First off - i'm not a fan of traditional CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software and its role in modern businesses. To me, CRMs are a generally inflexible piece of software that have traditionally been designed to monitor a sales pipeline. Fine if that's what you need as  a business, but what if you're not?

What if you want to keep all of your data together, i.e. clients / stakeholders / partners and your interactions with them, but want to process and store that data on your own terms and with as little manual input as possible?

This is something that at Sunderland Software City we've been looking at for around the past year - it definitely hasn't been an easy journey and adopting our first dedicated piece of software and creating processes for data collection and management is very much still ongoing.

To me, your organisation should be constantly looking at what data is being collected, where it's held, why it's there and how it can be used, but equally as important is you can automate your processes to remove manual inputting as much as possible. It stemmed from putting a big focus on automation that it became apparent very quickly that it wasn't possible that a traditional CRM solution would fit our needs - at least not to the degree that I wanted it to.

So, what's the alternative? Well, for us, at least for the moment, it's Airtable. Gathering together every spreadsheet that was held in a shared drive and putting it all together has been eye opening in terms of how much data we have and how far back it goes. 

However, as good as it is to get together all of our existing data, how do you integrate the collection of future data and ensure that it's held in a place that's accessible for everyone that needs it and involves as little typing and manual input as possible? 

We're in the process of completely redesigning how we work, beginning with the collection of customer information. Gone are Word documents and forms and in are online forms, and using Zapier as a platform to integrate with Airtable, means that the data is automatically fed into where we want and in pretty much real time. 

With this change in mindset in moving away from Excel and desktop-based applications, we've already started rolling out other integrations with Eventbrite, Outlook and Slack to name a few. This means that our team can access more accurate and up-to-date data more quickly and efficiently and hopefully one day eliminate the dreaded question being cast across the office of "Does anyone have so-and-so's email address?"