These next several posts will focus on issues raised during the Gartner CRM Conference Summit 2007 which I think are particularly applicable to the association market.

In a session on "Lessons Learned" from 1000 CRM implementations, three points were identified as key success factors:

  1. Establish a project objective (i.e., why are you bothering with a CRM implementation? Are you trying to raise more revenue, lower costs, improve customer loyalty?).
  2. Focus project on fewer functional areas. (i.e., don't try to implement sales force automation, contact management, email marketing management, and ERP all at once).
  3. Focus on fewer channels (i.e., phone, web, physical store, kiosks, etc.).

How do these apply at your association? Let's take them one at a time:

  1. Establish a project objective. You need to ask yourself why you're going to the trouble of implementing a new association management system (AMS). Are you trying to increase staff efficiency? Are you trying to provide better self-service options for your members and customers? Are you trying to increase revenue? What do you hope to accomplish with a new AMS? You need to establish this to serve as a guidepost for all of your decisions moving forward.
  2. Focus on fewer functional areas. A typical AMS implementation may include membership, events registration, product sales, exhibits sales, sponsorship, certification, and more. One option to consider is implementing only selected functional areas for the initial go-live. For example, I've had clients who have gone live with only membership functionality, choosing to add other functionality later, once more time and resources could be allocated to the project.
  3. Focus on fewer channels. For most associations, the channels are limited to back-office (i.e., staff view) and web integration (although there are certainly exceptions, as some larger associations have IVR and kiosks, for example). But even if you only have two channels, the suggestion of focusing on fewer channels (i.e., only one channel) is worth consideration. Implementing an AMS, regardless of your staff size, is a huge task. Narrowing the scope of the implementation by focusing on the back-office first, with web integration as a second, post-go-live phase, may be something worth considering.