Case Study

Success Story | Leaving a Legacy—System

Holly Parrish

Senior Consultant

Holly Parrish, a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) since 2004, has worked for more than 20 years in fundraising, public relations, and marketing.
January 03, 2022

With JCA’s help, Keystone Symposia undergoes the ultimate post-pandemic renovation.

Keystone Symposia on Molecular and Cellular Biology (Keystone Symposia) has connected scientists together to advance biomedical and life sciences for 50 years. Keystone Symposia’s annual slate of 60+ life science and biomedicine conferences, workshops and virtual symposia create the valuable environments for information exchange, generation of new ideas, and acceleration of applications that benefit society.

In 2017, Keystone Symposia realized that its custom-built conference management legacy software system (named The Keystone Symposia or TKS) could no longer keep up with Keystone Symposia’s evolving technology needs. Their legacy system was not well suited for marketing and constituent relationship management. It lacked the ability to integrate well with other software and applications, and it didn’t provide sufficient sponsorship and fundraising tracking functionality. And while staff appreciated the comfort of a custom system that was continually built around their unique needs, they also understood that the organization had moved beyond the system’s capabilities.

Knowing that a move from a “home-grown” system to a commercial system would require big organizational change, Keystone Symposia engaged JCA to guide them through a formal system selection process.

A Cultural Shift

Step one in finding a path forward from Keystone Symposia’s legacy system was clarifying the organization’s strategic vision for customer relationship management. The team centered on four (4) strategic goals as overriding values in its selection process:

  1. enhanced customer engagement
  2. ease of information accessibility and analysis
  3. increased process efficiency
  4. strong stakeholder accountability

Finding a system that supported these values was paramount.

Additionally, Keystone Symposia acknowledged that a new system would likely require some adaptation or rethinking of current organizational processes. Keystone Symposia staff had grown accustomed to a culture where its legacy TKS system was continually adapted and customized to meet specific business needs. Moving to a commercial system meant staff would need to embrace an alternative culture where software capabilities often drive how business is accomplished. And as an organization that requires complex and diverse functionality, Keystone Symposia embraced the understanding that no one system would likely meet all of their needs.

Leaving the Legacy System

To define and prioritize those varied functional requirements, JCA interviewed the entire Keystone Symposia team and developed a list of 500+ system requirements that spanned all business areas—from finance to IT to meeting management to marketing. Discovery interviews led to a System Assessment and Recommendations Report which included a set of observations and recommendations for business process improvements to consider when implementing the new system.

JCA used the System Assessment as a foundation to prepare an in-depth Request for Proposal (RFP). After an initial round of inquiries, three chosen vendors were invited to demonstrate their product to project stakeholders. In advance of the demonstrations, JCA and the Keystone Symposia team prepared demonstration scenarios related to Keystone Symposia’s specific business requirements. JCA provided guidance and management throughout the demonstrations, as well as piloted staff through an apples to apples scoring process that focused on Keystone Symposia’s stated requirements and priorities.

Following the live demonstrations, Keystone Symposia’s due diligence period included follow-up with each vendor, reference checks, additional demonstrations, and investment comparisons as the team worked with JCA to formulate a final suite of products that would best serve the organization’s needs.

Facing Challenge Head On

The Keystone Symposia team knew that transitioning to a new ecosystem of software products would be a monumental challenge, as there is simply no downtime for an organization hosting 60+ multi-day events each year. Fortunately, the team was already accustomed to facing challenge head-on, a result of pivoting programming from in-person to virtual events since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With staff already stretched thin, Keystone Symposia was concerned that they did not have the internal resources available to manage so many system changes, which included transitioning to a new CRM and Event software Ungerboeck, Hubspot website and marketing automation system, and EventMobi virtual event platform.

Knowing they needed additional resources to ensure the success of these transitions, Keystone Symposia once again requested JCA’s assistance to guide its team through the implementation process. JCA is currently serving as the client’s overall implementation project manager and advocate, working hand-in-hand with the Ungerboeck consulting team and guiding staff toward achieving important project milestones. JCA’s experience in managing implementation projects for numerous CRM systems made the transition from selection to implementation a natural progression.

Keystone Symposia is currently in the first few months of implementation but has already successfully transitioned to its new website, virtual platform, and marketing system. Keystone Symposia hopes to complete a full cutover to its new Ungerboeck system in early spring.

“JCA has been an amazing partner and we couldn’t have done this without them. They are extremely knowledgeable and are always completely on top of the project. In addition, they are such a pleasure to work with. They are an integral part of our organization, and we are all so grateful for all their efforts.” — Deborah L. Johnson, Ph.D, President & CEO.

We’re Here to Help

Your CRM is the foundation of your work, and switching to something new shouldn’t be treated lightly. We know how important it is to make the right move. If you have any questions about System Selection or Implementation Assistance, please email us at We are here to help.