There were a lot of complaints when in version 7.91 (?) of The Raiser’s Edge a major new feature was PCI compliance including a lock screen. Firstly there were issues with long running processes, global changes, imports and customisations also locking up and not continuing. There were many people who said “why?”. We don’t store credit cards and have no intention of doing so. Some of the security additions were very welcome. The previous password policy (nothing larger than 8 characters, no minimum and the ability for supervisor uses to reveal the password in security) was terrible. Even the policy of forcing users to change their password after a certain time, while annoying for the user, is an industry standard and can also be turned off.
However the lock screen is my pet peeve. I am somewhat of a different type of RE user. I am not a fundraiser (despite the many LinkedIn endorsements – thank you). I am a software developer. As a software developer I care very little for PCI compliance. Most if not all of my constituents are fictional. And yet I have no opportunity to turn off the lock screen. Most organisations that are careful about security will enforce a group policy Windows lock so that after a few minutes of Windows inactivity the screensaver comes on and returns to the password screen. Again this is a sensible precaution. As a small business I have Sage accounting software which is PCI compliant. It does not lock out.
My latest issue is that RE locks, I unlock it, it opens RE only to lock again. Or it locks, I unlock it, it opens and then something locks again. RE is open but the lock screen appears in front of it. I unlock it and, because there is not actually anything to unlock, it crashes. I don’t know what is going on but this is very annoying.
Come on Blackbaud, make the lock screen optional for all users. Not just those with non-supervisor rights (or with Windows Authentication)!
It has come to my attention that I am probably in a minority position here. I regularly have a development environment open with programs that are attached to RE. This may or may not be a cause of the problem. I don’t know. I know that RE crashes when I unlock it even if I don’t have external programs attached to it. I have not been told specifically of this happening to other people so it is unfair to say that it is buggy. (By all means feel free to share your experiences in the comments). The point is I believe that the lock screen is overkill.
I have been in the fortunate position to have been testing a new application for The Raiser’s Edge. GoRaise Mobile is a mobile interface to The Raiser’s Edge by Electric Plum. I have had a lot of contact with Shaun Sullivan, Electric Plum’s CEO in the past when he was CTO of Blackbaud. Those of you who have heard him speak at Blackbaud conferences will know that he is passionate about technology and is a real inspiration. Electric Plum’s, soon to be released product really shines and it is clear that this is a gap in the market ready to be filled.
Continue reading Testing GoRaise Mobile for The Raiser’s Edge
At Zeidman Development we are big fans of MailChimp. We use it ourselves to send out our newsletters and we have integrated it with The Raiser’s Edge in the form of Chimpegration. MailChimp have now hired somebody to help non-profits make better use of MailChimp. Their latest blog post explains how to use merge variables in MailChimp.
Users of The Raiser’s Edge should be used to using merge variables given the built in tools that link RE to Word. The article explains how you use the corresponding functionality in MailChimp. What is really good is that if you set up merge variables in MailChimp you can easily link those variable to query output in Chimpegration. In the free version you are able to export your data to MailChimp and in the Pro version you can synchronize the data sets. That means you can use MailChimp merge variables as an online data source. If you tie it into your website, users can log in, update their merge variables themselves and all that is fed back into The Raiser’s Edge on synchronization. Sophisticated, flexible integration in one product.
For more information about Chimpegration take a look at our site: http://www.zeidman.info/downloads/chimpegration.php
I’m a big fan of Google and a big fan of Blackbaud. What do the two have in common? I’m not sure really. They are very different companies offering very different product ranges. However one obvious difference that is currently affecting me day to day is the fact that whereas Google are changing their interface throughout to reflect a modern sleek approach, Blackbaud (for the their “Edge” range of products at least) are not. In fact, not only are they not changing the way they look and feel, these products are stuck in a design that is several generations old. Due to the nature of the products they are also very restricted as to what they can do.
At the Blackbaud Conference for nonprofits in Washington last month I saw a demo of new functionality in Blackbaud CRM. It was highlighted that this functionality is only available in the “webshell” feature set of the application (as opposed to the ClickOnce feature set). If you are not familiar with those terms then essentially the “webshell” is the functionality available for all in a browser whereas the ClickOnce functionality is available only on Windows. What this also means though is that the webshell can utilise html5 and not be restricted to Windows Forms. This means a beautiful upgrade of the user interface is possible with much less of a struggle.
With the news that there will not be an RE8 what does this mean to those on RE7? When I recently showed our Chimpegration application to MailChimp I felt the need to apologise for the way that The Raiser’s Edge looked. When you look at MailChimp’s website it is very cool and very funky, just as you would expect from a website devoted to email marketing that takes pride in the range of sophisticated email templates on offer. Clearly there is a lot more technical wizardry to MailChimp than just the templates but if their site did not look good, you would be put off from creating a campaign through them. They could see that the RE7 interface was antiquated but were clearly impressed by the depth of functionality available to users which was matched in Chimpegration.
And that is the point. The most noticeable changes that Google makes in Gmail, calendar, docs, reader, etc are staring right at you in the form of the interface. But they also make a lot of functional additions too. With the release of RE7.92 Blackbaud will certainly make some good improvements but they cannot afford to stop there. The reason Google is updating is as a form of rebranding. Raiser’s Edge 7 does not have that luxury so it must shine with its functional enhancements and make them known as loudly as a new interface would do.
The past two weeks have been packed with all things Blackbaud. Last week was the Blackbaud conference in Washington DC and then this week in London. Being a big fan of
all most things Blackbaud, I had a great time, met some great people, got to meet the all new star cast at the top of the company and was pleasantly surprised by the announcements made.
Waiting for RE8 has gone from waiting with great anticipation and expectations in previous years to how we find ourselves now. We now know that RE8 will happen at some point (albeit probably under a different name) but the wait is over. We are no longer waiting for the next big thing, but for the little things. In past years we have been wowed by what was to come on the Infinity platform. This was exciting but left us wanting it without it ever arriving for the majority. Now however, looking at the new functionality in RE7; query lists, new lookup functionality, better dedupe features and being able to easily mark participants as attended, shows that despite its name (and its UI), RE7 is moving forward. Blackbaud is moving forward for everyone.
This was demonstrated so much more so in Blackbaud Mobile. The application allows you to promote campaigns through channels that may have been previously inaccessable to the majority of organisations. Allowing organisations to promote and give supporters the mechanism to donate through text message and mirrored on a Facebook app, brings their technology offerings into this decade.
After being burned by the anticipation of the Infinity platform’s greatness for The Raiser’s Edge users, Blackbaud are quite rightly avoiding the risk of repeated vaporware. One such thread could, in previous years, come from the exciting news of Raiser’s Edge Mobile. This application will be native to iPhone, Android and possibly Blackberry, will allow users to access their RE database directly from their mobiles. After having looked at a prototype version, I am quietly confident that this application will make it in the near future. This is another step in Blackbaud’s progression of the RE7 platform into the modern age.
What is really exciting however is the technology required to enable this. There will need to be a webservice layer for The Raiser’s Edge. There has been this web service layer for a while now with the NetCommunity integration. However it has always been restricted to NetCommunity specific tasks with limited use for other applications. If Blackbaud do the right thing this time around and make the web service layer generic and open to all applications, all of a sudden we will integration with The Raiser’s Edge like never before from all sorts of web based applications.
It does not matter what it is called (RE7 or RE8, Infinity or not) it is the perception that Blackbaud’s offerings are going forward and not stagnating. With the wait for RE8, RE7 was left languishing. The risk was great that organisations would move away from Blackbaud to other platforms offering what Blackbaud should have been doing years ago. Now at least they are moving into the modern era.
Strong words and the last thing I want to do is to upset too many people. I really do love Blackbaud applications and some of the people that I come across in that company are really talented and inspiring. However Blackbaud Hosting has to be the antithesis of that. Continue reading I love Blackbaud. I dislike Blackbaud hosting
Fundraising UK are reporting that Blackbaud have released a new version of The Raiser’s Edge. This is clearly not the new version that very many people have been waiting for. It is not RE8 nor is it on the Infinity platform. It does appear to be useful however for those organisations that want an enhanced, internet aware version of The Raiser’s Edge. The Raiser’s Edge (i) as it has being called (more details on Blackbaud’s site) is a new hosted package that incorporates a web presence as well as donor maintenance application.
As this new product has just been released, it is hard to imagine that Blackbaud will be announcing RE8 on the Infinity platform any time soon. Combine this with the fact that no major enhancements to The Raiser’s Edge version 7 application are expected, many organisations are surely feeling frustrated by Blackbaud’s apparent inertia. I have worked with Enterprise CRM and know how far advanced that application is from the existing version of The Raiser’s Edge. I have said on numerous times that it is worth wait and I still think it is. The question is how long will others hold out. An organisation that is thinking of upgrading functionality will not wait forever for Raiser’s Edge on Infinity and will certainly be tempted to look elsewhere.
I am sitting in the plane on my way back to the UK following the Blackbaud conference in Washington DC. There were no new announcements about the generation eight products (few seem to refer to it as The Raiser’s Edge 8), no new major applications and no new major personnel changes (that I was made aware of). However there was a new branding. The new logo should represent a more open Blackbaud. At first I was unsure about the design. It seemed somewhat cartoon like but now it has grown on me. To put the record straight the tag-line is not as in this post’s title but rather “Your purpose -> Our passion”. I ought to remember it. The free WIFI from Blackbaud at the conference used this as the username and password. Instead I managed to use each permutation available. If we take this tag-line at face value what can we expect?
Continue reading Blackbaud – My purpose is their passion
If you don’t receive my somewhat irregular newsletter (and you can sign up for it here if you want…) then you will, perhaps not have heard that I will be speaking in both London and Washington DC over the next couple of weeks.
I shall be speaking on the differences between customisations on the Infinity platform versus those on The Raiser’s Edge platform. I have a several customisations created for the conferences one of them an integration with Mailchimp, the email delivery provider. The session is not going to be technical (there will be no code) so it is open to everyone. If you are going to be at either of the conferences then it would be great to meet you.
I am looking forward to some exciting announcements from Blackbaud. Here are a couple of my predictions:
- A public, free, release of the Blackbaud Enterprise CRM SDK
- The dropping of the name “Raiser’s Edge” in favour of “Blackbaud CRM”
- Free iPads for all the speakers! (possibly wishful thinking but it may come true)
Look forward to seeing you there!
A while ago Blackbaud released Blackbaud Enterprise CRM. For me as an observer of all things Blackbaud related I don’t remember exactly when BBEC was released. There was no big announcement but instead there were small releases of information over an extended period of time. First it was snippets of information about the Infinity platform, then announcements that various organisations had selected BBEC and then finally mutterings of information about RE8. The gradual increase of information about the product range has, over time, increased the expectations of Blackbaud’s customers towards the release of RE8. This was no bad thing. Such releases of information, whether officially from Blackbaud or just speculation from within the community creates a buzz around the product. (Such a model has worked wonders for each of Apple’s releases). Unfortunately buzz can lead to hype which can lead to frustration. RE8 has this mythical quality about it. While most people realise that it is more than just vaporware (given the release of BBEC) there is nothing, as yet, tangible. Continue reading RE8 and the risk for Blackbaud