leverage the full value of organisation-wide digital transformation.

Interested in leading digital thinking and best practice? Join us for chase.livestream from September 8th to 10th for more great insight. Register for free at https://chase.live

Time for a new kind of leadership

If ever there was a time to move forward from command-and-control style management to a world where leaders inspire their people and, in business terms, their teams then surely this is it.

A cultural shift from management to leadership has been coming for some time, but let’s not just assume the reasons and benefits are clear to all. This is about far more than the semantics around different words, this is a reflection on modern ways of working, the desire for collaboration across organisations, where employee participation is fostered, engagement is nurtured and trust underpins employment.

From all directions, when you consider whether it is more productive, more efficient, more effective to put our heads together as equals, or to compete within flse hierarchies, surely there is only one conclusion to draw?

Who wants to work in an organisation where you can only do what you’re told to, in detail? Where is there any form of satisfaction to be had in just executing someone else’s ideas?

On that note, ask also how many new ideas can a stretched executive spin up, while trying to maintain operational delivery within good governance.

How many barriers to open thought do long-standing, senior employees have which more recent recruits are free of when they seek to innovate, when they dare to pursue the art of the possible unfettered by experience and failure.

To be dynamic, to grow, to be digital we need input from all corners of our organisations.

If ever there was a time to appreciate the value and perspective of every employee then it is now, and we need to keep this front of mind as and when we find a way through the disruption of the pandemic.

Let’s not talk of a return to normal, but of progressing to a new current state, informed by this experience, and celebrated by every one of us for we have all contributed to its achievement.

 

Interested in leadership best practice? Join us for chase.livestream from September 8th to 10th for more great insight. Register for free at https://chase.live

Delivering a virtual conference in lockdown: APM’s Power of Projects Takeover

When lockdown started in March, Hilary Trahair, Events Manager, Association for Project Management realised very quickly that their summer conference would have to be cancelled.

Whilst a devastating blow, APM knew that they did not want to lose out on all the work that they had put in to the event, so they immediately started looking at virtual options. “We knew we had plenty of good content and the majority of speakers were still really keen to participate in a virtual space, which was very encouraging and gave us the impetus to go forward. The challenge then became how can we transform our successful conference format into a virtual one?” explained Hilary.

They soon realised that they could not just take the existing format and timetable and simply transfer it online.

For a start, there was far too much content for one day, as the event was really three conferences. Instead, they came up the idea of a virtual event that would take place every day from 12noon-2pm over a two week period, abandoning the term conference and renaming the event Power of Projects Takeover.

The extended timeframe meant they didn’t have to try squeeze all the content in one day and gave them the opportunity to create more engagement opportunities. For example, outside of the lunchtime content, they have launched APM’s brand-new community platform, APM Member Hub, which will allow delegates to continue the conversation, ask questions about the content that there was not time for, showcase APM products, such as qualifications and pick on areas of interest for future content, such as blogs. Having an extended timeframe also allows delegate more time to absorb the information being presented to them.

Delivering an excellent virtual delegate experience became the priority and the choice of the technology has been crucial to that process. APM had previously made the decision to use the event app InEvent during the physical conference to allow delegates to create their own agenda on the day, ask questions, take part in interactive polls, set up chats and network.

InEvent then developed their own web based virtual conference functionality and, as Hilary explains, APM chose their product. “InEvent allows delegates to choose the sessions they want to attend and the people they want to chat with. Networking is the one of the key reasons people attend a conference and we wanted to make our event as interactive as possible and more than a series of webinars. InEvent was the most flexible and best value product for us and they have been able to develop new features for us too. You do need to shop round though and do your research as all of these product have different pricing models and you need to very clear about your requirements.”

APM want to make the virtual experience as user friendly and interactive as possible alongside delivering valuable and insightful content.

Using the app, delegates will be able to:

  • View all the sessions in one place
  • Create their own agenda each day, giving them choice and control over the content they want to see
  • Register only once to access sessions for the whole event
  • See who is in the lobby to allow better networking opportunities and invite people to meetings
  • Use multi-devices to engage with the content
  • Download content and take part in polls and ask questions each day

Significantly, the majority of the content will still be live.

They have retained key speakers and delegates will be able to see the speaker talking as well as the content, explains Hilary: “Making the most of the live content is really important to us. We are encouraging speakers to stand up and move around as you would at a conference. Inevitably different people have different styles and levels of experience in delivering online events, so we have needed to coach some people, but everyone is open and enthusiastic to making the most of this event.”

A key difference from the physical conference is that there is no exhibition space to showcase sponsors. After some internal debate, APM has decided not to pursue sponsorship opportunities for this event recognising that it is not as clear cut what the sponsorship value is of a virtual event and sponsors are in a difficult place financially too. Instead they have used the opportunity to focus on more of their own content and use it as an opportunity to engage people in different ways to further their development. Hilary commented: “We have been lucky enough to make this event free which means we will be able to engage with even more people than we would normally, such as non-members and an international audience, an added benefit of a virtual event.”

APM is already thinking about how they can maximise the content of the virtual event afterwards, including offering members the benefit of being able to watch any sessions they may have missed after the event before releasing it into the public domain.

So far nearly 1,000 delegates have registered and APM welcomes anyone is who interested in projects to register for Power of Projects Takeover, which takes places from Monday 1 to Friday 12 June from 12:00pm. It is completely free of charge and open to anyone interested in projects, wherever they are in the world.

The social impact of working from home #stayhomesavelives

Stay home, save lives

In these exceptional times we’re seeing many an infographic and explainer relating to Covid-19, as we all become way too familiar with daily graphs from Public Health England, and the elusive R factor which has claimed a central role in our hankering for a relaxation of current restrictions.

Within this field, if you’re interested in such things, you’ll likely be familiar with many a mathematical model of how the small actions of individuals play their part in the pandemic.

Even then it can be difficult to comprehend the difference you can make as a person, never mind Hart Square as an organisation of 21 people and all the activity which occurs as a consequence of our day to day work. As a modestly sized consultancy, we’re a drop in the ocean, right? Well, maybe not..

The tech

Manchester based Reason Digital has created a Social Impact tool to understand one of the most significant Covid induced behaviour changes – the great swathes of the nation working from home. By feeding in a few basic details the tool can calculate the social, environmental and health impact of your organisation working from home.

This is no facebook style random number generator, however simple this looks on the surface. The mathematics and data behind social impact modeling are robust and often mind bogglingly clever.

So what does it tell us..

At time of writing (Friday April 24th) if we take Monday 16th March as the day we started working from home our 21 staff have been doing so for 28 days. Plugging that into the tool we start to see the impact.

Environmentally it’s nothing but good news – we’ve saved the equivalent of 681Kg of Carbon Dioxide which is the same as planting 31 trees.

We reap the benefits too – £4,580 saved in travel costs and 568 hours of commuting time.

Invent me a tool to find where all that spare time has gone and I’ll be seriously impressed.

Socially it’s more of a mixed bag – as we are in theory more productive at home we should have gained 98 hours of additional productivity and if the opportunities for additional exercise are taken (!), we could have done 245 hours.

But here’s the number to put to what we are all experiencing – the social isolation of not sharing a space with colleagues and clients has caused us to lose 362 hours of social interactions through our work.

The big one..

It’s the final set of numbers which gives the greatest pause for thought.

By working from home we have prevented 3,480 Covid-19 cases and potentially saved 49 lives.

And that’s as it is now – extend that to the not unrealistic date of 1st June and that becomes an eye watering 240,347 prevented cases and 3,365 lives saved..

There are undoubted challenges with this enforced way of working, back to back to back virtual meetings, eroding work/life hygiene, unannounced ‘special guests’ breaking into your working space and of course the absence of those small but important in person interactions that we maybe took for granted.

However, the next time that starts to grate, just plumb the latest numbers into the tool, take a moment, and move on..

 

We are in this together and together we are literally saving lives

 

The Social Impact Calculator is available at https://impactreporting.co.uk/covid19-wfh-benefits-calculator

 

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The drive for non-profits to really engage with AI

Despite the potentially off-putting hype and noise around Artificial Intelligence and “the rise of the machines” the reality is that AI and machine learning are technologies which have arrived and are on the verge of being mainstream.

Projects to evaluate, implement and deploy these technologies are now both appropriate and affordable, and whilst they must of course be treated with caution, they now represent arguably the biggest opportunity for non-profits who are striving to stay relevant and to radically enhance the services and benefits they offer to their supporters, members and beneficiaries alike.

What does this mean in practice?

The deployment of AI and ML technology can mean many things but the real benefit they bring to non-profits is in the ability they offer to mine and manipulate data at scale. Data is the lifeblood of non-profits; whether that’s to be able to understand more about donors and supporters and thereby to create deeper, more valuable relationships, or whether it’s used to analyse vast quantities of data in ever-decreasing timeframes, to identify and provide back critical information to beneficiaries or service users.

In the latest example of this, delivering a ground-breaking innovation, Muscular Dystrophy UK, Reason Digital, Parkinsons’ UK, the Stroke Association, and the MS Society have joined in an unprecedented partnership to harness the power of AI for good, creating the UK’s first AI health assistant. The Digital Health Assistant (DHA) is set to transform the way medical advice and information is delivered to millions of people in the UK.

The DHA will use machine learning to develop an understanding of the person being supported and continues to adapt to their needs over time based on interactions. This allows DHA to provide emailed content and support specific to an individual’s needs, making it vastly more effective than current alternatives.

This real-world implementation of AI for good, by a coalition of charities, spells out the opportunity for every non-profit to innovate and to harness the latest technologies in support of their cause. The technology is now science-fact and our challenge is to be brave enough to embrace it, to put it to use, and to derive a series of benefits for the whole of society.

 

This article was first published by Synergy in print format

Interview with Dan Pegler, Head of IM&T, Action for Hearing Loss

DAN PEGLER, HEAD OF IM&T AT ACTION FOR HEARING LOSS DISCUSSES HIS ROLE IN A NATIONAL CHARITY, HOW TECHNOLOGY IS HELPING THE ORGANSIATION ACHIEVE ITS GOALS AND WHY HE’S COMING TO CHASE LIVE, HART SQUARE’S ANNUAL LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE ON 4th JULY AT THE BREWERY, LONDON.

 

Tell us about your current role!

I have worked at Action for Hearing Loss, for four and a half years, as Head of IM&T. We are the largest charity for people with hearing loss in the UK. We have about 80 sites across the four countries, with around 1,000 staff and 2,000 volunteers.

My team of seven provide IT infrastructure support to all 80 sites – the usual services you would expect to enable the organisation to function day-to-day. Two of the team focus on software development of a number of bespoke in-house tools that we use, e.g. an outcomes tool for our registered care services to track progress of the people we support so we can measure our success in helping people to achieve their goals.

And before this?
I’ve worked in both the for-profit and not-for-profit sector, having started my career at a brewery (I was 18 and thought it was the best job ever!). I then worked at a law firm, before I moved into the not-for-profit sector. I’ve worked in the housing sector, education and then more recently the NHS. Action for Hearing Loss is my first charity though and it’s a hugely rewarding role.

What difference do you see between the private and public sectors?
It’s the staff in the NFP sector – they’re the real difference for me. Staff in the charity sector are truly motivated to do the best job they can because they identify with the cause their organisation champions, rather than to just generate profit for profit’s sake. And that’s a big motivation for me, working with like-minded people.

What’s the biggest challenges facing your organisation right now?
Like any charity, the challenge is managing a small team on a budget – particularly hard when you are delivering high quality IT services on a national scale.

As money becomes tight, fundraising for any charity is hard, so we are really focused on getting our message out and making sure people understand the difference that we make to people’s lives.

How will you approach this change?
IT is focusing on being a business enabler, embedding a cultural change so staff understand the importance of data. The focus is sharing data analytics back to all parts of the organisation, so they can understand how they are doing, and can measure and continuously improve services for the people we support. One of my passions is to help people understand how data can help them, what an asset it is.

In parallel, we are making our systems and services secure, accessible and intuitive for staff, so they can focus on the job in hand.

Finally, good procurement decisions are key. In my early days at Action for Hearing Loss, I saw that some of our communication costs were high, so quickly renegotiated and sourced new suppliers, saving £60k a year and improving the service for staff or our service users.

What’s the thing you’re most proud of in your current role?
Being able to deliver a big infrastructure upgrade project that transformed the way the organisation works. Previously, we had a solid, reliable system but it only really worked if you were in the office. Now we have systems that enable staff to work remotely and securely and get access to superb IT services at any time, from any location. In the process we made saving of 25% on our annual operational costs, which could be reinvested in support for service users. I’m really proud of that.

What’s the secret to your success?
The thing to do is get your recruitment right and make sure the people in your teams know the contribution they are making. You also have to trust them to be able to deliver. And it’s always great to hire people who know more than you do!

You’re coming to www.chase.live – what are you hoping to learn?
I went last year for the relaunch – where it stands out from other events is that it looks at delivering strategies from the organisation’s point of view, and sharing what went well, what went less well and how the sector can be better. There’s a real honesty from the presenters.

It also showcases the tools and services out there, but both from suppliers but also their customers – speakers from the sector who are running organisations like mine.

Which speaker are you most looking forward to hearing this year?
Alastair Campbell – he’s been right in at the heart of government and to hear his views right now will be a fantastic end to the day. It’s worth saying that Midge Ure was fantastic last year as well!

Who’s your fantasy speaker for our future events?
Bill Gates would be amazing! Also, speakers talking about the ethical of use of data would be good.

Thank you for sparing the time to talk to us today!

If you are a leader or man

 

Interview with Mike Robinson, Amnesty International UK

Mike Robinson, Head of Technology at Amnesty International UK takes time out from his busy day job to explain his background, the challenges he faces in his current role and why he’s coming to chase live, Hart Square’s annual leadership conference on 4th July at The Brewery, London.

Tell us about your current role!
I am Head of Technology at Amnesty International UK, a post I took over just over a year ago. The UK branch of Amnesty International focuses on campaigning and fundraising in the UK; my role is to ensure we have all the key systems (all end user devices, servers, MS Office etc) in place that enable the organisation to function.

Have you always worked in non-profit organisations?
I started my career in the private sector, but the last decade has been in the non-profit sector. Previously, I was Head of Business Systems and Business Intelligence at Action for Children.

Amnesty International and Action for Children are very different organisations:

  • Action for Children is an NFP running services for its audience, focused on delivering local authority contracts
  • Amnesty is a much more member-led organisation, its fundraising is entirely there to support its campaigning role

It’s great to work in such different dynamics and see how the NFP sector is so varied.

If you’ve worked in the for-profit sector, what’s the biggest difference you’ve seen?
The biggest difference is the speed you get decisions made; it’s much slower in the NFP sector, which seems to be an acknowledged issue. That said, it’s clear that every penny counts, so organisations are rightfully careful with how they spend their money.

What’s the biggest challenges facing your organisation right now?
Amnesty International UK has an ageing infrastructure and outdated systems; the team has been fantastic at keeping these systems working….to be honest, they’ve been a victim of their own success.

But as an organisation, we have now agreed the time has come to upgrade the core infrastructure. We need to migrate people off windows 7 and upgrade key systems, especially our fundraising system.

How will you approach this change?
The key to success is to ensure that we bring the business with us, and not impose new technology. This is as much about culture change as it is about digital transformation. We need to get staff bought in before we begin our digital transformation project.

Our leadership team have bought into this and that’s key to drive this; that’s why my role was created and is much more focused on just technology, rather than technology plus a range of other services. That focus has enabled me to make real progress in my first year, to build partnerships with the rest of the organisation and better understand what they are trying to achieve.

Equally, our leadership team know that whilst they are experts in their fields, be it campaigning or fundraising, they aren’t technology experts. They can define the goals and we can help them see the ways in which technology can better help us achieve them.

What’s the thing you’re most proud of in your current role?
I am really proud to have the organisation’s first standalone technology strategy and new policies in place and signed off by leadership team and trustees.

We now have a business case in progress with our trustees to secure the investment we need to now make that strategy real and we are getting ready for a major change in the coming months.

What’s the secret to your success?
One of the ways I have made this happen is to be much more visible. We aren’t just a back-office service anymore; I have made sure I am very visible within the organisation, communicating our successes. And again, it’s about building relationships with key teams across the organisation.

And what are you hoping to learn from www.chase.live?
I came last year when Hart Square relaunched the event for its 25th anniversary. It was extremely useful.

I love the format – short punchy Ted-style talks and lightning talks meant I could hear a lot of content in a short time…I made pages of notes! And you attracted some of the best speakers I have ever seen at a free event.

Which speaker are you most looking forward to hearing this year?
Alastair Campbell. As a campaigning charity to hear what he has to say is a great opportunity. You’ve really moved up a gear this year.

Who’s your fantasy speaker for our future events?
Brian Cox – I saw him before and for 15 minutes I briefly understood the universe – I’d like to try and understand that again!

Thank you for sparing the time to talk to us today!

If you work for a non-profit organisation and would like to attend chase live, please visit www.chase.live and book your free place today.

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
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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.