Is there an alternative to migrating your CRM today?

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The Arguments

Having worked for many charities in the UK, I’ve heard countless compelling arguments for a new CRM solution.

The need to release the shackles of the perceived “legacy” windows-based CRM products, some now decades old, is fundamental for many organisations. The frustration felt that the current CRM was often stifling fundraising and marketing creativity and innovation is hard felt and real.

With CRM at the heart of many fundraising strategies, I understand the envious glances made toward other organisations migrating to new cloud-based solutions such as Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics.

CRMs specifically offering greater flexibility for bespoke requirements within a standardised framework. Yet, it’s so easy to forget that Salesforce is now over 20 years old.

Accelerated by the pandemic, the perception of data shackled behind corporate networks has seen many organisations requiring flexible, accessible, and dynamic ways to manage their data.

In a sector that wants to move forward, how do charities do this in a climate of economic uncertainty and competition for in-house technology expertise against the need to drive up income?

I’ve worked predominately within the sector’s database/CRM project teams throughout my NGO career. Working with many senior leadership teams, I’ve had the unenviable task of describing the time required to review and map current operations/processes.

Organisations are acutely aware of the time and costs involved in migrating their CRM. Bill Gates’s observation that “technology applied to a crappy process will just enhance its crappiness” is also well understood. Nonetheless, it was still my job to point out that moving poor or unstructured data to any new CRM wouldn’t fix the problem of poor or unstructured data. It would just add time and costs to any migration.

The Challenges

Often, it’s challenging to step back and look at the real problem. Will migrating to a new CRM improve the current processes? Are we looking for a new CRM to house the way we work now? What do we expect our new CRM to do that our existing CRM doesn’t? What drives the need to migrate?

My battle was that I wasn’t sure there was a “better” solution for a charity-specific CRM software product over what we already had. Certainly not one which ticked every box on the organisation’s requirements list when comparing and evaluating what we already had.

It seemed impossible to accurately assess what we wanted from the new CRM if we didn’t fully understand our current processes. Had we fully understood that” flexibility to bespoke” really meant we would need to develop or purchase more addons? Who would do this and at what cost, and over how long?

I’ve worked on several CRM selection committees as both an employee and a consultant and sat through countless demos, pitches, and seminars by some of the sector’s more well-known and established providers alongside the new solutions on offer. By the end, I often thought about the compromises we would need to make and customisations/addons to purchase to make the potential CRM fit our needs.

But if we don’t fully understand those needs, aren’t we just perpetuating the “technology applied to a crappy process will just enhance its crappiness.” line?

It’s far easier to take existing processes, no matter how they were derived, and build requirements for your new CRM around these. However, this is counterintuitive. In my experience, many of the processes already in place are from a forgotten past. Or worse, they were made to fit based on the limitations of the technology we want to replace.

Today, when we also factor in the numerous upsides of the explosion in well-designed innovative fundraising platforms, we also need to consider the downsides for in-house data teams. Spiralling demand on resources to maintain integrations for multiple data channels has pushed complex in-house data engineering levels to the limits for some organisations.

It does not get any easier when considering the requirements for bespoke data warehouse solutions for better insight. Or the processes we need to manage a single source of truth. With the plethora of back-office processes requiring maintenance, many data teams are at a breaking point even before considering the implications of migration.

Trying to solve all of these problems when you are part of the in-house data team with limited resources can seem insurmountable.

The Solution

So, what is the solution?

At Giftease Solutions, we believe that the data should be at the heart of your fundraising strategies. The CRM, current or future, is one piece of the data jigsaw that makes up today’s modern data stack.

Kevin Robson

13th July 2022