Drinking from the Data Firehose

When I started with Stupid Cancer in late 2009, the organization had just invested in a SugarCRM database to manage relationships. I had used pharmacy management software since ’02 in my former life as a Pharmacy Tech, so I was familiar with the core functionality. SC had just hired a dev company and spent a considerable amount of money on what was then a worthwhile investment.

Being new to the organization, I didn’t want to rock the boat by accelerating development in ways I knew it could go. I also knew that at any given moment something could happen that would result in some kind of database related disaster. I didn’t have the keys to back up the database regularly. I probably didn’t think back then that I should have been.

Long story short, our self-hosted CRM wasn’t the right fit. We could have made that instance of Sugar work for us, but it was kind of doomed from the start. Before long, we landed on Mailchimp and our Sugar lead forms were replaced by Mailchimp signups. Our contacts became more valuable as subscribers and their journey with us carried on as such.

In 2011/2012, we began to see an uptick in traction across the board due to a corporate rebrand. Suddenly, our lists were growing. In March 2012, we launched an online store and began down an interesting e-commerce journey. All of a sudden, we had rich customer data. For the first time in organizational history, we had an influx of physical addresses. We had real people, spending money and willingly giving us data.

Mailchimp, along with Volusion, were our first two SaaS engagements. We were able to negotiate non-profit pricing which was in the 20–25% off range or sometimes free.

Very quickly, we faced another dilemma. Our email marketing platform and online store weren’t communicating with one another. Luckily, I caught wind of a cloud connector called Kevy. Up until this past summer, Kevy functioned solely as an integration platform. It moved large amounts of data from one cloud-hosted platform to another via API. They have since discontinued their integration service to focus on email marketing. We look forward to utilizing their service at the end of our current ESP contract.

Before we knew it, we were generating a ton of rich data every single day, from all sides. So much so, we couldn’t keep up with it. We had analytics and longitudinal information but were only in a position to glance at it and move on. With a small staff, there was no sound way to compile reports and make informed decisions, for the most part, other than from 35,000 feet up.

Last Summer, Slack was brought to market and changed everything for Stupid Cancer, and team communication everywhere.

Slack isn’t the first team communications platform that our organization has ever used. We were loyal users of Yammer, before it was acquired by Microsoft and the platform didn’t keep up with our needs. We put our best effort into Bitrix24, which only lasted until we caught wind of Slack.

Slack was new and interesting. It came with a lot of bells and whistles that we didn’t know we needed. Slack pointed me in the direction of Zapier, an integrations company. By this point, I had already experimented with IFTTT (If this, then that). Zapier connected Slack with platforms we didn’t even know it could.

Slack became the soul of Stupid Cancer overnight.

A year ago, I wrote this post about Slack. Since then, Slack has helped us refine a lot of our internal processes by making us take a tech-first approach. Throughout our work day, we track projects, finances, social media, customer service, customer feedback, event registration, and more.

After 7 years of creating data, we’re relaunching a traditional CRM on theBase platform. Using the same workflows that we have with Slack, we’ll be able to focus less on the minutiae and have a tool that serves us well.