Friday, February 10, 2012

Saving now to spend later?

I was talking earlier in the week to a colleague who runs a performing arts center about his recent decision to buy two separate software systems - one for ticketing and one for development - instead of an all-in-one Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system.  It seems that he was motivated by an aggressive end of the year discount from one company and the promise of a free iPad by the other.

What he said has been troubling me for the last few days: we'd previously discussed that his development staff were at a disadvantage by trying to work with a few donor management tools tacked onto their previous ticketing system, and how important it seemed to redress the balance.  Certainly getting dedicated donor software will help with this, but at the same time, the organization has thrown away a chance to look at their patrons holistically, by having ticket buying and donation history in the same place, alongside all the communications they have with each patron.

But I'm already convinced by the promise of CRM, and I've accepted that compromising on some specialist functionality (in this case to do with ticket discount offers) is worth it for the benefits that having everything in the same database brings (both to the organization and to their patrons).  Perhaps I'm just not doing a good job of explaining to others why I've "seen the light".

I also realize that CRM is a difficult concept to pitch to an executive and staff users at the same time.  What looks like a benefit to an executive (having everyone "on the same page" will save time and mistakes and offer better customer service) may look like a threat to a staff user (why do I have to ask for all this extra information for development when I'm just trying to sell someone a ticket?  or conversely, why does our potential donor list have to be cluttered up with all these anonymous sales and comps?).  Many legacy box office systems take a long time to master, and the prospect of relearning a whole way of doing things for the perceived benefit of development colleagues is one that many audience service managers dread.  In that case, it needs strong executive leadership to win everyone over, and to bring about the general shift in organizational thinking that adopting CRM requires.

Later in the same conversation, the colleague was telling me that the organization's new strategic plan is all about focusing their programming (more music, less spoken word) and how they will grow their audiences through this.   And I asked myself, how are you going to really learn what your audiences want if you've just split up all that you know about them between two data systems that don't talk to each other?   Are you going to get the insights you'll need from exporting two separate reports and trying to stitch them back together in Excel?  I'm sure he loves the new iPad, but I can't help feeling that this an opportunity missed to lead the organization in its new strategic direction with the right tools for all the staff to do their jobs.  I hope he won't find that the cheapest solution now is just putting off expense and hard work in the future.

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