Five Steps to Advancement CRM Selection Readiness

Senior Analyst

Top of Mind: Five Steps to Advancement CRM Selection Readiness
Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

Embarking on a selection process for a modern advancement CRM can be a significant undertaking that requires as much time and planning as the process for other enterprise administrative selections such as finance, HCM, and student. Taking the time to execute a selection readiness effort can help ensure a smooth, data-driven process that ultimately leads to an optimal choice for your institution. This blog post reviews five basic steps that can lead to selection readiness.

Ensure Top-Down and Bottom-Up Alignment

Before institutions embark on an advancement CRM selection, all stakeholders must be on board and in alignment. Advancement CRM platforms are complex enterprise systems and require all hands on deck to ensure a smooth and successful deployment. Tambellini occasionally encounters situations in which selections have been either mandated from the top down or spearheaded from the bottom up, and they invariably run into issues.

As with all enterprise implementations, executive-level support is required to drive user participation and adoption, as well as to help institutions break down organizational barriers and guide staff through difficult decisions that any enterprise-wide change can bring. Likewise, the support and commitment of key functional and technical stakeholders and end-users is essential to the successful deployment and adoption of an advancement CRM platform. Institutions seeking advancement modernization should ensure alignment between different groups within the organization before moving forward with selection and implementation.

Formulate a Vision and Change Leadership Strategy

Successful selection and implementation projects require a clear purpose and vision with realistic and clearly defined goals. An institution’s vision should describe the purpose of the initiative, identify realistic goals, and define the organizational dimensions (people, processes, technology). It should also specify the mission, explain what success looks like, and define key performance indicators. Institutions should pair their vision with a change leadership strategy that starts on day one of the advancement
CRM selection process.

In order to define their vision, institutional leaders need to have a firm understanding of current advancement gaps, challenges, and requirements, including the current state of data integrity, inefficient business processes that are ripe for automation, data access and reporting requirements, engagement needs, and revamps to third-party solutions. It is almost impossible to successfully select and deploy an enterprise application without having a clear vision of what you want and need, and what success will look like to your organization. Institutions that do not set a vision risk implementing a new platform using legacy business processes that do not optimize the capabilities and efficiencies of a modern advancement CRM system.

Understand the Advancement CRM Landscape

The modern advancement CRM market is broad, with many vendor solutions and a wide range of capabilities and costs. Institutions should allow themselves enough time to thoroughly evaluate the market and identify viable vendor solutions that fit their requirements and budget. In general, you should allow between six and 12 months for the advancement CRM data-gathering phase, which includes

  • Understanding the advancement ecosystem
  • Networking with peers and other institutions that have recently selected an advancement CRM solution
  • Meeting with vendors for demonstrations and presentations

As part of the advancement CRM education phase, you should also gather budgetary estimates for each vendor solution early in the process. Cost is a key factor in any software selection and can be used to refine your list of viable solutions.

Ensure Data Integrity

The integrity of your advancement data can significantly impact data migration efforts. Another imperative selection readiness task is assessing, cleaning, and categorizing your data. During this effort, the advancement data should be thoroughly vetted and identify any missing, inconsistent, misspelled, duplicate, custom, stale, and inaccurate items. Ideally, this data cleanup effort should start well before any type of selection project kicks off. It is always easier to clean data on the system you know rather than on a new one. Also, ensuring that data is clean prior to migration will pay dividends post-go-live. Once your data is vetted for cleanliness, take the opportunity to archive or purge stale data and eliminate anything deemed inconsequential.

Plan for Staffing Changes

Another critical selection readiness task is planning for necessary staffing to support a new advancement CRM system. You can start with cataloging the current skillsets of your staff, the new skillsets needed, and your runway to reskill the organization. A common practice is for Advancement Services to support the functional aspects of the new system and for IT to provide support for more technical aspects such as integrations and sometimes CRM.

Since there will be a significant learning curve for everyone early in the project, many institutions hire a consultant with experience in the selected platform to serve as an internal project manager. In addition, some institutions bring in a certified CRM consultant for the first year, and many end up staying with the institution. Lastly, planning and having contingencies in place will help you through issues such as turnover and improving staff competency.

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Mary Beth Cahill |

Senior Analyst

Mary Beth Cahill
As a senior analyst for Tambellini Group, Mary Beth Cahill focuses her research on CRM and advancement initiatives. She has led numerous research efforts, specifically in vendor administrative systems and student information systems (SIS) software solutions, data and learning analytics, CRM, learning management, and social networking. Mary Beth is also the co-author of several published industry reports, including Tambellini Group's "Upgrade or Replace" and "Vendor Review" series of reports.

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