5 Ways to Prepare for a New CRM Implementation

Brittany Ivey

Senior Consultant

Brittany works on projects including CRM software implementations, systems analysis, and business process documentation. She has experience working with several donor database systems, including a professional-level certification in Blackbaud’s Raiser’s Edge.
June 04, 2021

Your organization has identified a need for a new donor software system, gone through the search process, and selected a new CRM – congratulations! It may feel like you have done the majority of the work, but alas: the work is only just beginning.

While it is easy to get caught up in the minutia of the implementation process, it is important to keep the big picture in mind: how does this new system support the overall strategy of your organization? Think of it as hosting a dinner party: it is fun to plan the decorations and menu options, but why are you hosting the dinner party in the first place? What are you celebrating?

JCA is experienced at guiding clients through the implementation process. Here are some considerations regarding your people, processes, and technology resources when your team is anticipating a system change:

  1. Make sure the right people are involved: A donor software change affects not only the data entry staff – it will impact many of their colleagues as well. Consider the resources who will contribute data captured by the system, as well as resources who will rely on reporting and data output by the system. To continue the dinner party analogy: ask yourself, who needs to be invited to the party?
    • Common examples of additional departments included in implementation conversations include finance, prospect research, major gift officers, donor relations/stewardship, and IT.
    • Make sure your organizational chart is up-to-date. If your organization does not utilize an organizational chart, you can quickly and easily make one using tools such as Canva or Lucidchart.
    • Take your team’s capacity and bandwidth into consideration. Do you have any unfilled roles? Are you anticipating any staff turnover during the implementation process?
  2. Document your existing business processes: Don’t wait until the implementation team asks for documentation of your business processes to scramble some files together – be proactive. If your team has not already taken on the daunting task of ensuring your organization’s current processes are documented, it is crucial that this task is completed prior to implementing a new donor software system. Think of it as pulling out recipes to prepare for your theoretical dinner party: these are the documents that will guide how you will use the system.
    • Make sure your documentation is true to your day-to-day operations. Document not only how your team is doing its functions, but also why they do them in that way.
    • Documentation is time-consuming, but it doesn’t have to be painful. You can leverage the resources you already have and utilize additional tools to work smarter in your documentation efforts.
  3. Evaluate the current state of your data: Many of us are familiar with the last-minute scramble to clean up your home prior to guests arriving. Data conversion can be a daunting task, but knowing the state of your data prior to the conversion is an important step to prepare for success. Avoid last-minute data cleansing efforts by evaluating your data at the beginning of the process:
    • Are there fields in your current system that have become overrun with irrelevant or repetitive values? Can these values be condensed or renamed for clarity?
    • Have you been “making do” with a workaround that you think your implementation team may need to know about?
    • Are there any historical data points that can be archived?
  4. Prepare for system security measures: This may be a less exciting area of consideration – perhaps like making a backup plan in case the weather is bad – but nonetheless it is a critical area to prioritize when implementing a new system. System breaches are becoming more commonplace, and it is important to protect your organization’s digital resources during a vulnerable time of transition. Here are some security measures to consider:
    • How is your security structured now? Does your team utilize authentication tools such as single sign-on or multi-factor authentication?
    • Do you have user roles set up with assigned permissions in your current system? If so, are they working well? If not, how do you need to restructure user access to ensure ongoing system integrity?
    • Do you have processes for onboarding and off-boarding new staff? Who is your key system “gatekeeper”?
    • How are you currently backing up your system – and how often?
  5. Learn from others. Many organizations go through system changes every year – what can you learn from their experiences? Researching other success stories, such as those of Missouri Botanical Garden or The Field Museum, can affirm your team’s decision and inspire your organization’s successful transition.

Whether you are a large, complicated organization or a small grassroots group, assessing these factors and planning ahead will ensure your implementation efforts are successful. Looking for a partner to assist in selecting and implementing a new CRM? JCA has a team of professional, experienced experts to facilitate a smooth transition. Contact us to learn more.

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