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

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.

Deep(er!) Dive

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?

Transactional Processing

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.

Membership

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.

Event Processing

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.

Conclusion

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.

For further information visit mastcrm.com or contact me on stuart.bailey@mast-ict.com

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.

For further information visit mastcrm.com or contact me on stuart.bailey@mast-ict.com

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.

For further information visit mastcrm.com or contact me on stuart.bailey@mast-ict.com

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 Salesforce.com 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 Salesforce.com 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 Salesforce.org 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!