If you are of a certain generation you knew a time without all of the technology that we have today; I am of that generation. With the introduction of technology, especially in those early days of the 1980s and 1990s software was something that you purchased off a shelf on disks or CDs! Software was a product that was used to do a specific job. Sometimes it worked well and sometimes it didn’t. If the software was a major purchase for an organization, a fundraising or ticketing system, the commonly held perception was that once you purchased the software you were in for the long term. In fact, many software companies made the technology so proprietary that it was difficult to change to another product even if you tired. Times, however, have changed. If you aren’t holding your technology accountable then you are missing an opportunity to grow your business. In fact, your technology could very well be hurting your business.
So how do you evaluate your technology?
Process, People, Technology
Before you dive into any software solution it is important to start with these three concepts. If you think about the operations in your organizations they are nothing more than a collection of processes that are performed by people. Every decision made should be influenced by a set of processes. Let’s look at a simple example.
New customers are always coming into contact with your organization. They might attend a performance, exhibition, special event or other function.
- What is the process through which information is captured about these customers?
- What is the process that the customer goes through when they actually attend?
- What is the process that the organization uses to re-engage with the customer after the initial contact?
By answering these questions, understanding the processes we can then assign resources, in this case, people to make these processes function. Think about this for a moment. You may not have anything actually written down on paper to address the above example, but every organization has a set of processes in place.
Where technology comes into play can be viewed on a couple of different levels.
- Technology can make the process more stable, consistent and repeatable.
- It can also function as a tool to help people perform their jobs more easily.
- Still, a third area where technology is important is in the analysis of the data that is collected from the process in order to provide insight helpful to an organization to make strategic decisions.
Returning to the above example, a ticketing system might be used to address the first bullet point. Scanning software may be valuable to assist staff in seeing who is actually attending the performances. Analysis software would be very valuable to report on who came to the event.
From Many to One
With the advent of cloud computing, there is a huge opportunity to take many disparate solutions and move to a single CRM solution. Organizations that are still utilizing separate systems for ticketing, email marketing, donor cultivation, class registration, facility rentals are missing a valuable opportunity. The opportunity being missed is to use technology to attract, retain and upgrade customers.
Any CRM should be able to work with an organization’s processes. If you have to change your business model to use the solution it will not be helpful in the long run. With that said, an organization should have an open mind when evaluating CRM solutions based on how they might challenge how they think about their data. How they use data now might change radically when they have a different technology in place that allows them to engage with their audience in a different way.
The One is the Most Important Thing
Organizations that are looking to move to a CRM solution need to keep one overriding principle in mind.
“Any CRM can take information and store it. It is how a CRM reports on it that is the most important thing.”
Many CRM solutions will claim to be true CRMs. They will talk about how information can flow into their solutions. What many of them don’t want to talk about is how the information comes out.
Reporting is the single most important feature set that every organization needs to evaluate. How a CRM reports on the data is crucial. If the data is locked away deep in the bowels of the CRM it will be useless for decision making. Let go back to our previous example.
Having a ticketing solution as part of a CRM solution that goes beyond the transaction to engagement is important. Knowing who hasn’t purchased a ticket to an event is as important as knowing who has purchased a ticket. Engaging the prospective ticket- buyer is important for future sales.
Knowing who has actually attended an event is important. There is nothing worse than trying to sell another ticket to a patron who missed the previous performance and no one knew it. Scanning technology gives the organization useful information to engage with the patron. The difference between knowing who attended versus who didn’t gives lets an organization know where patrons are in their engagement with the organization and how to better interact with them.
Finally, being able to report on new customers provides strategic insight into how an organization might engage with them for future events. Reporting is crucial to making strategic decisions about how to engage and grow.
How will your organization evaluate its technology? Can your organization afford to remain current solutions? Technology is a critical part of your infrastructure. Take time to evaluate and invest.