I was asked the other day by a CEO when his organization's CRM system would "launch". Coming from a concert-producing world, I can see why he would expect our preparations to lead to one big switchover day, when all his staff logged in with lights blazing and music playing. It was hard to tell him that I didn't think we could have a launch like that, and here are three reasons why:
- Not all of his staff will be ready to use the system on the same day
- It won't be the end of my work with the organization (unlike the director of the show)
- Installing the CRM is not the real story - it's just the supporting act for the stars that will follow.
There isn't going to be just one day on which all of his staff turn into regular users of the CRM system. Each team has different ways that they want to use CRM, and therefore have different demands from the system. Development have asked for additional contact fields to create a detailed picture of individual patrons. Marketing requested sophisticated reports by type of show for some big picture analysis. The Membership team requires custom functionality to serve patrons who pay for VIP privileges. As well as the varying requests, each team has a different timescale for implementation and training, and some are already using "their" features. Marketing have their reports and Development are logging new donations daily, so they've already "launched". Membership are still testing, but their customizations take the most time to build. Most organizations try to launch in stages, maybe development first, and then ticketing, so that both users and patrons have time to get used to the new features.
The CEO's expectation is that the "launch" will be the last day of work for me and my consulting colleagues, as the first night of a show is for the director or designers. Well, I don't have to log the extra hours, but experience has shown me that the day on which people move out of testing mode, abandon their Excel spreadsheets or backs of envelopes, and start trying to complete their tasks in the new system is just the beginning of the next phase of my work. I can try to anticipate the questions, and think ahead to create what they need, but it's impossible to predict everything that will occur to them when they do it "for real". There's also a confidence hurdle to overcome, as users learn that they can find the information for themselves or that they won't delete everything by mistake. The first few days of use generate a batch of new queries and fixes (and then, of course, as the users get more confident, come the next set of "now how do I do this?" questions).
Finally, and most importantly, I'm not convinced that the setup of a new CRM system in itself is something to make a fuss about. When I was learning to be a stage manager, people used to tell me that if my work was really good it wouldn't be noticed. Stage management isn't the show, it's just part of the framework that supports it. A performance can be memorable for the story being told, for the skill of the actors, or for the striking design. If it is memorable because of the stage management (or the lack of it) then it's a problem. I think the same way about a good CRM implementation: it's not about the brilliance or otherwise of the tool itself, it's about how it supports the real "show" in helping the staff raise more funds or bring in new audiences - in short - in serving the organization's mission. If the staff get to the end of the season and have fundamentally changed what they know about and how they respond to their audience, then the implementation has been a success.
So what would my alternative "launch" be? It would be the day when the organization can announce that new memberships have doubled in the last six months, or that they've received several multi-year gifts from first time donors. No-one would need to mention the CRM specifically, because they'd already know that it was helping them be more effective in their work every day. Now that would be worth making a song and dance about!