In our previous articles on the subject we recommended now is the time for you to start to talk to your staff about the technology they need to support them for the future. We also explore some of the considerations you need to have in mind when planning next steps.
Let’s take a slightly more detailed look at a few of the specific areas in which your CRM supports your organisation and how they are impacted upon and potentially restricted by older technology.
Supporter and Member Communications
For most, if not all organisations, the ability to record and retrieve all communications with contacts is critical and any CRM system should support this as the most basic of functions as this is the core function of any CRM after all.
However, if the ability of your CRM is limited in this area due to its age and the technology on which it is built, this is an absolutely critical area to investigate further.
What is the usual means of communication and what interface is used? Does it integrate seamlessly with your email client of choice? Does it support communication via social media platforms? In what other ways do you communicate with your members, donors, volunteers etc? Can these various means of contact be seamlessly captured, stored and managed from within your CRM?
You may find that your current CRM is highly capable, robust and able to process high volumes of data. This is of course critical and alongside communication recording is the most basic of requirements.
It should not be overlooked that “older” CRMs have not fallen behind the newer offerings in this regard. High volume data processing is the bread and butter of such systems and they do it very, very well. In fact, some would argue that the newer model of cloud-based processing introduces risks and challenges that are not present with the older systems.
I tend to agree in all fairness and would strongly recommend that any potential replacement system proves itself capable of handling at least the same volume and complexity of transactional data that your current solution does. Do not assume it is a “given” that any replacement system will be able to process the volumes of data you currently do and in exactly the same way as your current system does.
Many organisations have highly complex requirements for handling their Membership offerings and the processing of data related to this area of the system.
Often Membership systems have functionality built upon over many years, providing a highly flexible and functionally capable membership solution. Any potential replacement should provide a similar level of functionality to match that currently available.
However, as is the case for most areas of operation, regardless of the power or functionality provided “behind the scenes”, many older systems will inevitably suffer from limitations of interface usability and flexibility as discussed earlier.
As for membership processing, many older systems have highly functional solutions to support the setup and management of events.
However often there is no standard integration with external Event processing services, such as Eventbrite for example and again due to the technology used, the solution may experience the same limitations of interface flexibility where customisation is required.
Process Automation & Work Flow
Many older systems have limited or no in-built support for Automation and Workflow.
This is now a key requirement for many organisations, allowing business logic to be defined based upon customised criteria which when met will automatically trigger specified actions. These could for example be displaying a form, sending a renewal email to a member or creating a task and assigning it to a colleague.
More modern solutions often have built-in support for automation or offer powerful integration with external cloud-based automation and work-flow processing solutions.
Here at Mast we have worked within the NFP Sector supporting organisations with their CRMs and related systems for many years, some of us going all the way back to the early 90s!
In that time we have seen many developments in both the requirements and expectations of NFP organisations and the technology available to support their needs.
There is no doubt that this is a very exciting time and that the level of technology options now available to NFP organisations are capable of transforming the way in which an organisation functions in a highly cost-effective manner.
Although your existing CRM may be robust, has been a reliable workhorse that has supported your organisation for a long time, it may be that the limitations of the product are now likely to hamper the ability of your organisation to adopt a programme of modernisation and digital transformation.
If your CRM is based upon old technology, if it is not cloud-based, if it is not easy to integrate and does not provide the ease and flexibility of use offered by many systems available today, I would suggest that you should be beginning to review your options, if indeed you already haven’t started this process.