It's hard to find the Holy Grail of technology

When choosing digital systems, you need to accept imperfection, writes our columnist

Vicky Browning
Vicky Browning

Our customer relationship management system at CharityComms (Salesforce) sits at the heart of our charity's operation. We've spent years customising it to deliver a full set of services and the communications around them - from event bookings to membership renewals, from email segmentation to book sales. But we've found it increasingly hard to make this single system deliver all our needs.

So I was relieved to find we're not alone in this struggle. Our latest report, Pick 'n' Mix: a guide to technology choices for charities, produced with the digital agency Positive, analyses the technology set-ups and ambitions of a range of charities.

With the help of a team of digital experts, the report makes six key recommendations about how charities can approach the thorny issue of selecting, implementing and integrating new tech platforms, including customer relationship management and content management systems.

The first recommendation that struck a chord with me was the need to accept imperfection - as we've found ourselves at CharityComms, no solution is perfect, and compromise is inevitable.

The sensible approach is to choose best-of-breed solutions - pick the right tool for the job rather than expect one system to deliver all your needs. Chris Thorn, head of digital at the British Heart Foundation, says that what we need is a system of building blocks - individual tools that do the job really well but also connect to other tools.

It's a relief to feel we can take the pressure off ourselves to find the Holy Grail of technology.

The Pick 'n' Mix report is available to download free of charge from our website.

Vicky Browning is director of CharityComms

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