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Vendor Q&A – Silverbear on Microsoft Dynamics CRM


Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 is typically mass-marketed towards the sales, marketing, and service sectors. But with the release of 2011 On-Premise and Partner Hosted versions, customisation, from developer to end user, provides the ability to target your stakeholders, whether they are donors, beneficiaries or members – more effectively.

We talk to the director of Silverbear, one of the leading providers of membership management solutions, about its Dynamics CRM 2011 offering.

Q. Whilst Dynamics CRM-based solutions essentially adapt a sales-centric approach, does your offering carry the depth and functionality that more mature, bespoke membership products incorporate?

A. The key thing that Silverbear has done in the creation of its membership management services solution is to spend time to fully understand the nature of the membership management world. We have then taken that experience and knowledge, and customised Microsoft Dynamics CRM, and extended it, to offer the features and functionality that a complete end-to-end membership management solution should. This includes tracking membership renewals, new subscriptions, donations, membership purchases, event bookings, and all the financial transactions that a busy membership organisation has to deal with.

Extending core functionality to add direct debit processing, address validation, credit card processing, event management, qualification and professional development management, committee management and other membership functions means that the our solution delivers fully functional membership management that can be easily extended and integrated as required.

The powerful in-built marketing and communication features of Dynamics CRM have also been retained and have been extended to offer survey and invitation management, both vital features in a membership management solution. As the heart of an integrated multi-channel membership strategy, Dynamics CRM, in the form of Silverbear’s Membership Management Services offering, offers the ideal platform to develop and manage any membership base

Q. Membership management is heavily dependent on the accuracy and visibility of key contact information, and the fluency and automation of recurring processes including renewals and mailings. How does your system streamline this activity?

A. One of the key strengths of the underlying Microsoft Dynamics CRM product is its workflow management capabilities, which are available within the user interface and as background processes. These capabilities have been harnessed in the Silverbear Membership Management solution for on-screen validation of key data (such as addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, etc.) and for the automation of common membership management functions, such as the handling of renewals and recurring payments by direct debit and/or credit cards.

The powerful, automated campaign management features of the core Microsoft Dynamics CRM product, and its tight integration with Microsoft Outlook and other Office products such as Word (for mail merges), makes outbound communication management – both electronic and hard copy – straightforward, whilst still offering very powerful and sophisticated marketing capabilities.

Q. A dedicated, tightly integrated and accessible finance system often features highly on a membership manager’s CRM wish list. Can users effortlessly track, record and report transactions on subscriptions, products, events and donations?

A. Absolutely. All financial transactions can be handled directly from within the Silverbear Membership Management solution, with invoices being created for subscriptions, products, events, donations and other kinds of purchases. At the same time, the solution manages all incoming payments – including automated direct debit and credit card payment handling – and offers the membership manager the ability to stay on top of financial activity at all times.

Refunds and credit notes can also be automatically generated, for example in the case of event cancellation or management cancellation, as required. Whilst Silverbear’s Membership Management solution can handle all of the common financial transactions that the membership organisation will have to deal with, it can also seamlessly integrate with the organisation’s dedicated financial applications where required to give complete ‘closed loop’ financial management.

Q. How much scope is there, firstly for end-user configuration, particularly in managing forms, fields and tables, and secondly, in customisation and introducing ad-hoc functionality, work chiefly conducted by the implementation partner?

A. The core Microsoft Dynamics CRM product offers unlimited scope for customisation and configuration, both by the end-user and by an implementation partner. Screen, field and table customisation – together with dashboards, reports, custom views of the data, and custom workflow processes – are all available to the end-user and allow for easy extension and customisation of the solution to meet specific membership needs.

A technology-enabled membership organisation or implementation partner can really go to town on extending the core solution and can integrate it with many complimentary technologies, such as optical character readers for documenting scanning, telephony systems, and virtually any other complimentary solutions. To date, we haven’t found a problem that Microsoft Dynamics CRM can’t address via configuration and customisation, and this power is now available to the end-user, as well as the implementation vendor.

Q. Membership event planners must consolidate several items of intricately related information, including contacts, venues, fees, schedules and resources, before relaying all this to the relevant parties. Could you outline how a typical event might be managed in your system?

A. Silverbear has designed, developed and sells a dedicated event and delegate management product called evocos (www.evocos.com). This leading-edge event and delegate management solution is used by organisations of all shapes and sizes to manage events of all shapes and sizes, from individual meetings, workshops and training events, through to multi-day, multi-session conferences. Providing resource, venue, speaker, invitation, follow-up and payment management, evocos is ideal for running membership centric events.

Silverbear has taken evocos and seamlessly integrated it with Dynamics CRM so that the complete Silverbear Membership Services offering is able to offer unparalleled event management capabilities to the membership base. Qualification and training management, subscription event benefits (such as corporate membership subscriptions that offer a number of free event or conference spaces as a benefit of taking out that membership level) can now all be handled in one place. Delegates can be booked onto events from the website, or directly within the membership management application in a seamless and powerful fashion. Event payments and refunds are seamlessly handled and event attendance and feedback records are all stored automatically in one central location. When you tie this event management functionality – which is expanding on a monthly basis as the core evocos product develops according to its own product roadmap – with the powerful marketing and membership management capabilities built into the Silverbear offering, we believe that it we are in a unique position to offer a wholly integrated event management capability to membership management customers.

Q. Almost all member interactions are conducted via the web. Registering members, updating details, online transactions and administering events and activities are typical requirements. How is your solution tuned to communicating with an online audience and accommodating bespoke web development?

A. The ‘out of the box’ Silverbear Membership Management Services offering includes a powerful membership web portal that provides seamless integration to the core Dynamics CRM Membership Management application. This portal offers comprehensive content management together with complete membership management features – such as profile and subscription – and also offers additional value added capabilities, such as the provision of forums, blogs, galleries, member directories and a complete e-commerce capability. All interactions that take place on the portal are automatically recorded in the core Membership Management application, allowing for a single view of the member to be generated completely automatically.

Where membership organisations already have a website that they are happy with, the Silverbear Membership Management offering offers a comprehensive integration capability that can be used to provide powerful, integrated web self-service to the membership base through that existing site. Profile management, subscription management and activity tracking and recording are all available from the integration services, and allow an existing web site to be easily extended. The integration services capability also allows for activity recording to take place in the central membership management application, thus providing the single view of customer and all of their activities – online and offline – in one place.

Q. Online joining can be an elaborate procedure, with several member and sub-member types, membership dependencies, and the reciprocation and verification of personal details. With a focus on reducing membership administration, improving data integrity and minimising paperwork, does your system offer the flexibility to manage details online and alert, validate and report where necessary?

A. Absolutely. The online subscription and application process can be as simple or as complex and comprehensive as a particular organisation or membership grade requires. Due to the integrated nature of the online experience and the core Membership Management application, it is possible to use powerful automated workflows to drive all stages of a membership application process and to ensure that the right people engage with the joining process at the right time and do the right things in a timely fashion.

The integrated and automated nature of this application processing ensures that data integrity is maintained at all times, that there is a single view of what is happening with regards to membership applications easily accessible by both the membership organisation and the individual seeking membership, and that the process runs as smoothly as possible.

Q. Many membership organisations are looking for a solution which will either provide, or integrate with, a document management system, allowing them to keep a full, consistent record of their engagement with members and the information they produce/ provide for them. How would your membership solution help address this challenge?

A. The Silverbear Membership Management Solution, based as it is on Dynamics CRM 2011, has built-in document management using a version of Microsoft SharePoint. This capability allows documents to be captured, processed (via powerful workflow capabilities, for application approvals, etc.) and stored alongside member records at all levels. Document management is actually a particularly powerful aspect of the Silverbear Membership Management solution for this very reason.

Q. In managing membership applications, accreditations and other tightly regulated processes, many of our clients employ a Case Management system to provide a clear and auditable framework of documents and protocols. Does your solution include any features and functionality which would deliver this requirement?

A. Absolutely, the Silverbear Membership Management Solution offers complete, flexible and configurable case management capabilities to support all of the membership management processes – applications, accreditations, renewals etc. – that a membership organisation requires. These capabilities are primarily driven by the incredibly powerful built-in workflow capabilities of the base Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 solution that allow us, and membership organisations, to model any business processes via workflow . The solution also provides the necessary automation to ensure that the relevant processes are handled as smoothly and efficiently as possible for the particular organisation utilising the solution.


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