Well this is my first post on the CivCRM Blog and I am very honoured to have been given the privilege by David Greenberg. We are a CRM consulting company - meaning that we provide consulting and advice to companies who require a CRM system or who have a CRM system in place but want to know how to use it to its full capacity.
We received a grant from the Western Australian Department of Commerce to work in partnership with the Fremantle Chamber of Commerce. The funding was to provide educational workshops to West Australian businesses about what CRM is and how it can benefit your business. As part of the funding we were also to carry out two pilot CRM implementations. One of which was to be for the Chamber to manage these workshops as well as their other events and memberships.
The Fremantle Chamber were actually the ones who suggested that CiviCRM would be a good fit for them as it was open source and seemed to meet their requirements. After some research and investigation we found that this was indeed the case. I was extrememely impressed at the huge number of features and capability of CiviCRM - most of which is available "out of the box".
Since this was our fist Civi implementation, I spent hours doing research and pouring over the extensive documentation and forums (kudos to the community for these resources!).
We decided to go with Drupal, even through we were more familiar with Wordpress, because we read through the documentation that this was the most mature in terms and development and capability. We worked with a web design company called Idea Catalyst who were redesigning the website at the same time. The Drupal programmer was David Levi. He was amazing in being able to integrate the Events and Membership online pages with their site. He also added some great capabilities such as a streaming list of Events, Events calendar (using Drupal Calendar), and Member to Member offers for members.
We implemented the Events and Member modules and helped to streamline Fremantle Chamber's manual procedures for event and member management. More info on this can be found in the Case Study. There was also an article in the July Newsletter about this case study with amazing measured results.
The main challenges we encountered were:
- The importing of data from the various sources (excel sheets, Outlook). The data had to be cleaned and formatted (example web URLs must be prefixed by "www" in order for CivCRM to accept them)
- After members were imported, we had to find a way to assign them login credentials. Fortunately there was a Drupal plugin to do this - Drupal User Import.
- We wanted to be able to extract an image and summary from the Event description to appear in an Events newsfeed on the Chamber's website homepage. We were able to do this by creating a custom field of type "Rich Text Editor" and entering the Event image and summary. This was then extracted for the Events feed. You can view this at www.fremantlechamber.com.au.
- The scheduled reminders took some time to get working as there was a bug in the version we had implemented, however with the help of Civihosting, we managed to get it rectified.
- The users faced some issues with Cookies when they tried to register for events. However, we advised the Chamber to display a clear message on the site to users to have cookies enabled in their web browser.
- One thing to watch when using Microsoft exchange servers is to ensure the SSL cert you deploy is compatible with Microsoft exchange. The CSR should be generated by the exchange server and this should be used when the SSL cert is created. We faced some compatability issues but eventually got these resolved as well.
Despite the challenges faced - these were minor compared to the immense benefits Fremantle Chamber received after CiviCRM was implemented (as can be seen in the case study). The Chamber are now poised to take the Civi implementation to the next level and would like to integrate Mailchimp and an SMS gateway.
As a result of this implementation, we are now in the midst of a larger project with another organisation who are implementing ALL the features in Civi including CiviCase, CiviPetition, CiviSurvey, Campaigns etc. In addition they are integrating Drupal Commerce (online store) and a POS.
Stay tuned for my blog post on this!