Managing Change for Successful CRM Implementation

Preparing for technology change

Here’s the simple truth: you cannot have a completely successful constituent relationship management (CRM) implementation without closely managing the organizational change it entails. While most discussions will center around the technological aspects of implementing a new platform or ecosystem the single most important thing you can do is to prioritize the people who will interact with it.

Change Management is the fundamental task of preparing and supporting the people in your organization for accepting new ways of doing things. In more technical terms, it is the use of targeted strategy and tools to enable organizations to transition through technology and operation planning and implementation. To do this successfully takes the input and cooperation of a lot of people inside and outside your organization. It’s crucial to get all stakeholders, decision-makers, and users in on the discussions.

Now, while it may appear to be more efficient to keep the process relatively limited, keeping tight reins on CRM implementation input may come back to bite you. By including everyone affected by CRM decisions in the planning process you’re able to develop a more accurate picture of what’s needed from your CRM system; gain insight into potential challenges; and be able to make better, more informed decisions about its functionality, capabilities, ease-of-use, and value.

Introduce everyone to the system and the changes it brings

Introducing people to the system early on helps support implementation – those individuals using the system as well as those being helped by it. Stakeholders should receive information about how the system can function, what decisions they’ll be asked to make, and their role during implementation. This enables them to be better participants in the process, and it more effectively gains their “buy-in” – creating the feeling that this is “their CRM,” and not something being forced upon them.

The evolution of technology has created an exponentially greater need for technical  skills, so part of the change process may include developing new  skill sets within your current staff or hiring new employees who already possess them. All technology decisions are now strategic, requiring someone on staff with extensive  knowledge and experience to effectively manage and maintain this new, integrated CRM technology as well as manage a growing number of  vendors. To avoid a less-than-optimal implementation and user backlash, it’s important to keep your workforce in mind and introduce new CRM policies and technologies at an appropriate pace.

Change is good. A lot of change may not be better.

If some aspect of your CRM implementation isn’t working as well as it should be, you might feel pressured to implement significant changes quickly in a well-intentioned effort to address poor performance and reduce the risk of increased inefficiencies. The problem with this is that too many changes all at once can have a negative impact on your employees’ productivity and constituent relationships.

Every nonprofit has its own unique challenges and even the best laid CRM strategy and implementation plans can hit some bumps somewhere along the line. Accept this fact and be willing to reevaluate your approach if it becomes apparent that something isn’t working as well as it could be. Remember, knowing what is ineffective is as valuable as knowing what is effective, so embrace every opportunity to identify weaknesses in your system and be willing to correct them along the way.

The evolution of CRM has led many nonprofit organizations to create new “people infrastructures” underpinning the overall ecosystem. As CRM has become increasingly sophisticated and complex it is now requiring a blend of strategic “thinkers” and tactical “doers” to visualize and build more robust and flexible IT environments.

However, it’s important to remember that the technology by itself is incapable of helping your organization reach its goals and achieve its mission. But when combined with a detailed-yet-flexible business strategy, CRM can help you prioritize people. It may take time, effort, and several cycles of adjustments. But if you make it a point to develop the right strategy and embrace comprehensive change management, you’ll find that CRM has the potential to add value to your relationships with those who serve and are served by your organization.

For more on this topic, download our free guide: Understanding CRM for Nonprofits

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