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CRM Adoption: It’s not a Marathon, It’s a Triathlon

Picture this: you have a count-down clock, ticking down with single digits left. Conversion of data has been tested. Training engaged the whole team. You’re ready for go-live….except you’re not. You’re not because Go-Live is, best case, just the middle of the process. And, this is a problem because:

  • Leadership thinks the “go-live” means “project complete”.
  • Finance thinks the fiscal spigot can be turned off.
  • Field officers think they know just how to use the system.
  • A raft of reports, business process re-engineering, and other steps remain.
  • Oh, and you need to see whether the year-end procedures that work in principle will work in reality…in 9-12 months.

Expectation management that starts in #CRMSelection and carries through to #CRMImplementation must be an ongoing part of #CRMAdoption. For starters, system transitions (I often use “transition” or “replacement” to indicate that these changes are more than a conversion, etc.) have very long tails. Even though the volume of work happens in the first 1-2 years, another few years are often necessary to really refine, leverage, and optimize the new system. This means that, as one of my most contented and expert CRM clients experienced in their journey, a 5-year plan and budget is a smart way to go.

After good planning and a reasonable budget, the starting point for solid adoption is basic: great data. Trusted data, converted correctly from the old system. While this seems like a “didn’t go-live cover this” item, many of my clients find either issues for months or change their minds about data codes, locations, applications, etc. such that back-end global changes are necessary.

Reporting is often the epitome of post Go-Live pain point. It is hard for your colleagues to adopt the new database if they cannot get data outputs. My rule of thumb for any system transition is simply that “great reports mean great transitions”. Such reporting requires shared definitions, thoughtful calculations, mastery of new tools, and other benefits to long-term adoption.

Integrations with other systems present another likely post Go-Live adoption. Typically, things like the feed to Finance are ready to roll before conversion is complete.  However, often patient feeds, student feeds, parent feeds, athletics feeds, online engagement tool feeds, etc. may not be in place at Go-Live. One client recently made the mistake of going live without a functioning feed to a high-volume gift generation foundation, only to be crippled by the extra dozen+ batches of gifts to manually handle each day.

Training is another core consideration for effective adoption. For starters, Training is not a spectator sport and should extend permanently after Go-Live. Training options should be varied (in-person, desk-side, computer-based) and be paired with accurate, update documentation. New staff on-boarding should be factored in.

#CRMAdoption is more than a Marathon

Go-Live as the Middle of the Race

I’ve always been a fan of the explanatory power of metaphors and similes, especially sports metaphors. “Crossing the finish line,” “Being a good team member,” “Handing off the ball” all make complicated things clearer (for me at least). So here is a way to sum it up:

Go-Live is more like finishing the cycling leg of a triathlon. You haven’t crossed the finish line yet. The good news is you didn’t drown during #CRMSelection and now #CRMImplementation is mostly complete….but you still have a pesky marathon to run.  Adoption requires all of those items above–data, reporting, integration, training–to be successful. And, too often, organizations go live well before they were ready for it.

Many say that a conversion is a marathon and not a sprint, but to fully transition to a new system, it’s more like a triathlon.

Do you have any good CRM-related metaphors? I’d love to hear ’em. ~Chris

5 Considerations for Successful CRM Implementation

I (well, the whole Zuri team, really) have the good fortune of helping dozens of clients figure out their successful CRM Implementation. Should they stay or should they go? Go where? When? How much will it take? And, what should they do about that athletics/marketing automation/grateful patient/data analytics/[insert here] tool? A well-organized selection process (see some ideas on that here) should have you well-positioned. And, ideally these 5 considerations for successful CRM implementation should be dialed in…but, too often, they remain unresolved after selection and can derail implementation.

Once you sign, there will seem like a million issues to consider as CRM implementation begins. Of course, things like an effective kick-off week are important. Logistics, understanding current state practices, etc., etc. all matter. But, as the saying goes “some animals are more equal than others”. As your team is wrestling with getting office space and picking an issues management tool (you know, the easy stuff), here are five things that you MUST handle:

  1. Culture. The thought leader Peter Drucker stated that “culture eats your strategy for lunch.” All of the planning in the world can fail if you ignore culture. This means analyzing who has hard and soft power in the process, aligning project components with the right players, and maintaining open communications. This also means including the least engaged (and sometimes most hostile) people.
  2. Gaps. Whatever you buy, no matter how expensive your new CRM, it will have some gaps. Identifying and understanding these is essential to the project’s success. “Gap” may mean some customization that your vendor will build (but has never been done before, may not work, and may push your go-live by 6 months!). “Gap” may mean that Alumni keeps their online engagement tool, despite the potential for moving all functions into one stack. Being thorough and honest here is critical.
  3. Risks. Culture+Gaps=Risks (well, sort of, you get the point). Of course, not all issues, gaps, or obstacles are really risks. You should track those issues that are identifying, under control, and will require time and attention. But, some things are monsters! Will that Dean go rogue? Did the board approve a budget with enough resources? Will your vendor deliver on time and on budget, despite a track record of overages and shortcomings?
  4. Timing. Too fast will kill you and too slow will bore you. For big shop, under a year is a pipe dream (and someone will get fired). Much over two years doesn’t tend to match how organizations function, how long leadership stays in place, campaign targets, and other realities. Dialing in culture, spec’ing the gaps, and protecting against risks will help you determine the right length of time. There is also the small matter of when to get started as key institutional dates and calendar and fiscal year-end realities must be accommodated.
  5. Expectations. When you blend the other four considerations, you will be stuck with countervailing forces…don’t go too fast or too slow…work this into the organization’s calendar that never seems to have a down moment…sell folks on the 360 degree view of CRM knowing it has gaps…persuade folks that technology is key when offline principal and major gifts may drive the bus…which all boils down to managing expectations. A project charter is a great start. Weekly updates, transparency, one-offs with key players, a Champions Committee, and other steps will help. Being disciplined and focused is important. Expectation management cannot be underestimated in successful CRM implementations.

And, one last thought: inherent in all of these considerations is that perhaps most important to success is to be honest. Honest about culture, gaps, risks, timing, and expectations. Because, as we all know, this will be a marathon and not a sprint, it will take a village, and, whenever possible, avoid mirroring the Dilbert cartoons (see below).

Kidding (yourselves) will be counterproductive

Fiscal Year End in a Brave New World

This year seems a bit different for many in the advancement operations business around the U.S. Volume seems lower, as supported by this helpful if a bit depressing NonProfitTimes piece.  In addition, certain giving areas–athletics in higher education for instance–are operating in a gray-ish area due to tax reform changes, new motivations for potential donors, and other large-scale factors.

By now,  your team’s game plan should be clear and underway. The following tips are hopefully just reinforcement for the smart practices you already have in place.

So, if you’re approaching your fiscal year end, here are a few tips:

  1. Scour LYBUNTS: If you don’t a marked-up LYBUNT list now, start one…figure out for whom you need better data and from whom you simply haven’t received a gift. There is still time–THIS WEEK!–to make a difference with a few donors.
  2. Make an extra push: Email is inexpensive. Use some new messages (see point #5 below) and try to win over a few more hearts and minds.
  3. Step up Stewardship: Tell folks who have already given that they’ve made a difference. Tell a new story about the impact of philanthropy on your organization. Consider prominent placement of the organization’s website for the rest of the week. Again, there is still time.
  4. Communicate Internally: No check left behind! Make sure that your colleagues know, understand, and will follow industry-standard practices to send all checks into the gift administration team asap. Remind folks that this is also a great chance to follow up on any open proposals one last time.
  5. Be Open Externally: If you’re down, let your constituents know.  Some of your donors surely like data and many will appreciate being informed. The cause(s) may remain for examination, but wouldn’t it be healthy to reach out to folks and ask why they decided not to give this year? That could then inform next year’s approaches.

There are dozens of other steps to take (most of which should have been initiated months ago). These last few steps this week will help make the most of a potentially slower season.

Do you have other ideas, comments, or experiences with your team’s 2018 year-end activities and volume? Share them in the comments. We can all learn some new tips and tricks this way.

6 Considerations for the #ConsultantContinuum

Every week, I have a chance to talk with someone in the industry about “becoming a consultant”. I love helping anyone understand what their professional vocation should be. These calls trend toward a handful of common themes–thought leadership, travel, doing vs. winning the work, etc. As a result of these discussions, I’ve distilled the six primary considerations when you’re wondering whether consulting is for you.

All of these considerations operate along a #consultantcontinuum. Think, “travel all the time” to “no travel”or “pre-set salary” versus “paid only when you bill”.  So, when looking below, consider where you feel comfortable compared to what the consulting gig may offer. Be honest! You can lie to yourself about “traveling being fine if it’s only 50% of the time” only to realize that this means 125 nights in a hotel each year. In my case, that’s great for my Hilton Honors account and hard on my family.

Where are you along the Continuum?

Consulting Consideration Continuum
Considerations for the #ConsultantContinuum

So, Consideration 1: are you a thought leader or a great “do-er”? This is really the difference between consulting and contracting, where “leading” is better but harder. If you don’t like to write and present, leading is hard to achieve.

Consideration 2 involves “Travel.” If you won’t/don’t travel, there’s a good chance you can be successful locally but limited regionally, which diminishes your impact.

Consideration 3 involves how you’ll earn compensation. If you need to bill a client for work in order to be paid, there is more risk (and likely more reward via bonuses).

Consideration 4 concerns whether you need to get your own work or will be given work by others. By far, the more work you “get”, the more challenging your consulting may be (due to constraints on time, competition, etc.).

Consideration 5 (Team v. Solo) relates to whether you will be a solo practitioner (which can be lonely and risky) to a team-based consultant, which comes with its own pros and cons. If you love QuickBooks, then solo is more viable.

Finally, consideration 6 reflects the type of consultant you want to be. Are you a “coach” or a “contrarian”. My experience is that coach-based consultants tend to balance these considerations better while contrarians gain their credibility by focusing on often-minor findings, and frequently burnout their clients and themselves.

Where do you land? In my opinion, the closer you are to the left side of the #consultantcontinuum, the more likely you will enjoy consulting and its rewards. Not a thought leader, no biggie but the authors and speakers in your niche will eat your lunch. Not one for travel? Local consulting can work but most pools are shallow. Looking for a salary guarantee regardless of billings? You may be in the wrong place. And, finally, if you want to be “right” more than be “helpful”, you may be a great consultant but your clients may beg to differ.

So, what did I miss? Where do you put yourself here? Would you like to talk about consulting? If so, drop me a line. And, best of luck figuring this out.

 

 

Curious what the future holds for us? Check out investor guidance from our market’s leader

Are you wondering what the year has in store for the nonprofit industry? One great place to look for such guidance are the public filings of Blackbaud, one of the industry’s leaders in advancement tech.

Have a look at their most recent filing to get a sense of where they see the market ($7 billion in “total available market” seems a little aggressive) and where they’re investing (payments, finance, and a few other areas have the least penetration and the most potential).

Click here for this interesting view into the advancement industry.

 

 

3 Glimpses at New Advancement Technology Survey Data

EverTrue and Zuri Group partnered this fall to conduct a survey of advancement professionals to understand current sentiment about the advancement technology landscape. It’s a big study, with dozens of questions and hundreds of respondents. We are just getting started with the analysis. Here’s a quick glimpse into the our survey in advance of the AASP Summit #AASP16.

The survey reached a broad group: 646 responses from 434 institutions. And these respondents represent all aspects of advancement, including 11% among vice presidents and nearly 180 advancement services professionals. Here’s the breakdown by role and area:

While our analysis has just started, one important reporting issue jumped out at us: while reports are considered useful, access to reporting is considered a real problem. These two charts show that satisfaction is much greater for reports than for users’ access to them. This raises the obvious challenge–how do we make our often inefficient, sometimes hand-crafted reports more readily available for consumption?

We are working on a thorough report from these survey results. In the meantime, ask yourself whether your useful reports are less accessible than your users would like. If so, consider automated dissemination of reports (think: monthly email blasts, ideally with links to secure locations), dashboards, and self-service functions that will put data in users hands more effectively. If you’ll be at #AASP16, let’s connect and discuss what we’re seeing in our technology landscape.

Update: the full survey is now available here. What we found overall was that this dissatisfaction with technology is endemic. None of the areas had significant satisfaction levels. Particularly when we think of the “it’s ok” response as an indicator of mediocrity, the results are clear: advancement technology is not meeting users needs. As we move away from the basics (database of record, gift handling), we find the satisfaction goes down. So, the opportunity we face is that more complex and innovative needs require the most attention. Let’s hope we can get better and better tools to move the needle from mediocrity to magnificence.

Donor Data Management position

If you’ve interested in steering the Blackbaud CRM implementation at a complex, multi-state health system, this manager of donor data management position in the Detroit area will be a great opportunity. Trinity is a wonderful employer and the leadership for this area is seeking a partner. Have a look at the position description (here) or click here for Trinity’s HR site.

3 change management lessons learned from (attempted) travel this week

Many of us have been affected by this significant snow storm, most much worse than me. I was set to travel to LaGuardia tonight but the travel gods had other plans. This puts me in a pickle. I was heading to a client site and we have a great deal to cover.

As I waited to hear back about my airline alternatives to get to the NYC area before heading to LA this week, a few “ah-ha” moments popped to mind:

  1. Know your resources. When you’re in a bind, great problem-solving resources are essential. Do you have the right numbers in your contacts? Can you have someone help solve one problem (flights) while you solve another (rental cars). If not, get prepared for the unexpected. This approach–having plans B-Z and assignable resources in the wings–is also vital for great change management.
  2. Focus on the fixable. Being mad about the snow is like being mad about the sunrise. However, planning and preparation might make it easier to focus on what can be fixed. Could I fly, for example, to any of the other airports in the area? Can we still cover our subject matter remotely (yep!)? When can I get back to the area (two weeks!)? So, while not ideal, this change isn’t going  undo progress and there is no sense becoming unhinged about those things outside of my control.
  3. Prioritize your outcomes. In rough weather travel, as with change management, some things matter more than most. With travel, your wallet and passport can solve a ton of problems. With other changes, having your key stakeholders on board with a new direction in the face of change can make all of the difference.

As the great Mick Jagger once said (over and over again) “you can’t always get what you want”…which is so true in the case of travel and change management. As he told me “If you try sometimes, you might find you get what you need.” In my case, I now need to get to California. Safe travels!

007+Q=Awesome Advancement Services

Have you seen Spectre, the newest 007 edition? It’s great fun. As with recent Bond films, Advancement Services and 007technology and data play an increasingly important role in achieving success. Sound familiar? I had an “ah-ha” moment during the film that the great and vital coupling of 007 and Q  (Bond’s resident tech-leveraging geek) is like the best advancement services shops. It might help your team to think the same. Here’s why:

  1. Partnership. The movies show a team that works together for a common cause. Each team member has a role and, if they perform it well, the other is clearly buoyed.
  2. Anticipation. Q is working hard in advance of requests from 007. In our profession, we should be, too. Instead, I see too many of us waiting for specs from folks who frankly may not know (how to ask for) what they want until they see “it”. So, with Q, he has “it” produced so 007 can assess and use what makes his job easier.
  3. Acceptance. Bond will be Bond. He steals a car, oh well. He escapes a government-mandated lock-down…well, what did you expect, he has to go save the world. Does Q stop supporting his colleague? Nope. He realizes that 007’s skill set is such that following the rules may not fly at times. The same goes for our best fundraising colleagues. Instead of chastising, Q enables in order to get the most out of a top performing employee. We should do the same with better service (such as via admin support), better self-service, and more understanding of the rigors of international spy…er, fundraising work.
  4. Quality. At the end of the day, Q produces amazing products that serve 007’s needs, which keeps 007 coming back for more. That sort of quality-based symbiotic is what we all need in our shops. Brand, look-and-feel, ease of access, accuracy–all of these play a role in our colleagues’ perception of the quality we produce.

Am I missing a few key details? Yes. At one point in the film, Q mentions a prototype cost the Queen 3 billion pounds. Most of us don’t have that budget lying around, do we? Our work is sometimes more mundane than saving the planet from evil, so the urgency and intensity of our roles will be different. And, we all know that not everyone in the British intelligence agency gets as much attention as Bond, which is similar to what happens in our own teams. But, as with any good film, we shouldn’t let reality get in the way of a good plot.

Those potential obstacles (and probably dozens of other objections) notwithstanding, think for a minute about your advancement services shop as Q partnering with 007, anticipating needs and accepting “shortcomings” while delivering the level of quality that keeps the user coming back for more. Sounds pretty good doesn’t it? Get to it, Q.