Why are on-time, within budget conversions so elusive in the nonprofit world?

Which of the following two scenarios characterizes the last CRM conversion story you heard?

  • On-time and within the original budget quoted by your CRM company?
  • A nightmare of substantial delays and cost overruns, sometimes measured in years and millions of dollars?

Unfortunately, in the nonprofit world the answer to this question is too often the nightmare scenario: implementations that have taken two, three and four years with costs that are double, triple or quadruple the original proposed implementation and conversion cost.

Even after the “go-live” date, there are stories of gift batches that cannot be uploaded, campaign data that cannot be output to marketing vendors, critical reports that are missing, and fundraising gifts reported by Development that do not tie out to the general ledger revenues.

What is Going Wrong?

Why are there so many nonprofit organizations that have their own stories about the nightmare scenario and, even worse, stories about failed implementations?

Years ago back in the mainframe computer era, The IBM Corporation defined an operating principle that has proven true in every complex software implementation ever since:

The success of a new CRM installation is 30% due to the technology and 70% due to the implementation & conversion approach taken by the CRM company.

This doesn’t mean that the CRM technology itself isn’t really important, but rather, the implementation approach is more than twice as important to CRM success than the CRM technology itself.

Stepping back for a minute, consider the CRM evaluation and selection process as the first step in securing a new CRM.  Generally, the process focuses the evaluation and decision-making almost exclusively on the functions and features of the CRM technologies being evaluated. As a result, it ignores this important, long standing operating principle.

Because the implementation is downplayed and often overshadowed by slick demos, each CRM company’s implementation approach does not receive the detailed scrutiny and due diligence that it deserves during the CRM evaluation and selection process. Consequently, many non-profit organizations inadvertently select a CRM vendor that does not have a successful track record of smooth, on-time, within budget CRM conversions.

There is a second reason why there are so many nightmare CRM conversions: the implementation approaches used by many CRM vendors are poorly conceived. Specifically, during the CRM proposal process, CRM vendors spend an insufficient amount of time thinking about properly scoping, prioritizing and then budgeting for the work to be done before the go live date. As a result, the conversion project scope is underestimated, leading to inadequate staffing and project delays.

When a CRM conversion project experiences serious delays of more than a year, often staff turnover at the CRM vendor and the organization will further disrupt the implementation timeline and generate additional budget overruns.

Implications for a NonProfit Organization Evaluating CRM Alternatives.

Doing the due diligence on a CRM company’s implementation and conversion approach is not rocket surgery. It does not require that you understand the nuances of each company’s approach.

The main question: is the approach successful? To answer this question, ask each CRM company’s client references the following questions:

  • When did you start your conversion?
  • Is your new CRM live yet?
  • If not, when it is projected to go live?
  • Did the CRM company exceed its quoted implementation & conversion cost?
  • If so, how does the original quote compare to the projected cost to complete?

In other words, check the implementation and conversion track records of each CRM company that you are considering.

ROI Solutions: Our 100% On-time, Within Budget Implementation Track Record.

ROI Solutions is proud of the fact that we have a track record of having converted 100% of our clients on-time and within the quoted, not-to-exceed implementation & conversion fees in our proposals. No other CRM company in the nonprofit space can make this claim.

We recommend a six-month conversion timeframe from the time that we receive the data from a new client until the go live date. In some cases, a client will ask for an eight- or nine-month timeframe for internal reasons.  In emergency situations when clients needed to be off of their existing CRMs in less than six months, we have converted these clients in as few as three months but do not recommend it.   

Just ask our clients about our track record, our people and our company culture.

How Is a Six-Month On-time, Within Budget CRM Conversion Even Possible?

ROI Solutions has a completely different approach to CRM implementations and conversions developed during the sixteen years that we have been helping our nonprofit clients.

Some but not all of the unique elements of this approach include a laser-like focus on the critical business requirements necessary for constituent satisfaction on the go live date, an inverted approach to data conversion, a way to manage project scope, extensive integration experience with many diverse technologies in the ROI Solutions ecosystem, and an unwavering commitment to the planning needed to ensure that the target go live date and the quoted, not-to-exceed implementation & conversion cost are both achieved.

ROI Solutions welcomes the opportunity to meet with you as you consider starting into your next CRM evaluation and selection process.

This is the first in a series of white papers to help nonprofit organizations make an informed decision and achieve a successful outcome when selecting their next CRM company and CRM.