Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Implementation Pitfalls

Post from Bob Bailey, 501cTECH’s resident expert.

Bob Bailey, Certified Salesforce DeveloperA new CRM is a bit like a small child: It has enormous potential to do wonderful things, but it can get into mischief if left unsupervised, and it needs consistent parental guidance to reach its full potential.

Some of you may be wondering, ‘what is a CRM anyway?’ The acronym stands for Customer Relationship Manager, although some users prefer the term Constituent. Salesforce, for example, is a leading CRM which I have covered in detail on this blog. CRMs serve three major purposes:

  • Collecting & storing information about the people and businesses with which you work.
  • Recording each time you "touch," or interact with someone in your CRM.
  • Tracking the money that comes into your organization from idea to actual checks in the bank and the thank you notes sent.

Accomplishing all of this with one system is fantastic, but it isn't magic. Remember what I said about adult supervision? Everybody in your organization must be committed to using the system, keeping it up-to-date and accurate. It must be set up properly at the outset and quirks need to be resolved quickly and properly. It must be structured so that everyone can get what they need without resorting to third-party tools like Excel or Access.

So, what are the pitfalls at implementation time? The biggest roadblock can be a lack of available client (that's you) time. The consultant who installs the system will obviously set aside the time to do the job—it's what they do—but the client sometimes doesn't anticipate the continued time investment required and has a full plate already. I can't emphasize this enough: the job simply cannot be done successfully without client involvement. Only the client knows what the data means, what's important and what's not, who has a relationship with whom, how the organization relates to its constituency, etc. Make sure you dedicate enough staff time to get the job done.

The next pitfall is data. Dirty, filthy, disorganized data. Your consultant will have tools and techniques for cleaning and organizing your data, just be sure that you do two things:

First, air out all the dirty laundry from the get-go; don't hold back.


Second, set aside the time and staff to review the consultant's work in progress. Look over his or her shoulder, review the results at every step, ask about and use good quality control techniques at every turn. Ask questions.

Finally, a CRM is an institutional project. It's not just two or three people who decide to do it and use it. Everyone in the organization has a stake in the outcome and everyone must be involved, must believe in the project and do their part. Too many projects have failed because the CEO or ED were too busy to be involved or do their part. Make sure that you know what everyone wants to get out of the system and then make sure it is delivered.
Help that small child grow into a successful adulthood with many productive years ahead.

Topics: it, 501c3, nonprofits, technology, Salesforce, Technology Tips, non-profit technology

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