So you’re a nonprofit planning a digital transformation project, and you want to change your website and CRM database. One of the biggest questions you’re going to face is about how much you want to take on at once and if instead, you might want to break up the project into smaller chunks.

There are compelling answers on both sides here - it’s not an easy yes or no question and only you’ll know what’s right for your organisation. Today we’ll be laying out why you might consider either approach!

The case for changing your CRM and website separately 

    1. The amount of planning

    If you’re planning to replace both your CRM and website at the same time, you’re going to need to do a lot of upfront planning. This is going to have implications for your organisation so you carefully need to consider things like how your team will be trained, how switchover will happen between systems, and how it will affect your audience. Spreading out the planning and doing each one separately should mean a quicker, simpler project, which is all important if you care about staff time and resources.

    1. Split the work

    If you view your CRM and website as (mostly) entirely different projects, you open up a lot more flexibility for how they are created. You can have two different agencies working on their projects in parallel, trying to ensure your projects are delivered more efficiently, or at an optimal speed for that particular project. While not without its drawbacks (more below!), this can certainly be a good option if you have a firm deadline for a project.

    1. Simplicity

    How simple is your project? If it requires minimal to no integration then separate projects may be a good idea. This is particularly relevant for smaller organisations. If you’re collecting very little data from your website and don’t want anything flashy, then separate projects can be a decent option.

    1. Spread your budget

    An obvious one surely? If you start one project now, you can do the other later or slightly delayed, letting you more easily spread your overall spending over time. This does not mean your project will cost the same however and, indeed, doing it this way you may well find it actually increases in price.

    Why the case for separate projects is sometimes weaker

    1. A comprehensive plan is better than two plans

    Regardless of whether you’re doing both platforms off the bat if you’re trying to shorten your planning phase (which is always essential) by only properly considering one platform, you’re going to miss out on opportunities. You might fail to spot natural or necessary integrations. You might end up doing something tricky with one platform the other could handle perfectly well by default. Maybe the second project even comes up with something you should have implemented in your first! 

    A comprehensive plan might take longer, but it is much more likely to produce an optimal solution to your goals rather than just trying to bend each platform individually towards them.

    1. Splitting work is not without headaches

    So in theory splitting the work can mean your platforms are delivered quicker. But this is not a guarantee at all, and if you’re sacrificing a holistic view towards your organisation’s needs, two agencies might not be on the same page and might work in different ways and at different speeds. This can become especially tricky if you have any desire for integrations where you’ll need the two to work together, especially since…

    1. Complexity requires cohesion

    In theory, 2 agencies could produce for you 2 incredibly complex systems and they could interact perfectly in perpetuity. The problem is, that it would require an unbelievable amount of coordination and communication to achieve this. Integrations, especially deep ones, require platform knowledge and if your partners are entirely reliant on one another for how to integrate with their sister system, then you’re already on shaky ground.

    Add to this the fact that integrations require continual maintenance around updates (on both systems!) and you are setting the bar for communication very high. Relying on one partner with substantial knowledge and access to both your CRM and CMS is almost always going to be the more reliable and efficient way to ensure your complex systems work and stay completely functional.

    1. Separate projects are likely to cost more in total

    While we have established that separate projects might well let you spread costs better in some ways,  you could end up spending more in all likelihood. This is because there will be parts of the planning process that you could well have combined, any complexity like integrations will not be factored into just the one comprehensive project either. Added dependencies may appear beyond your original projects’ scope and result in an expedient option in the short term costing you much more later.

    Why you actively want to do both together

    1. Your data is interconnected fully

    If you’re doing both a website and a CRM at the same time, the likelihood is that you’ll be drawing up a full data map, understanding your data flow completely, with the vast majority of your data flowing into your CRM so it can act as your single source of truth.

    Not only is this fantastic for security purposes, but it’s also immensely useful for reporting and understanding which version of your data is the most up to date. This avoids unnecessary data siloing and ensures a strong vision for how your organisation handles data.

    1. It’s easier to manage

    If you’re working with 2 external agencies we’ve already identified that it’s going to cause some headaches. Especially on complex integrations and dependencies. Who will be responsible for what and when? You will have to have a dedicated internal project manager responsible for facilitating communication between your 2 agencies at all times to ensure your systems function properly.

    Working with just 1 agency gives you much less of a headache to deal with. Instead of acting as a facilitator, your partner will have a holistic picture of where you are, making communication so much more straightforward both during the project and once it is launched.

    Getting started

    So what are your current plans for digital transformation? Are you looking to get a CRM or a website, or possibly both? Getting started can be a daunting prospect as there’s a lot to consider for such mission critical systems. Today we’ve hopefully highlighted some different ways you might want to approach the project of replacing or implementing these for the very first time these two vital platforms.

    If you need any help on advice on which approach is right for your nonprofit, please get in touch! Our experts are always happy to talk about what you’re looking for and outline your options. If you’d like to find out more, get in touch with us here, where we can arrange a chat.