By Guest Blogger:

Kate Alexander, 


The MemberWise Digital Excellence Report 2019 highlighted that 25% of membership organisations are very likely to replace their CRM/AMS in the coming year. With such a large number of organisations embarking on a significant CRM project, we were keen to find out from those who have completed successful projects what the key ingredients are for long-term success.

We raised this question in a recent Pythagoras roundtable session, attended by 20 delegates across various charities and professional associations. A common response was that the challenges faced in a CRM project are often not with the technology itself, but with more human aspects of the project and strategy, such as a lack of buy-in, weak user adoption and insufficient ongoing resources.

This sparked a discussion about the roles and responsibilities required to execute a successful, long-term CRM strategy.


Participants emphasised that vision, enthusiasm and commitment to succeed must come from the very top. This ensures resources are readily available and users buy into the concept of the new CRM system. Leaders should consider their vision as a 3-5 year plan, rather than an immediate need to resolve a particular issue.

Subject matter experts/ end users

Detailed system requirements should come from department heads and selected end users, who truly live and breathe the processes that the CRM system will be managing. These experts are an incredibly important asset, so it’s important to involve, challenge and learn from them, instead of making assumptions about what they need to do their jobs successfully and efficiently.


Many organisations referenced success with ‘champion’ schemes, whereby they assigned representatives from each team to shape the strategy, provide feedback and act as a liaison between users and the development team.

This strategy increases user adoption long-term, as champions can provide ad-hoc advice and training to their peers post-project. It’s important to replace champions quickly should they leave or change role, to ensure the chain of communication and knowledge isn’t compromised.

Champions should be those with day to day experience of using the system, able to answer their colleagues’ questions and proactively bring new ideas on increasing efficiency and data quality. The importance of choosing people who genuinely care about project success was emphasised too. There may be an expectation for your champions to juggle additional project or training responsibilities alongside their roles, so it’s crucial to recognise this commitment and encourage staff to use the opportunity to learn from being an integral part of a transformational project.

Steering group/CRM committee

Having a detailed change control process is an essential part of maintaining a CRM system long term. There should be an agreed upon process whereby changes and enhancements can be put to a committee and approved, rejected, or added to a wish list for a future release. This is important to maintain reliable documentation of the system and to allow adequate impact assessments to take place.

While IT departments are frequently put under pressure to deliver a change quickly, our attendees invited others to exercise caution when fast-tracking seemingly innocuous changes through to production without proper analysis of the knock-on effects this might have for other areas of the system or roadmap. Therefore, a rigorous change management process should take into consideration each requirement as it sits within the greater CRM landscape.

Overall, it was encouraging to hear how many organisations in the room are seeing benefits from viewing CRM as an organisation-wide strategy, putting mechanisms in place from the outset to support training, user-adoption and system development.

Pythagoras is an innovative Microsoft Gold Partner specialising in delivering CRM/AMS systems to the membership sector. We are proud to be a MemberWise Recognised Supplier and an exhibitor at the upcoming Membership Excellence conference 2019.