Organisations are often faced with the dilemma of how to select their CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and website CMS (Content Management System) – should they use the same supplier for both, with the promise of out-of-the-box integration?
This is a dilemma we find quite a lot of people having and there isn't a single answer that suits everyone.
The main problem is that organisations very rarely start with a "green field" – there are always legacy systems that have to be taken into account and the business case for change to be considered. This is the main reason why there isn't one solution that suits everyone. If you have already made a considerable investment, there may not be a good commercial case for changing.
In general, membership system/donor system/CRM (I'll refer to them collectively as CRMs) suppliers don’t provide very good website CMSs and certainly not systems with market-leading facilities. So in most cases, it doesn't make sense to use the supplier of your CRM for your CMS.
It is generally better to use a best-of-breed CMS. There are some very good low cost and open source CMSs and a good range of companies, contractors and potential employees who can provide the implementation effort needed to build your website, content, and facilities for your forums, blogs, etc. There are a number of membership organisations and charities using the leading open source CMSs – Drupal and Joomla! for example.
The other angle on this is that integrating your CRM with your website shouldn’t be too difficult – most CRMs and all CMSs worth considering should provide web services interfaces. If your CRM doesn’t provide web services, there are also alternative methods that can be used (and if this is an area of difficulty or significant cost, maybe its time to reconsider your CRM platform).
A more detailed question is – what data needs to be saved in the CRM and what can be kept in the website? In most cases, the answer is that data needed for managing relationships (with members and other stakeholders) should be in the CRM and other data can be in the website. So items such as name, contact details and areas of interest need to be in the CRM, and display preferences and forum postings in the website. This means that there is a relatively restricted amount of data that needs to be passed across the interface.
IndigoBlue provides support to Not-for-Profit organisations to create and implement their CRM strategies – if your organisation is looking for this kind of support, please get in touch.