By: Wilmarié Moreland, Senior Consultant at Vera Solutions
Imagine the time, money, and headaches your organisation could save if you no longer relied on paper forms and spreadsheets for impact management. But for many organisations the move from paper to the cloud can appear daunting. Not only do they have to think about their existing processes, users, and historic data, they also have to balance their needs today with their needs tomorrow, while staying within budget. This blog post highlights five key lessons for organisations considering a move from paper to the cloud that will help drive success and long-term user adoption.
Two International Nonprofits Benefiting from the Cloud
Two impact-driven organisations who have successfully moved data processes to the cloud are the Global TB Caucus, a unique international network of political representatives with support in more than 130 countries who work collectively and individually to end the tuberculosis epidemic, and World Bicycle Relief (WBR), an organisation that empowers entrepreneurs, students, health workers, and many others by providing locally assembled Buffalo bicycles as a mode of transport.
As the world’s leading CRM platform, Salesforce is typically mistaken as a solution for only big businesses and large-scale nonprofits. But with its unique Power of Us model, Salesforce has helped more than 32,000 nonprofits, even smaller ones such as Global TB Caucus and World Bicycle Relief, both with less than 50 users, better track their impact and streamline their operations.
Prior to using Salesforce, Global TB Caucus planned events, tracked members of their network and recorded their impact using emails and Word documents, while WBR tracked bicycles, bicycle spare parts, and beneficiaries using paper forms. Neither of these data management methods provided the organisations with the accessibility, security, and scalability they needed to accurately track their impact and address inefficiencies in programs and operations.
Vera Solutions helped Global TB Caucus switch to Salesforce in order to track members across all operating countries, use automation to create checklists for event and travel preparation, and easily collaborate between different members of their team using Chatter. Similarly, we are helping World Bicycle Relief configure a Salesforce application that will allow them to track the bicycles they distribute and the beneficiaries they reach. WBR’s system is also integrated with an offline mobile data collection tool, called TaroWorks, that allows users to collect data at the sites where they work and push it into their cloud-based Salesforce system.
Over eight years, we have helped nearly 250 organisations in 50 countries navigate this journey from paper to the cloud. Using Global TB Caucus and World Bicycle Relief’s Salesforce implementations as case studies, we will share five lessons for successfully mapping nonprofit program processes to Salesforce and provide insights into how the world’s leading CRM is transforming the way nonprofits collect, manage, and disseminate data for impact measurement.
1: Involve end users in system design from the beginning.
The first step of an implementation project is to work closely with the nonprofit to identify pain points in their current data management process and map requirements for a new system that balance iteration and feedback with the timeline and budget of the project. In order to design a solution that is powerful, flexible, and sustainable, it is imperative that these initial conversations include the users who will eventually be making sense of the system.
When World Bicycle Relief first decided to start collecting, managing, and visualising data on Salesforce, we worked with key system users to document their processes and system goals. This ensured that all the system users were involved in the system design from the very beginning of the project.
2: Test the system early.
It is no secret that user adoption is a key constraint in making any technology application work. This is why it is important to approach each implementation with user adoption and change management at the forefront of the planning process, rather than an afterthought. This means testing the system early to see what works for end users and what doesn’t and altering the application accordingly.
For Global TB Caucus, early feedback was vital in ensuring that the implementation would be successful. By having design walkthrough calls that explored different aspects of functionality, we could show their system administrator what the application would look like. This enabled early impressions and feedback to be incorporated into the look and feel of the system, and for us to easily automate processes that had been manually done prior to adoption of their Salesforce app. As a result, we could use Salesforce’s tasks and activities features to create a checklist for event preparation, execution, and follow-up that could then easily be assigned to Global TB Caucus system users.
3: Provide system documentation and training materials.
While user-friendliness is a key reason why Salesforce is such a powerful monitoring, evaluation, and management platform, it is necessary to assume that users vary in their initial Salesforce knowledge and capability. As such, system documentation and training materials are important components to ensure that change management goes smoothly and that all users understand best practices when using the system.
4: Involve users in data analysis.
The final phase of the data value chain is data analysis. While frequently this is done at the HQ or admin level, it is important for all users to understand the value of the data being collected. For both Global TB Caucus and World Bicycle Relief, users are being trained in data analysis which guides them to understand why they collect certain data points and how to make sense of them. We believe this process has been a guiding factor in getting data collectors and general system users not only involved in the system, but also involved in the data.
5: Support on roll-out.
It is important to note that implementation is not a one-off project and ongoing support is a key success factor for any technology implementation. Vera provides organisations with the training, tools, and knowledge they need to make the most of an application once it is launched.
For both Global TB Caucus and World Bicycle Relief, ensuring that every system user understands the parts of the system that they interact with and providing standard operating procedures for every process have been crucial to improving both data quality and accuracy. This training process consisted of a week-long intensive system-use training, as well as hands-on technical support during the first few months of the system rollout.
While it a big decision to implement a new technology or procedure into daily operations, both World Bicycle Relief and Global TB Caucus agree that the move to a cloud-based system has enabled their teams to collaborate on the data and improve their programs as they learn from the field almost immediately.
Global TB Caucus’ Head of Secretariat, Matt Oliver, says, “Now we can see in real-time how much progress we’re making engaging MPs around the world and defining the impact that they, and therefore us, are having. [Salesforce has] also helped us better pinpoint weaknesses in our network and where to deploy efforts to strengthen those areas.”
Moving from paper to the cloud is an exciting journey. If all stakeholders feel involved and invested throughout the process it can be an worthwhile opportunity to strengthen processes, build organisational capacity, and become a data-driven organisation filled with people who see the value and role they play in collecting and using high-quality data.
Guest Author: Wilmarié Moreland is a Senior Consultant at Vera Solutions, a global social enterprise helping social sector organisations use cloud and mobile technology to better understand their impact and streamline their operations. Since 2010, Vera Solutions has worked with more than 250 organisations in 50+ countries.