CRM Project methodology – which one is ‘right’?

Dan Lockeretz, Purple Vision Project Delivery Director shares his experience of delivering CRM implementation projects – something he’s done quite a lot of in the years he’s been a Purple Vision, and even before that in his previous life charity-side.  This is the first in a series from Dan looking at project delivery issues.

When talking to organisations about implementing a new CRM, one of the most common questions we’re asked is  ‘what implementation methodology do you use?’.

Sometimes, the question is very open as an organisation may never have delivered a technology implementation before, or previously experienced projects in the days before cloud technology when things were quite different.

More frequently, the organisations we work with have done some research or have more experience and will be expecting us to say that we use one of the two best-known methodologies for system development – agile or waterfall.

Waterfall

Waterfall is described as a sequential (non-iterative) design process, used in software development processes, in which progress is seen as flowing steadily downwards (like a waterfall) through the phases of conception, initiation, analysis, design, construction, testing, production/implementation and maintenance.

Agile

Agile is described as an iterative, incremental method of managing the design and build activities of information technology that aim to provide new product development in a highly flexible and interactive manner.

The Purple Vision approach

Over many years and hundreds of project, we have learned that the best process to adopt for a technology project is not necessarily one approach or the other, but a blend of both.

If your organisation has significant legacy systems, then there is often a need for a specific ‘go-live’ point – a moment at which the legacy system(s) should end and the new one starts.  A project like this will benefit from a waterfall approach.

The alternative to this is to manage multiple systems for a period of time, which can be complex, costly and risky.

Agile development takes a more phased approach to delivering implementations, and so is ideal for those who have little in the way of legacy systems and therefore no need to make a switch-over at a single moment.  There are lots of advantages including:

  • It engages the system users in the project at an early point and throughout the project. This means by the point of go-live those users have a good understanding of the system and have gained knowledge of the build and use of the system
  • It reduces the risk of the end product being the ‘wrong’ solution. Experience tells us it easier to manage lots of small adjustments on a frequent basis, than it is to manage large infrequent adjustments.
  • Progress is more tangible to the Project Team and engagement in the project may remain higher as a result

The disadvantage of an agile development methodology as we have experienced it, is that is requires a high-level input from process experts on the client side and can therefore impact heavily on business as usual.  If this is planned for in advance however, we believe this is the most effective way of engaging staff in the project and building a successful system with successful user adoption.

Best of both

Our best of both approach gives us flexibility to manage a project in line with an organisations requirements and needs, staff availability and other factors.

An example is a project where an organisation is planning to replace a system it has used for a number of years with something completely different – such as an out-of-date server-based system with a move to a cloud-based solution.

As the server based system may be out of date the team using it may not be able to deliver all of their key functions via this tool and may be using other tools or managing complex work-arounds.  In this situation, we would spend time looking at initiation, analysis and design of the new system (waterfall approaches) to make sure we’re developing and delivering what is needed today and not just copying what has gone before.

We would then be ready to construct and test using a more agile approach.

Which takes longer?

Neither approach is longer or shorter than the other necessarily – the critical factor is not time to deliver, but the project which is being delivered.  To identify a project timescale, we need to consider issues like the technology you’ll be using, how much work needs to be done to tailor the tool to your unique situation, how prepared you are (see another blog for more about this) and availability of key resources (like developers, trainers etc).

Other project terms you’ll hear

  • Iterative – iterative is a fancy word for repetition or frequency. Essentially, for agile developments which are iterative, the project is broken down into set blocks or sprints where work is completed.
  • Sprints – rather alarmingly for non-runners, sprints area often talked about as part of a technology implementation project. Don’t panic!  This term refers to the blocks of time in which work is developed and delivered.  It’s more common to have sprints in Agile development but it is possible to have sprints in waterfall but for different phases. It’s as much a way of everyone planning their time properly as anything else.
  • Legacy systems – this isn’t about giving money in your will. This refers to systems that you have already that may be in use that you are replacing as part of your technology project – be that an old CRM, a series of spreadsheets or anything in between.
  • Scrum – a scrum is a process used by a project delivery team to allocate work out to deliver the project – eg technical work such as things that need building, information needed from project management team, user testing, etc. Scrums cover a set period of time (eg a week, two weeks or sometimes longer).
  • User stories – this is simply a process of mapping out what the users need to be able to do in a system or with a set of functions. Mapping out and agreeing a user story means we all know what we’re working to achieve.

Can we help?

If you would like help and advice from Purple Vision regarding your CRM project, please call us via 0203 127 1249 or email us at [email protected] or via our online contact form.

Connected Non Profit Conference – what you missed.

Last week, Salesforce.org organised an event called the Connected Non Profit Conference.  It was a small, sell-out event.  In the spirit of it all being about connected non-profits, we find some C words to describe what we found at the event

Concept

Every year, Salesforce organises Dreamforce, a beastie of a conference in San Francisco where basically a whole city-load of people all turn up and hear what’s happening with the Salesforce platform.  It sounds like a lot of fun but it is a long way away and pretty expensive to get to, especially for those on a non-profit budget.

A Mini-Dreamforce, 1-day World Tour event happens every year in London (May 18th 2017 – mark your diaries) that takes some of the content and positions it for just a day.  Other stuff happens that is brand specific.

These are all lovely.  They’re useful.  They’re exciting.  They’re a great place to meet really interesting and inspiring people. But they’re not focused on non-profit, they are focused on the entirety of the Salesforce world.  True, all the learning and new products and innovations are relevant as they are available to non-profits.  But the language is just, well, not us.

So kudos to the team at Salesforce.org in London for recognising this and putting something on just for us.  I think the size was just right for a first one – small, about 300 or so.  We can only grow from here!

Content

The stories at the event focused on – as you would entirely expect – how Salesforce has driven non-profit success.  From hearing about the new Non Profit Success Pack (Salesforce, distilled down for non-profits) and its roadmap (the new features that Salesforce will add, alongside the other features that may be unlocked via the Salesforce releases 3 x per year or the fortnightly (yes fortnightly) pushes to the NPSP), through to compelling stories and case studies.

We talked data (of course) and saw how Wave Analytics brings data to life and helps charities like RED to tell their story.  How with the help of partners, charities have created new functionality to deliver things like Gift Aid or bespoke programme management, how UNHCR use Salesforce to manage their fundraising programmes and more about email marketing and the connectivity.

This is the story of RED – their goals and how Salesforce is supporting them to deliver their goal.

This video makes me cry but fills me with so much hope.

Of course, it’s money that makes a difference but you can’t mobile, measure and deliver – or start to raise those funds – without the right tech.  Message clearly received there!

Connections

The measure of success of any event has to be two things – the quality of the content you hear and learn about, and the quality of the conversation you have with other people who are there.

One of the great things about this being a small and focused event was the ability to get to speak to so many of the people who were at the event.

Some were already Salesforce customers, some people looking at options on the market and there were a few of us partners around – and while the reality is we are ‘competitors’, we’re actually quite nice people and feel that we’re more part of a ‘community’ too if you see what I mean.

So there was lots of buzz and conversation, some free advice being bandied backwards and forwards and a lot of entente-cordiale.

And then there’s Cody

Cody is the name of the bear that features across all of the new visual identity Salesforce are adopting.  It relates to trailhead – the free learning paths offered by Salesforce to get users to adopt the system.  If I am honest, I am not convinced about Cody and campgrounds, but he keeps good company with other mascots so at least it keeps things interesting wondering who might show up next!

If you see another Connected Non Profit event pop up in our social feed, or via Salesforce.org, I urge you to act quickly to register.  This one was well worth attending.

Related Services from Purple Vision

To coincide with CNPC_16, Purple Vision launched two new services

Other Purple Vision blogs about NPSP

Steps to success with Purple Vision non profit success pack partner, Purple Visiom

Steps to success with Salesforce

This blog by Purple Vision CEO, Steve Thomas, is about the new Non Profit Success Pack.  Purple Vision has been supporting charities to adopt NPSP since we became Salesforce partners in 2010.

NPSP. 

Same acronym, slightly changed name – from non-profit starter pack to non-profit success pack.

A casual observer would be forgiven for suggesting that this change, announced recently by Salesforce.org with much fanfare, is little more than a minor makeover.

The technical enhancements that accompany the name change are comparatively light additions to the established core of the product which remains unchanged. But the change is significant – we believe that this shift  recognises the maturity of (arguably) the most successful software solution ever written for non-profit organisations.

In this way, we regard the Non-profit Success Pack more as a ‘coming of age’ than an ‘upgrade.

What makes NPSP unique and valuable?

Even in the world of charities it is unusual to get something for nothing. But NPSP really is a free gift. Salesforce.org, the philanthropic arm of Salesforce.com, launched the Nonprofit Starter Pack back in 2008 as an enhancement to its previous Nonprofit Template.

Since that time they have supported the solution through substantial upgrades as well as continuous enhancement releases. NPSP can be provided pre-installed with the Power of Us donated licence programme, as well as in open source code from Github.

Perhaps more significantly, by consolidating NPSP as the de facto framework for all non-profits that use the world’s best CRM system, Salesforce.org is paving the way for a whole new phase of development that will leverage its ever-evolving technology platform.

Salesforce today is almost unrecognisable from its origins as (unsurprisingly) a sales management tool. It has become a comprehensive customer-facing technology platform with

The Non-Profit Success Pack continues to provide the essential baseline that enables all non-profits to take advantage of these features with a structured but flexible framework that models their unique needs.

connected-np

This unique approach to donated licences with an open source overlay has helped build a substantial and active community of tens of thousands of organisations that benefit from Salesforce.

With the latest facility for developers, partners, and even customers to build and customise their own apps and features, NPSP will encourage and support a future with even greater diversity, innovation and collaboration.

What does NPSP actually do?

In a nutshell – it’s a special layer on top of the core Salesforce system – a data architecture designed to meet the special needs of non-profit organisations.

The key effect of NPSP is to adapt the Salesforce focus on business-to business (B2B) activities so as to more closely resemble a business-to-consumer (B2C) model that is common to charities.

NPSP sets up structures to manage

  • the relationships between individual donors,
  • their households,
  • the organisations they are associated with.

It also establishes a standard model for

  • creating and managing pledges,
  • donations,
  • recurring gifts,
  • volunteers.

Where next?

NPSP as the standard for quality, reliability and innovation

NPSP was originally intended to provide an entry point for smaller organisations to get started with Salesforce – hence the former name Starter Pack.

Those with additional requirements take advantage of the 3000+ pre-integrated third-party applications in the Salesforce AppExchange, together with bespoke development by a growing cadre of certified developers and partners (like Purple Vision).

Crucially, the success of NPSP means that it is increasingly accepted as the standard model, providing an industry-wide benchmark for organisations of all types, sizes and geographies.

The development focus for Salesforce.org in future is to constantly reinforce the central role of NPSP whilst actively encouraging customers, partners and developers to innovate on this platform.

Examples of this in the Success Pack include new features such as:

  • personal profiling,
  • in-memoriam donations
  • in-kind donations,
  • campaign tools
  • upgrading the user interface to the latest Lightning standard,
  • enabling NPSP for more languages, starting with Spanish, German and French.

Innovating with the security of a solid platform

The flexibility of the Salesforce platform means that customisation is safe and straightforward to undertake, especially with the extensive frameworks for formal accreditation and informal learning and support. With such a large community, developments evolve in all sorts of new directions. This leads to innovative and successful outcomes but also, in some cases, organisations find themselves with a system so heavily customised that they lose some of the flexibility of a common standard architecture.

At Purple Vision we believe passionately in future-proofing solutions so that our clients retain maximum flexibility around their long-term strategic objectives. We strongly support the development of universal standards such as NPSP, which mitigate the danger of over-customisation and we have been accredited by Salesforce.org as one of just four International Impact Partners formally supporting NPSP.

Wherever possible we advocate well-built, proven apps over DIY customisation.

We have tested, installed and supported scores of AppExchange solutions and we know where they work well (and where they don’t), and whether they offer value for money. As the saying goes, we prefer “clicks not code”.

Our solutions almost always involve NPSP, and we have delivered scores of successful solutions that work very effectively within this standard.

For example:

Be a non profit success with NPSP and Salesforce.org.  

Find out more about being a Salesforce success:

Take action – get started with Salesforce NPSP and Purple Vision

Purple Vision NPSP Resources