On the flight home …

How inspired are you? How much of what you heard will you implement over the next year? How will you change what you’re doing to become more effective? How will you change your strategies and processes to help you’re cause?

  • Inspiring Keynotes. I personally would prefer less of these and more time devoted to sessions, but this is only a personal preference. Ashley Judd, closing keynote was a highlight – how to transfer personal adversity to activism. Thanks to the keynote sponsor and Blackbaud for this one.
  • Conference size. Very large, 2,500 plus, lots of walking between sessions, hundreds at meals. Not always the easiest venue to network in – when you get home, start or participate in a local user group in your own community. Breakfast with 2,500 of your colleagues is not as effective as getting together regularly with people that you can meet across town. We’ve done this in Vancouver, Canada with our BC Blackbaud Users Group and it’s been very effective.
  • Conference sessions. Good variety, but hard to attend as many as you’d like. Other conferences have a pre-day where you can participate on longer training or in-depth 1/2 day specific training sessions in more of a classroom style setting. There could be some of these.
  • Food, temperature and all of the other physics. On par with expectations, nobody can do a lot here. Temperature is usually one of the #1 complaints.
  • Location. Good. More in the future on the West Coast? Let Blackbaud know if you’d like this too. Those of us on the west coast certainly would. Drive has been a West Cost conference that has grown dramatically over the last few years. – if you’re interested in reporting/analyltics and related, I’d recommend it. We’re a sponsor.
  • WiFi. Available throughout conference. I know this is a no brainer these days, but some conferences still don’t have it. Coverage and speed were good.
  • Overall price to value. This always depends on your own needs but additionally it helps to put some personal effort into making sure you attend sessions that are relevant to you. Seek out those people and vendors you need to network with and make sure you connect face to face. If you’re going for hands on sessions to learn the intricate details of various products, this conference is probably not the place for that. More of an announcement, strategy and typically “higher level” how to. Panel discussions and similar.

The Big Announcements (Not all of them, but the ones that resonated with me.)

There’s more details on some of the other posts on this site about the conference, here’s some personal highlights.

  • NXT roadmap and related API and the vision of providing a better ecosystem for developers and customizations.
  • Luminate roadmap and discussion of Luminate NextGen.
  • Blackbaud SKY and their strategy for broadening cloud strategy.

Is Blackbaud headed in the right directions?

They seem to be moving towards more modern architectures, more open roadmaps for all products, additional focus on customer support, an ecosystem for developers and customizations, cloud enabled applications, more web services, product consolidation and they continue to bring staff with in-depth expertise into the company. All of this is a plus.

The capital markets seem to agree. Cash flow, income and sales growth, both through licensing and acquisitions have all helped to move the share price higher. The executive and senior team have share options as part of their compensation. The market is telling us that  this is a company you can invest in. Customers should monitor the R&D %. The ratio has not changed as sales have increased, so that is a good sign for customers. It means that Blackbaud continues to invest in moving their products forward – while still keeping their Board happy.

All of the announcements are exciting, but the company has a lot of work to do. Major platform and product changes can take years to implement, especially when you have a large base of customers using a wide variety of products. As end users of their products we will have to exercise some patience, but not be overly generous with our patience. We still need a lot done and whatever Blackbaud does directly affects our ability to fundraise and engage – and what resources we will require in the “back room” to support and manage their products.

  • You should continue to let Blackbaud know what you would like in the products through the ideas bank.
  • You should continue to let your sales reps know what you need in terms of pricing, licensing and features.
  • You should build your network with your peers through individual conversations, communities of practice and user groups.
  • You should continue to be vocal with Blackbaud as to what you don’t like so they hear where they need to do more when you’re speaking with them.
  • You should leverage your conversations by engaging with your peers at other organizations.

So what do you do with what you have learned?

A lot of times, we attend a conference and then get buried in the day to day activities that usually descend on us like a firestorm.

Here’s few ideas:

  • Write down the top 5 things you heard or learned and put these as tasks into your calendar so you don’t lose site of them.
  • Spend 1/2 hour a day doing additional research on vendors, software, links of interest, presentation materials and anything else you found of interest for the first few weeks after you get back. This can be challenging in terms of time, but if you can find the time, it really helps you grow your knowledge base.
  • Within the month after you get back, build your personal network by getting in touch with at least 5 people that you met at the conference. Over the long haul in your career, these networks can greatly magnify in value.
  • Share conference materials, links and what you’ve learned with staff at your organization. Do a presentation on the conference to a local research group.

We’re all deeply engaged with the products that Blackbaud provides to us.

Learn as much as you can about how they work so that your personal effectiveness and efficiency continues to improve.

Find the workarounds and implement them to help mange the timelines between upgrades and new products. Invest time in educating your staff in best practices for using the produces.

Be a leader in your organization for data quality and integrity, great business processes, fundraising and business knowledge, marketing channels.

Above all, know your donors and their motivations and focus on enabling them to work with you and your cause.