Where data silos come from

No matter what data management system you choose, one critical point is for it to be a critical tool for your key stakeholders. Your Executive Director, Communications Director, Development Director, Community Organizer, other staff roles and a whole host of volunteers all have their different and important needs that you have to account for when rolling out a system.

If your CRM implementation is not carefully planned with these users in mind, you run the risk of spawning “data silos” eventually. Translation: This is one of the first signs that your CRM is underutilized and at-risk of being on the way out if you don’t take corrective action.

Here’s what inevitably happens.

If you don’t provide the tool that works your users will make something on their own anyway, homemade and disintegrated from what was supposed to be your “hub” in the first place.

Hello MailChimp, AirTable, Google Docs, and a whole host of other specialty tools. Wouldn’t you rather they spend that time on more productive efforts that advance your mission? At worst, they’ll just leave because you haven’t equipped them with tools that make the volunteer work enjoyable and smooth.

And after all, a CRM really starts to shine when you see how different sources of data can be aggregated, reported on to show insights and reveal opportunities that would otherwise be difficult, or next to impossible to see if these were in “data silos”. In technical terms, a “relational database”.

So, if you are contemplating a new CRM, start mapping out user stories and their needs. This is why it’s critical to envision where your organization will be down the road with a product roadmap.

If you are already using a CRM, here’s what you can do now: evaluate what stakeholders are the lowest-hanging fruit to gain access. Is it a matter of a new permission level that needs to be added, module enabled, configuration tweak or does the system need to be refactored to accommodate such access?

You need a CRM that is a hub for your efforts, not merely another place to stash data.

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– Dan Fishman, Executive Director
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