By Lori Stirling, Sr. Vice President of Advancement Strategy

Implementing your advancement department’s new CRM is an exciting process that has the potential to revolutionize the way you work. At Affinaquest I have seen the transformative power a successful CRM implementation can have for our clients, yet I also know starting the journey can seem daunting. To help you prepare for a CRM implementation, I’ve outlined 6 key factors to consider. 

1. Plan Intentionally

An effective implementation plan starts with realistic expectations for scope, staffing, and timelines. Managers often assume that implementation timelines are exclusively determined by an upcoming event, like the launch of a campaign. But in reality, timelines are more often determined by decisions related to scope and staffing.    

In your planning, examine and document your existing processes. By understanding your current processes, you’ll better understand the workload required for implementation. If you’ve been on a legacy system for decades, there are years of integrations, reports, and processes that will need to be assessed.  

 Next, identify the key staff necessary to make the implementation a success. It is important to evaluate workload and ensure that your staff will have the time and resources to manage implementation.  Will staff be required to do their day-to-day operational tasks in addition to implementation-related work?  Or will you be backfilling with temporary staff? Temporary staff will need to be trained and get up to speed with your business processes, which will impact resource availability and timeline.   

 2. Communicate Regularly 

Whether you’re a firsttimer or have in-depth experience in implementation, a full understanding of how the implementation will affect your organization is of paramount importance.  Specifically, your organization will want to focus on understanding how day-to-day work will be affected, whether their work can be simplified with the new CRM, and how and when training can be provided to maximize the effect of the implementation. In all of these cases, clarity and transparency help ease the transition and reduce uncertainty, especially for staff who may be resistant to change. Because we are creatures of habit, changing or introducing new processes can introduce fear and ambiguity. To help ease these feelings, remember: there is no such thing as too much communication. 

3. Train Early and Often 

Everyone wants to succeed, and training is what allows them to do so. Before implementation starts, encourage and set aside time for the team to start self-paced online training.  Salesforce Trailhead is a free online learning platform where you can learn the various elements of the Salesforce platform. When your implementation kicks  off, continue training initiatives by providing robust initial training for the roles involved in implementation, along with regular show and tells, and plan for comprehensive mandatory go-live training;  your staff will be prepared and have the skills needed to be more effective.  

 4. Focus on Outcomes to Define Processes 

Implementing a new CRM isn’t about gaining a new tool to use; rather it’s about gaining an entirely new technological system that will make your processes easier to use and more efficient.  As you prepare for a CRM implementation, focus on documenting outcomes rather than the specific steps you might have taken with your legacy system. This will help you identify the unique processes you may want to incorporate and streamline.  While Affinaquest has woven many standard processes and automation into Advancement RM, we also endeavor to streamline the unique processes of every one of our clients.  

  5. Know Your Data 

Know the difference between data you regularly use and data never reported on or called for. Don’t bring data into Affinaquest simply because it exists in your legacy system. Evaluate who uses the data, when it was last updated, how complete it is, and most importantly, who stewards the data. If the data is not ‘working’ for you consider archiving it, don’t clutter up your new CRM with passive and unproductive data. To ensure data is ‘working’ for you in the future, look for ways to keep it clean by adding validations and rules; data consistency will ensure good reporting.  

6. Get Support from Leadership, Managers and End Users  

Change is hard, and support is critical. A technology change is an organizational endeavor, not just the responsibility of the core team assigned to implement it.  Educate leadership, managers, and end users about how to embrace change, support new and innovative ideas, and encourage conversations.   

Everyone is busy and people will miss meetings or critical emails.  At some point, staff members will express concerns over how changes will impact their work or may need more time to embrace new processes.  Ongoing support, encouragement, and patience are essential to effectively adopt new technology and achieve the desired outcomes.  

The Affinaquest team has completed hundreds of successful implementations and can provide insights, advice, and counsel in supporting your success. CRM implementation is a big task, but rest assured that our talented and experienced team is here to provide support every step of the way! 

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