Needing greater visibility and control of its pipeline of funding bids for projects, crime reduction charity Nacro turned to Microsoft Dynamics CRM—and eBECS, the UK Dynamics Reseller of the Year. A low-cost implementation, over just four months, saw Nacro’s geographically diverse bid pipeline coordinated within a single, centrally-managed pipeline, allowing people to work more efficiently and share information together. Just as importantly, ‘dashboards’ provide senior management with at-a-glance control metrics.
As an established charity with 50 years of experience, Nacro has been repositioning itself as a champion of social justice which continues to put crime prevention and reduction at its core. They use their knowledge and experience to help the most vulnerable in the community to change their lives and to reach their full potential and aspirations.
They do this by addressing social exclusion, inequality of opportunity and deprivation. Nacro’s work focuses on providing housing, education, employment, consultancy and training across England and Wales.
But in recent years, the funding environment in which the charity works has been changing rapidly. An increasing number of once centrally-managed projects, initiated at national government level, have been devolved to local bodies such as regionally-based councils and individual prisons, leading to an increase in the number and complexity of the bids for funding that the charity must make.
“The challenge with Nacro was to find a way to better manage the bidding process, with all information coordinated within a central resource. We also recognised that the number of resources needed to submit bids was increasing,” says Nacro’s Head of Business Strategy, Simon Groom.
Given Nacro’s regional structure, it was also difficult for the charity to establish a clear picture of which bids it was working on at any one time, the status of those bids and when the bids required submission.
“We wanted a more streamlined bidding process, and one which communicated the required information in a timely and effective manner,” says Rider-Dobson. “But we also wanted greater visibility into the process, so that we could manage it better, make improvements, and liaise better with our partners and funding agencies.”
The previous head of ICT at Nacro, it turned out, had prior experience of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems at other not-for-profit organisations, and recognised that a CRM system would deliver the required functionality. What’s more, relates Rider-Dobson, that prior experience extended to recognition that Microsoft was a clear leader in the field.
Accordingly, a recommendation to Nacro management to evaluate Microsoft CRM was quickly accepted, and the search began for an implementation partner. Soon, explains Rider-Dobson, eBECS emerged as a strong contender to provide implementation assistance, thanks to its extensive experience with charities, and as a Microsoft-recommended CRM Online cloud partner.
“We wanted a tailored CRM trial before committing resources and budget, and eBECS was able to support this requirement quickly, and at low cost,” he notes. Additionally, eBECS was able to add value by independently auditing and documenting the business requirements that had been identified.
With board approval for the CRM project given in June 2012, work began in the early autumn. A scoping workshop in September saw all the key players—including eBECS personnel—identifying and agreeing the workflows and deciding the metrics and reports that the CRM system would generate.
“We followed a standard implementation methodology, and did a lot of the work ourselves, in order to keep costs down,” says Rider-Dobson. Development work took place during October and November, and user acceptance testing began in December.
And in the first few days of 2013, just four months after starting work, Nacro’s CRM system went live, with the plan being to train the community of 80 licensed users as requests for bids came through.
“All other channels for submitting bids were closed,” says Rider-Dobson. “With the CRM system the only means of preparing and submitting bids, it’s a powerful incentive to gain familiarity and ‘buy in’.”
The transformation in the processing of bids has been significant, reports Rider-Dobson. There’s far more visibility into the preparation of bids, he explains, with Nacro staff working more efficiently, and being better able to share and re-use information.
“Instead of data being held on regional servers, it’s all stored centrally,” he says. “Everyone can see the bid pipeline, and we can manage our bid preparation work more efficiently.”
Better still, he points out, the CRM system’s in-built ‘dashboard’ provides senior management with instant metrics on key aspects of Nacro’s bid preparation and performance.
“The dashboard has proved very popular,” says Rider-Dobson. “At a glance, management can see the status of pre-qualification questionnaires, outstanding Invitations To Tender, current bids, bids won, and bids not won.”
What’s next? Further fine-tuning, it seems, and an extension into areas such as the risk assessments associated with bids.
“People have seen the system, like it, and now understand much better what they can do with it,” he sums up. “We’re already talking to eBECS about how to take the project forward, and build on the success to date.”