The National Disability Services (NDS) ‘State of the Sector’ report highlighted that the number one priority for NDIS providers in relation to improving their business capability in 2019, is ‘Information, communications and tech strategy’, ranking ahead of ‘costing and pricing’ and ‘HR strategy and workforce planning’.
Over the last months, CBB has facilitated a review of some of the many Customer Relationship Management (CRM)/database products on the market that purport to be NDIS-ready, to assist NDIS providers to understand which products should be on their radar.
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In this article we provide some tips for any NDIS provider currently assessing their options in relation to implementation of a single point of truth CRM solution.
Tips to assist you in the process of choosing a CRM/database for your organisation
If your organisation intends embarking on a project to assess, short-list, choose and implement a CRM/database, here are some tips to assist you in the process:
- Be clear on what you are trying to achieve: is it back-office efficiency (including rostering), customer outcomes measurement, compliance with legislative obligations etc. Any CEO of a not for profit NDIS provider organisation will likely be asked by the Board to present a business case that will require a full assessment of costs (including implementation costs) and benefits.
- Sign up for as many free product demos as you can, and include at least a couple of frontline workers in the demos. It is one thing to choose a product that works for management, but it’s arguably more important to choose a product that frontline workers will find easy to use; you know the old saying, “rubbish in, rubbish out”.
- If you don’t have an in-house CIO, IT Manager or Business Analyst, bring one in on a temporary basis to manage the requirement articulation, product selection and implementation.
- After you have finalised your mandatory evaluation criteria, ask your short-listed vendors to submit a written response, scoring themselves using a very clear scoring criteria, just as insurance against any over-promises regarding standard functionality.
- Be realistic about the time you will need to spend to transition from your old systems to the new CRM. Key pieces of work during implementation may include:
- Assess the pros/cons of adopting the product’s standard functionality, which may involve amending your existing business procedures to fit. Be wary of extensive configuration and customisation where it isn’t going to add value to your customers. This can affect future product updates, complicate any future changes and add to your ongoing costs. It is better to focus on the required outcomes, rather than trying to replicate current processes that may not be efficient.
- Document any system interdependencies so that the vendor is made aware of other in-house systems that will need to interface (talk) to the new CRM system such as the finance/billing system.
- Prepare a detailed project implementation plan prior to signing a contract with the vendor, so that both parties are agreed on the steps and timeframes and also who is responsible for what.
- Make sure your implementation plan includes testing the new CRM to ensure it meets requirements as specified to the vendor. Also make sure that your contract is clear on who will pay for bug fixes during the testing phase, in the period post implementation and in the longer term.
- Cleanse historical data and transfer to the new database. Ensure your implementation plan includes checking of the data post transfer to ensure that it has been transferred correctly and records have not been corrupted.
- Include a back-out strategy in your implementation plan, to be used in the event that the implementation does not go smoothly and you need to revert to the old CRM. Make this the responsibility of the vendor so that they can prepare accordingly.
- Ensure your implementation plan includes a provision for some post implementation support, so that the vendor is aware they will need to be promptly available should any problems arise.
- Involve your staff (the CRM users) when documenting your requirements for the new CRM. Staff should also be involved in the testing process, as they can easily identify what is not working, or missing.
- Assess hardware requirements including portable devices and server capacity.
- Provide comprehensive training for frontline staff to ensure that they optimise functionality of the new product.
- Provide training for management to ensure they understand how to use reports and performance dashboard metrics.
- Train/educate customers to ensure that they get maximum value from the customer portal (where applicable).
- Ask the vendor for referees, being NDIS providers that have undergone a very recent implementation. You want to talk to referees who know NDIS inside-out. When you talk to referees, some of the questions you may like to ask include:
- What product/s were you using previously and why did you decide to change?
- How many products did you assess?
- Why did you choose this product, and which products ranked second and third on your list?
- What are the three biggest issues you experienced during implementation?
- Have you surveyed frontline staff and customers as to whether they like the product? If not, what feedback have you had in relation to usability?
- Talk to providers that are using the product that weren’t put forward as referees. Salespeople will rarely introduce you to someone that has had a troubled experience with implementation or use of their product, but you may learn a lot from a quick chat with such organisations.
- Ask vendors the question, “When next we meet face to face, can you please show me a copy of your product development road map?”. (Note: vendors would be highly unlikely to give you a copy of this, but shouldn’t have any issue in showing it to you face to face.)
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