Last January, we committed to replacing our old CRM system (ACT!) with Salesforce, the bet noire of cloud computing applications.
See my blog article where I likened the learning curve and implementation to “eating an elephant one bite at a time,” which has certainly been proven to be true. At four months into the project, we one-third of it implemented. Most of this has been my personal project subject to time limitations. However, the heavy lifting has been done, including the customization of record formats and data fields. Basically, there are two distinct but overlapping record sets (called objects in Saleforce) for organizations that have some potential of becoming our client (called leads in Salesforce) and organizations that are either clients, referral sources, partners, vendors, or others with whom we have an ongoing business relationship (called Accounts and contacts in Salesforce).
The big remaining setup step is to move records from our old CRM into Salesforce through exporting and importing. Salesforce provides some great tools for moving the data. The challenge is selecting what records you want moved and cleaning them first to the extent practicable. We are doing this sequentially on a group by group basis with leads first, customer next, etc. The goal is to have everything converted and our team trained to begin full use by October 1st.
I feel the time invested in learning and implementing Salesforce has been well spent and that it will be a great tool for marketing and client service for years to come. As a side benefit, having some knowledge of the application has already helped me in a client engagement to integrate customer and accounts receivable transactions recorded Salesforce with MIP Fund Accounting™. As you may know, nonprofit organizations can get a free subscription to Saleforce for a 10-user license (a $15,000 value). From our experience, I challenge smaller NPOs abilty to take advantage of it without hiring a consultant, or spending many resources on customization and training.
At this point in our implementation, the biggest positive has been the high-caliber training, self-help tools and live technical support provided by Salesforce, all at no additional cost. I had a problem with integrating Outlook’s email and calendar with Salesforce on my laptop that Saleforce has gone to great lengths to solve. The tech staff, some of whom are offshore, have demonstrated both strong technical knowledge and professionalism, something that is relatively rare (Abila’s technical staff excluded of course).
Conversely, the biggest negative was the realization that the Group edition that’s limited to five users is fairly bare-bones in relation to the Professional and Enterprise editions. For example, it does not contain the feature-set to design and execute marketing campaigns from within Salesforce; however, there is the capability to use a third-party service such as MailChimp with the results recorded back into Salesforce. I will give you another status report in October. In the meantime, please contact me if you want to talk about anything this article may have triggered.