United States

Nonprofit wins customer excellence award for Dynamics CRM usage


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ECRI Institute, a nonprofit organization, brings the discipline of applied scientific research to discover the best medical procedures, devices, drugs, and processes to help health care organizations improve patient care. As pioneers in this science, they pride themselves on having the unique ability to marry practical experience and uncompromising independence with the thoroughness and objectivity of evidence-based research.

This 350-person organization, with four international locations, used Microsoft Access, Microsoft Excel and ACT to manage more than 5,000 members, products and services. The tools and processes were outdated and difficult to manage with many manual processes and information in disparate systems. Legacy systems forced them to use a variety of manual work arounds. The multiple databases meant duplicate entry, data redundancy and poor visibility.

ECRI Institute chose Microsoft Dynamics® CRM to centralize its data and automate manual business processes as the Microsoft platform provided the consistency ECRI required across all their business systems.

Short-term efforts were made to create one centralized database from the three legacy systems (Sage Act™, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Access) and automate the functions used by the sales and marketing department. As efficiencies were achieved, the solution was then rolled out to other departments – Web, order fulfillment and internal help desk.

Customer excellence award
In 2011, Microsoft recognized ECRI with its Excellence in Innovation Awards which is awarded each year at the Convergence User Conference. As part of the selection process, winning customers are chosen based on their usage of customer relationship management solutions that help businesses work more effectively.

Functions added to the Dynamics CRM system include:

  • Full automation of the order fulfillment process, which is executed once the order is approved. This process was driven by a home-grown system named Eclipse, which was in use for over 10 years and required manual work. The process was redesigned to integrate with Dynamics CRM, using the CRM Workflow Engine along with Scribe data integration, to automatically create jobs for the fulfillment team to package, label and mark orders as completed. Most orders are subscription based, so fulfillment occurs from the original order.
  • Subscription renewals are generated automatically using a conditional workflow. The workflow creates an opportunity in Dynamics CRM then sends notification to the account manager and a renewal letter to the customers in various stages (6 months out – first letter with one offer, 2 months out – second letter with another offer, and upon expiration). Workflow also creates follow-up activities in Dynamics CRM for each salesperson.
  • Subscription management tracks user, group and security levels of those who access the research information on the Web. Customers’ access to the website is managed by Customer Access System (CAM), which works closely with Dynamics CRM and Active Directory to set the appropriate permissions.
  • The electronic shopping cart integrates with the website and Dynamics® CRM to allow the order from the Web to move into the systems and alerts via workflow to validate the data and approve the invoice from the approved order. Workflow also checks the appropriate permissions to the website, creates all the user account(s), if needed, and begins the fulfillment process.
  • Microsoft SharePoint® and Dynamics CRM are utilized to allow customers to log into the website and view/modify their profile, as well as see the order history and purchase items. The Web interface is completely integrated with ECRI’s CRM system and the order is funneled through their internal fulfillment process in Dynamics™ SL, from start to finish, in an automated fashion.
  • Sales professionals utilize opportunities and orders as well as contacts and accounts to do their day-to-day work where they can manage and place orders from their remote laptops while connecting via Internet Facing Deployment. RSM has customized the opportunity area to follow the Miller-Hieman Sales Methodology.
  • Using Scribe to import the data, marketing lists, contacts and leads are automatically populated from trade show lists and other list sources while a third-party add-on product is used to communicate to clients and prospects in Marketing Lists.


  • Saved $49,000 or 2,064 hours annually by automating processes to restrict access to users without a current subscription, which allows ECRI to reassign two FTE Web support staff to other jobs
  • Reduced circulation staffing for an annual savings of $150,000
  • Improved customer services – responses that once took 2-8 hours, are now accomplished through a simple inquiry into Dynamics CRM
  • Saved $55,000 in annual maintenance fees by creating one centralized system from three non-integrated systems and eight contact databases

They said it
“In comparison to other not-for-profit organizations, or any commercial company for that matter, ECRI’s annual IT budget represents 10 percent of their overall budget. In relation to other not-for-profits where budgets are tight and their systems are built on UNIX and free applications, ECRI is investing money in technology that helps them make money through more efficient and productive processes – this is cutting-edge.”

- Dan Zenzel, Director of IT, ECRI Institute