Has your faithful old CRM finally had its day? Part Two

In our previous article 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. Here we cover off some of the considerations you need to have in mind when planning next steps.

The Cloud

It must be said that in my opinion, if your CRM isn’t sat happily within the cloud, then a large red buzzing alarm should be going off. If your system isn’t truly cloud based there will be a question mark over its ability to respond to and support the changing needs of your organisation.

The cloud is here now and it is the future.  If it is not already, it will certainly very soon be essential in the ability of systems to pass data between a host of different platforms, some of which haven’t even been invented yet!  The cloud is the backbone upon which your various solutions, systems and data sources will communicate freely and securely, enabling you to build a custom CRM eco-system designed and configured specifically to meet your organisation’s needs.

If not truly cloud-based, whilst integration will be possible with some effort, systems based upon “older” technology will remain limited by their inability to easily connect and move data between now commonly used services.

The good old database engine

Sure, your new system has a well organised and robust database engine.  That’s great and important as it is processing many thousands or hundreds of thousands of transactional entries from your lovely supporters every day. But if it isn’t able to communicate with other systems easily, if it can’t support the needs of your organisation either now or in the future, regardless of how robust it may be “behind the scenes” it will likely become a liability and a risk before too long.

Is it built upon rather “old” technology with a dated design? Many CRM database structures were created more than two decades ago and are now not ideally suited to support typical modern methods of communication and integration.  They have been extended but fundamentally changing a system from the ground up is a huge undertaking for a software company and a step they may be unwilling to take.

The user interface

Users now typically expect to work within a browser-based solution.  Most newer solutions offer this, however many “older” systems do not. But is it actually that important?

In my opinion, this is a critical issue and is absolutely not just an issue of aesthetics.

Modern interfaces are more familiar to users, helping faster adoption of solutions. They are also more flexible in terms of configuration, allowing your chosen processes to be mapped more easily, thereby giving your users a far better solution all-round.

Providing an easy to use, flexible point of access to your CRM for your users goes far beyond aesthetics, it is a key element of any solution and must be treated as an important element of any CRM review.  It is also directly related to ease of remote and mobile access as discussed below.

Remote and mobile device access

If your current CRM interface is limited in its ability to provide access to the system, if access remotely or via mobile devices is overly difficult or in some cases impossible to deliver, then this should be another big red alarm buzzing away right above your head!

Covid-19 has highlighted that secure but easy to deliver remote access to organisational data, including your CRM is essential.  Here at Mast we have definitely seen that those organisations who prior to lockdown had put in place an IT infrastructure that provides secure ease of access, had a smoother transition to getting their now remote workforce up and running and working effectively.

It should be made clear however that in our experience, implementing such a solution does not have to be large scale and is not necessarily related to an organisation’s size or available budget.

If your current system is desktop-based and has no browser interface, it is likely that remote desktop solutions are required to provide users with access. This often limits the use of mobile devices without the creation of specific solutions to act as a “gateway” to the back-end systems, which can be costly and time consuming to create, install and support.

Integration with cloud-based services

How “easy” is it to link your CRM with your web site?  How flexible is the solution?  Do highly skilled, high cost developers need to be employed to make this happen or is it available “out of the box” in some cases?

If not cloud-based, is it necessary to have a complex set of systems to ensure the data held on your internal network is at no stage compromised whilst giving access to the CRM database for your web site?

Unlike many more modern cloud-based solutions, integration options built into older CRM systems are limited.

They may have an API allowing for other systems to extract, update and add data.  However, in our experience, this can become a cumbersome method of integrating, often requiring software developers to bring their skills to bear.

How capable is your CRM of “talking” to commonly used cloud-based services?

Many organisations now use cloud-based services/specialist packages. Would it be possible for your CRM to link to the example services listed below without significant effort from a team of developers?:

  • Microsoft Azure
  • Google Cloud
  • Amazon Web Services
  • Office 365
  • Gmail
  • EventBrite
  • Justgiving
  • Virgin Money Giving
  • BTMyDonate
  • GoFundMe
  • MailChimp
  • DotMailer
  • Communicator Corp
  • Engaging Networks
  • Sage
  • Xero
  • Slack
  • Stripe
  • GoCardless
  • DocuSign

Many of the current cloud-based CRM solutions available have either built-in support or apps written specifically to allow easy integration with these services and many more.

If your current CRM does not provide built-in support for, or make it simple to integrate with the vast majority of these services, then yes you guessed it – it’s big red buzzer time again!

Integrations could be custom-built, however this can be a costly and time-consuming exercise and one that often requires regular development work to change and maintain this custom element of a CRM.

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Has your faithful old CRM finally had its day? Part One

So, of late have you been taking sideways, slightly furtive glances at your CRM? Maybe thinking that perhaps it isn’t quite up to the job any longer? Maybe this same software that has served you so well for so many years, the kit that was once so shiny and new and enabled you to change the way you work, just doesn’t provide your organisation with the solution it needs nowadays?

But hang on, there are lots of other more important things to do right now aren’t there? More pressing things? Yes and it does do a pretty good job on a day to day basis doesn’t it? I mean it handles your donations, processes your direct debits, claims your gift aid, manages your members, your events, records your communications with your contacts. So yes, all is fine really isn’t it? We can carry on for now can’t we? What more does a CRM need to do after all?

Your peers and competitors are moving on to modern tools with enhanced features

The thing is, your colleagues and contacts at other organisations are also making similar noises, thinking that maybe their CRM needs looking at too. Plus you’ve started to read about what some of these newer software solutions can do. Funnily enough, these are the very things that your users and department heads have started to say that they really need to be able to have access to if they are to achieve theirs, and the organisations, objectives that they have been tasked with helping to deliver.

So while yes, there may appear to be more pressing issues in the short term, things are moving inexorably forward and pretty quickly too!

Needs are changing and organisations need to adapt.

The way people communicate, consume information, ask for assistance – and offer theirs – has changed and will continue to do so. In order to support any response to this, the technology in use within any organisation needs to be appropriate and, critically, it should also be an enabler of change rather than a blocker to progress.

I would argue that even if your CRM appears to be doing what it needs to do on a daily basis, you should be looking beyond this, talking in detail with your users and senior staff, understanding where they have frustrations around being able to carry out their daily functions and also deliver upon agreed strategies, both now and in the future.

If you have an ageing CRM, I can almost guarantee that even if you don’t already have a wish list compiled by your key users, you will have one to be proud of very soon after speaking in detail to them!

I suggest you begin by speaking to the right people within your organisation. Both the people that use the software and the people that depend on the people that use the software! That’s a great place to start and will give you a clearer picture of what’s what and if you need to think about a more detailed investigation.

How do you determine if you need to start looking elsewhere?

As I suggest above, first of all you need to start asking questions. Lots of them. Speak to your colleagues, to heads of departments, to end users.
You also need to understand the longer term strategy of your organisation and how this is likely to impact on your CRM and broader IT systems. What will be asked of your CRM solution over say the next 5 years? Will your current solution be able to support those needs and does it even have the legs to still be around in 5 years time?!

Understand your users’ frustrations, what they would like to do that they currently can’t. Importantly dig into why they want to do the things they say they do, that can become quite an interesting discussion!

What we’re talking about is assessing the need or otherwise for a replacement CRM system, so it’s important that you don’t assume that just because your users can’t currently use the system to support their needs, that your existing CRM can’t be re-configured or integrated with or supported by another solution that will solve the problems and frustrations that they are experiencing.

So get cracking on that list of questions and planning a first round of meetings; in part two we’ll look into some of the key considerations you need to take with you when you embark on your assessment of the next steps for your organisation.

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What’s the ‘value’ of CRM – and how can it help your membership body

Membership organisations today have moved on dramatically from where they were just a few years ago. Specifically, their expectations from technology have increased, as have the expectations of their members. Today, members want to receive communications that are tailored to their specific interests and needs, and to what is going to help them to do their jobs better.

At the most basic level this personalisation of your engagement is where you can differentiate yourself from members using Google search instead of your extensive archive of knowledge.

The only way you can do that is to have a sophisticated CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system that is fluid and flexible and can support the delivery of your objectives. And you also need a system that is useable – because it’s all very well being the ‘champion in a darkened room’, saying that you have a system that does this and that, but, if your policy, finance or events people can’t use the system – or can’t see the benefits of using it – then it’s never going to truly enable your organisation.

It’s important to have a system that is flexible and adaptable and can meet a multiplicity of needs.

Value statement

Keep at the forefront of your mind the ‘value’ of your organisation to your members. The concept of a ‘value statement’ is often talked about. I’ve never seen a perfect value statement – I’ve seen evolving versions of them, but I’ve never seen a perfect one which says exactly what benefits people derive from being a member of an organisation.

That’s about finding a system that every aspect of your organisation can contribute to, and which is integrated with all of your digital tools. The successful membership organisations will nail that down, or make it a core objective of every member of staff.

It’s important to find a CRM system that doesn’t take away from what staff are there to do. Whether they are in public affairs, or events management, or publishing, you need a system that helps them to do their jobs, and which reinforces why members want to be members.

There are clearly sophisticated systems available now that can do that. Using such a system, your membership organisation will thrive and grow and be stable and confident, in a way that perhaps in the past you did not.

But unless you have a sophisticated, flexible and future-proofed CRM system in place to help you communicate with your members on their terms, you’re never going to meet their needs, or achieve your goals as an organisation.

Why we created our Definitive Guide to Salesforce for non-profits

At Hart Square we offer a wealth of services exclusively to non-profit clients and central among these is guidance and support if any are considering changing their technology. This covers a range of digital solutions, not the least of which is their CRM system.

Hart Square’s advice is completely technology-agnostic

We’re completely agnostic when it comes to the choices our clients make, but it is important for us to be fully conversant with the options available to them, so we spend a lot of time and effort researching the market and keeping in close touch with the many agencies who offer solutions to the non-profit sector.

The research we do obviously includes monitoring trends as reported or suggested, but also involves our own discussions with clients past and present, and across our extensive network of contacts within the sector.

We research solutions across an extensive network within the sector

As most people will be aware, since the early 2010’s the so-called platform solutions have competed with specialist proprietary providers to deliver systems to the sector, and the most well-known of those are Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics. Looking across the piece we see the strengths, and weaknesses, of platforms and proprietary offerings, and we work hard to help clients choose the right solution model so we delve quite deep into most of them.

What we’ve found over recent years is that whilst we’ve learnt and understood a lot about how approach the sector, and we consider it to be a strong proposition for non-profits, this isn’t something which the sector as a whole has embraced to the extent we might expect.

The non-profit sector hasn’t necessarily embraced Salesforce to the extent we would expect

We decided to dig a little further, really to sense-check our own perceptions, and to make sure we’re able to give our clients best advice. That’s really the genesis of the idea for the Definitive Guide, which is our overview of the proposition and is intended to help the sector make good decisions and achieve the best outcomes.

Whilst we’re completely technology agnostic, and frankly ambivalent, about the decisions clients make, we do focus on our ability to provide thorough and up-to-date information about the options they have, and that they make decisions based on fact rather than perception.

The guide covers the Nonprofit Cloud and is backed up by client case studies and partner profiles

So centrally the Guide itself covers the core Salesforce technology, the specific proposition for non-profits, the partner network and how it operates, and the AppExchange. Together these form what is referred to as the Nonprofit Cloud, and this is opportunity which is available to non-profits who do evaluate Salesforce,org as their CRM provider.

This is then supported by a series of case studies, membership body showcases and partner profiles

Really then what we’ve sought to do is to evaluate some of the perceptions and comments we’ve been given by our networks, specifically or primarily the more negative of them, to assess them against what we’ve experienced and what we understand about, and to try to shine a light on the reality of the proposition.

On the back of that we still consider Salesforce to be a really strong offering for the sector, and we’ve challenged ourselves to explain how the model works so that non-profits have a better chance of understanding what the opportunity is and how they might get the best out of it. has a really strong offering for the non-profit sector; we’ve set out to explain it in the Guide

Hart Square’s Definitive Guide to Salesforce for non-profits was launched at our own chase.livestream conference, and is freely available to everyone within the sector who might have an interest in it.

You can download it from our website at Hart Square’s Definitive Guide to Salesforce for non-profits


Hart Square’s Definitive Guide to Salesforce for Non-Profits

At Hart Square we’re completely agnostic when it comes to the technology choices our non-profit clients make, but we’re deeply familiar with the options available to them. We spend a lot of time and effort researching the market and keeping in close touch with the many agencies who offer solutions to the sector. The research we do includes monitoring trends as reported (or suggested) but also involves our own discussions with clients past and present, and across our extensive network of contacts within the sector.

Since the early 2010’s the so-called platform solutions have competed with specialist proprietary providers to deliver systems to the sector, and the most well-known of those are Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics. Looking across the piece we see the strengths, and weaknesses, of platforms and proprietary offerings, and we work hard to help clients choose the right solution model for their needs, so we deep-dive most of them.

What we’ve found over recent years is that whilst we’ve learnt and understood a lot about how approach the sector, and we consider it to be a strong proposition for non-profits, this isn’t something which the sector as a whole has embraced to the extent we might expect.

We decided to dig a little further to make sure we’re able to give our clients best advice. That’s the genesis of the idea for this Definitive Guide, which is our overview of the proposition in 2020.

MAST – 10 Years and Still Going Strong

Here at Mast we are celebrating our 10th year of supporting non-profit, fundraising and membership organisations.

We launched Mast in 2010 to provide a range of consultancy services to help NFP organisations get the most from their investment in technology. We are so proud to be celebrating 10 years helping NFP, fundraising and membership organisations with industry-leading support and practical solutions that make a positive impact to their organisational processes.

Bringing MAST ICT into the project totally changed our approach. They helped us define a new logical data model, which helped resolve the issues with our business processes – RoSPA

Celebrating the big 1-0 with chase.livestream

Whilst for obvious reasons, things have been very “different” over the past few months, we still wanted to celebrate this important milestone. Although our original plans have had to change rather drastically, we are still looking to celebrate at Chase.LiveStream this year. If you are attending this year’s online event, please do come visit our hub and see what we have in store to mark our special occasion.

Launching our updated website and branding to welcome the new decade

We are excited to announce that we are updating our branding and website to mark our 10 year anniversary. We’re rebranding with an updated colour scheme, website and literature. Lots of things have changed in 10 years, so we now feel that 2020 is the right time to rebrand from “MAST ICT” to “Mast”.

Our culture, team and spirit remain the same, but we’re excited to launch Mast into the new decade with a new look.

Mast are now partners

In order to better support our current and future clients, we are delighted to announce that we have recently been awarded the status of partners. We see the huge benefits that this solution has for our clients and we are now able to offer Salesforce consultancy services within the NFP Sector.

We look forward to providing Salesforce support for our clients to the same high standard as our other services.

We will be growing our team of Salesforce consultants over the coming months and plan to become partners next year.

Looking ahead to the next 10 years

The NFP sector has evolved considerably since 2010 and the way in which organisations utilise technology has helped many dramatically improve their efficiency and capabilities.

At Mast, we constantly remain abreast of current trends and new solutions that could potentially bring benefits to our clients and as an organisation we look to react and adjust to those trends ourselves.

With new technology, system updates and organisational changes come challenges and pit-falls requiring the support of organisations like Mast. We’re here to advise our clients, supporting them through problems and guiding them to solutions.

As an important example, anyone who has recently looked at the CRM marketplace will not have been able to miss the transformation that as well as “Packages” being available, which provide a great solution for many NFP based organisations, there are now “Platforms”, such as Salesforce and Dynamics.

Whilst in our opinion Platforms are not for every organisation of every size, we feel that their potential is very exciting and is providing flexible, modern, accessible solutions that are designed with cloud-computing in mind.

In addition, with “digital transformation” now quite rightly being a critical component in the strategies of many organisations, cloud-based systems are ideally placed to offer the level of integration with other systems and services, which is required to fully “digitise” an organisation.

A little more about us

Back in 2010, as now, we wanted to create an organisation that was fully focussed on delivering high quality, honest and knowledgeable CRM based services to the not for profit sector.

Our approach has seen us grow steadily and we are very proud of our highly skilled, experienced consultants who are fully aligned with the Mast ethos. We work with a large number of clients, some since our inception and spanning many different CRM systems and solutions such as:

  • Care NG
  • Integra NG
  • Open Engage
  • iMIS
  • Sodalitas
  • Donorfy

As, at our heart, we are a CRM consultancy, we provide core CRM-based services such as:

  • Implementation
  • Reviews
  • Upgrades
  • Training

We work openly and transparently to help organisations discover the full potential of their CRM, fundraising or database system. We are dedicated to seeking out the best possible CRM solutions and building long-term relationships with our clients.

Although we are technical consultants with years of industry expertise and experience at your disposal, we speak plain English too and by avoiding any unnecessary technical jargon, we ensure that we communicate our solutions and benefits into business terms that mean something to you.

Our skills are not simply CRM system-focused based however. We are highly experienced in providing advice and assistance within the entire CRM ecosystem and also focus on key elements that will enhance and make a CRM system truly work for our clients, for example by providing services in the following areas:

  • System Integration
  • Process Automation
  • Reporting & Data Analysis
  • Data Migration
  • Data Synchronization

What our clients say about us

We are always delighted when we hear from our clients about how much we have helped:

“MAST’s expertise was invaluable in our migration to Donorfy. They acted like true partners, and on top of detailed technical knowledge of the system, their input on our general procedures and processes has helped us to improve the way we work. Among other steps forward, we now have very useful integrations with JustGiving, Mailchimp and other important technologies, we can automate our email fundraising campaigns and we’re much better equipped to handle GDPR.

Now that we’re on a Cloud platform, access is so much faster and easier, without system crashes. MAST consultant Sophie Pires became like a member of the team, and delivered excellent training in spite of the fact we went into Covid-19 lockdown the week before launch. MAST gave us some tough love at times to help resolve issues and went above and beyond to help deliver a successful migration.” – Addenbrookes Charitable Trust

“Everyone trusts the work that MAST ICT does, so if they say we have to do something a certain way, then people are happy to work with that. It shows that they have the kind of backing and trust across the team to make change happen.” – RCPCH

“MAST ICT have supported the upgrade and modernisation of our systems. Their work with us and the ongoing support they provide is invaluable to us. They have helped us navigate a complex project through their in-depth technical knowledge of the systems and understanding of our organisation.” – Mother’s Union

“Without a doubt, MAST ICT have accelerated the process of launching this system by at least 6 months. The alternative would have been to employ someone permanently to be an expert in this area, this would have driven up our costs.” – Care for the Family

And finally but most importantly, thank you to you!

We would like to thank all of our clients who we have worked with over the past 10 years for giving us the opportunity to make a difference to the way in which they operate and provide the services they do. Feedback from our clients is very important to us and we are very proud to have received 100% positive feedback from them in a recent survey. However we are never complacent and always strive to do the best possible job we can.

We are looking forward to continuing our relationships with our current clients and to meeting many new organisations, finding out about the work they do and helping them to get the best use from their CRM systems.

Whilst in many cases it is business as usual for us going forward, with our new brand and our exciting additional Salesforce support offering, we are looking forward to the future and continuing to support the NFP Sector.

Hopefully we will see you at Chase.LiveStream!


A happy UI/UX for our people should be valued highly says Matt

This is not a new concept. Technology change projects can tend to bias User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) principles for an organisation’s customers and external stakeholders. Certainly forgivable.

In our experience, Hart Square’s clients and technology partners also uphold the virtues of a happy UI/UX for their people: the hard-working daily users of the technology.

However, in the trundling wheels of a major implementation, how do we mitigate against the risk that this gets de-prioritised or deferred as a priority in a project? Of it becoming, against our better judgement, a Nice to Have?

A happy UI/UX for our people. How do we as project managers, tech partners, organisational leaders commit to the mantra alongside all other project criticalities? And how do we preserve this mantra post go-live?

A reassurance – organisations can usually rely on modern solutions’ innate UI and UX. There is almost always basic acceptance when we plug in and build functionality onto a solution. Most look, feel and flow well “out of the box”.

What of human nature’s instincts though? Our need to shape and personalise the stuff of our lives? We’re used to this now in our personal online activity. Why should our project, our organisation’s technology be any different?

One of the two pillars of the Lean Way, “Respect for People”, is useful here. As a first principle let’s commit to our people’s insight. They are the experts of the work. Respecting this principle builds trust and collaboration.

Let’s then commit to adult-adult dialogue. Our people understand budget limitations, negotiation of priorities, system standards versus tampering even if this brings conflicts of interest. This commitment empowers maturity.

Let’s then commit to pragmatism: where? Where do we embed UI/UX within our technology roadmap, so it has its right place for our people as well as our customers and stakeholders?

Here are six key places to embed UI/UX principles for your people within your technology roadmap:

  1. Requirements gathering – almost all tenders for websites include descriptive lines on UI/UX requirements to serve customers. Why not offer that key steer to tech partners on high volume, high intensity processes where look, feel and flow will be key to keeping performance levels high and driving user adoption?
  2. Vendor selection – Hart Square has recently introduced a standalone demo session to business leads within our new technology tender process. Well populated, this session is a perfect place to assess how good a tech partner’s innate UI/UX performs to the right audience.
  3. Specification/ To Be process design – this is Lean, this is invaluable. The blueprint for future processes must allow space not only for functional redesign, but also harmony in how processes look and flow through systems.
  4. Show and tell/User Acceptance Testing – Here, the focus is often as it should be: on the engine, how it operates. Yet most tech partners offer the opportunity for input on UI/UX in these sessions – refining form layout, tidying tabs and ribbons; the best partners offer on-the-spot refinement where appropriate.
  5. Training – everyone “on-system for go live” needs training. There are always the early adopters, the 20% who know and willingly share with colleagues the happy virtues of the new UI/UX. Commit to training these people well upfront, and they will become your UI/UX champions as well as process champions.
  6. Regular review points – one month after going live will be too soon; 12 months after sounds a little late. So, after three to six months, build in a rolling review point with your people. Using a survey or user group will help you understand what flows and what still falters in the ongoing solution. Giving the highest value recommendations a priority in your development plan should ensure UI/UX remains valued by all.

A final reassurance – recognise that it is sometimes daunting and not innate to preserve these principles when so much is at stake during major changes or a busy development diary.

“Good enough” is still a positive if there are heavy constraints on what you need to do with the time and money you have got to spend.

Keep mastery in sight, though. Always valuing UI/UX for our people makes masters of the work and of the mission.

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
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
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
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.