Functional requirements – understanding them is the most important step in a CRM search

Understanding your functional requirements is the most important step in a CRM search. Do you think you know your organisation well? Perhaps you do. But, are you able to articulate your business processes? Can you describe the functional requirements for your future Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) solution?


Imagine shopping for a house without knowing how many bedrooms, bathrooms, and the type of kitchen you were seeking. Do you need parking? What neighbourhoods meet your needs? A house is as big of a purchase to an individual as a CRM is to a non-profit organisation, school, or university. Knowing exactly what you require before engaging with suppliers requires some careful study of your organisation, as well as a documentation of the “shopping list” into functional requirements and request for proposal (RFP) documents. Whether you are exploring the functionality of Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, Vega, or The Raiser’s Edge, suppliers will want to know exactly what you need in order to align their solution with your needs..

Gathering CRM requirements takes time. The process will help you to understand the overall business needs, as well as current user requirements and those requirements which will exist into the future of the charitable organisation.

Steps to gathering functional requirements

  1. Engage a diverse pool of business owners and end users.
  2. Ask the parties to come to meetings prepared to give a complete overview of their business area.
  3. Ask questions as though you are an outsider.
  4. Document the requirements at a granular level.
  5. Take an inventory of the data to be migrated from one solution to another.

Identify a project lead

Identifying a project lead to facilitate the requirements gathering process is mandatory. This person should be able to work with a variety of personalities and conflicting interests. This person should also have strong verbal and written communication skills.

No organisation should overlook the importance of this first step in any CRM project. Requirements gathering will take several weeks of intense work including discussions, documentation, edits and enhancements. The team involved must roll up their sleeves and work together to ensure an end product which is understandable to a multitude of suppliers.