Strategies for Powering Learning Through CRM Go-Live and Beyond

  • December 9, 2019
  • by Gretchin Croteau and Mike Reardon

The decision has been made. You’re switching to a new CRM solution. And, because everyone loves change and learning new technology, you aren’t anticipating any challenges when communicating this decision or providing training to impacted teams across campus. YEAH RIGHT! 

For all of us who don’t live in a world where this type of change is enthusiastically accepted, we know that it can be challenging, especially when it comes to thinking about training and getting folks to actually USE the system. The good news is though, it doesn’t have to be. 

Pulling from years and years (and years) of teaching and training on change management and Bucknell’s recent move from its legacy CRM system after 14 years, we’ve mapped out some strategies for successfully onboarding teams and maintaining engaged and empowered users with ongoing education. While our focus here was the conversion to a new tech solution, these same lessons can be applied to any change that requires training, whether it’s for a tech solution or not. 

The Four Stages of Learning  

  1. Pre-training research 
  2. Pre go-live training 
  3. Go-live training 
  4. Post go-live education

Pre-Training Research

This is the stage where you set YOURSELF up for success. Before kicking off your project, consider the following:  

  • How do you eat an elephant? You eat it one bite at a time. Just like this idiom conveys, you don’t need to accomplish everything you’ve set out to all at once. Onboarding users takes time and to do it successfully, should be completed in steps. (Disclaimer: No elephants were harmed or eaten during the creation of this blog post.) 
  • Get to know the neighbors (Community). Learn and understand the different work that people do. An easy way to do this – use online resources like the Blackbaud Community and Knowledgebase, and leverage forums like bbcon, EDUCAUSE, and CASE Summit. You know the old adage — if YOU have a question, there’s probably someone else who also has it, and communities like this are a great way to find out the answers.  
  • Populate your inner circle. Obtain a representative from major departments to form an education team. These people are your SMEs —subject matter experts. Let them know how much they can , and more importantly , will influence their colleagues.  
  • Carpentry. What tools do you have? (LMS; project management and ticketing system; online training, screen capture and recording software?) Audit your toolbox to understand what you have that can help you throughout the training process. You might even discover some tools you didn’t know you had!  Ask your community and your inner circle what tools they think work the best. 
  • Paperwork. Document major and minor decisions made during configuration/design. Write–up training materials, such as creating a glossary of new terminology (e.g.  lifetime giving versus raised and received), ways to get help, and a to-do list for the first day of go-live.    

Pre-Go-Live Training  

You know you’re going to be live on the new system soon, so this time is the stage to proactively learn what users will need. Complete these 5 steps to help mitigate future adoption challenges.   

  • Conduct intensive, small training sessions.  Begin hosting these 6 weeks prior to your go-live date. Organize each session to allow for more interactions and keep them under 2.5 hours. This format will lead to better learning for attendees.   
  • Create a resources webpage. Here is where you’ll want to keep documents, like FAQs asked during training sessions, glossary of terms, training guides, how to get help, and educational opportunities. This empowers users to self-serve if you can’t quickly answer a question they might have.  
  • Consider adult learners. You’re training educated adults. Be mindful to not make them feel like they are back in elementary school. Make the training sessions self-directing, relevant, and task-centered.  
  • Become besties with your SMEs. Identify your superusers early (hint: they were most likely your superusers in your old system). Be certain they can train and have the time and buy-in from their supervisors.   
  • Provide counseling. Help absorb the frustration and fears of colleagues, by providing an outlet for users to voice their concerns. Learning a new system can be challenging and intimidating, so this step can make the transition a lot smoother.   

Go-Live Training 

Yay! You’re live on the new system, all the work is done. Wrong. Now is when the fun really starts. Here are 4 crucial steps needed to keep up the success.     

  • Enlist your cheer squad. Find those users who are praising the new system and have them advocate on your behalf. “If George, Deborah, Nick, and Pamela love it, then I guess I should give it a chance.” 
  • Repetition. This is one time you won’t be considered a broken record. It behooves you to go over things as many times as needed.  You may have heard that people need to hear things seven times/seven ways?  That’s very, very true with training and learning a new system. 
  • VP set the tone. Executive sponsorship is key throughout the project but especially at go-live.  At Bucknell, our VP was great at reminding the team that the database was very important but also that we didn’t need fancy reports and bells and whistles to engage donors. It reminded colleagues that all change is incremental and to take one step at a time. 
  • Co-work hours. Conduct twice weekly co-work sessions. This allows you to answer any questions users may have in real-time while working in the new system. It also gives you an opportunity to share any tips that were newly discovered.  

Post Go-Live Education  

Phew! It’s been a long journey, but you have been live on the new system for a while and users are adjusting to the changes and learning what new opportunities it affords them. To keep yourself and users performing at their best, follow these education training suggestions.   

  • Meet your people where they are. Travel to all the office sites where people are most comfortable.  Even if it’s simple training on newly released features, it’s easier for users to learn in their normal work environment.  
  • Track record. Track wins and how far you’ve come. If/when you experience any post go-live blues, seeing how much you’ve accomplished since starting the project can be just the positive motivation needed.  
  • Audit. Set up regular audits of training docs and business processes.  Keeping these updated as processes evolve will make onboarding future users much easier too.   
  • Overall refresh. Have your colleagues pose questions prior to a ‘one year later’ refresher of CRM.  Reflect back on how far you’ve come, but also challenge each other to see how much more you can do with the system. What do folks want to know?  How can they offer tips/tricks to each other? Keep pushing and growing with your new system! 

Looking Ahead 

It’s important to remember that you decided to move to a new system for a reason. Its functionality, interface, features, complexities, challenges, benefits, etc., will be very different, and that’s completely OK. It takes time and training to learn a new system, much less to become an expert user. Keep taking it one day at a time and before you know it, you’ll be reflecting on how it’s helped you create strong ROI growth for the past five years!