2012 Blackbaud Conference I recently attended the 2012 Blackbaud Conference held at Gaylord Hotel in the National Harbor, Maryland.  With Blackbaud’s recent acquisition of Convio, and their decision to retire Common Ground in 2014, I wanted to join the conversation about the future of Luminate CRM developed by Convio. After two and a half days of sessions, here were the takeaways that Blackbaud clearly wanted the LCRM crowd to leave with:
Blackbaud hearts Salesforce.com
The theme of Salesforce.com platform love began with the opening general session address by Jana Eggers, Senior Vice President of Products and Marketing.  According to Eggers, Blackbaud recognizes a growing segment of the nonprofit community is choosing Salesforce.com as a software application platform, and Blackbaud wants to be in this space to offer the best of breed system non-profit CRM.
She acknowledged the lingering skepticism and invited customers to suggest ways for Blackbaud to demonstrate its sincerity.  So far the leading crowd sourced suggestion is that the company publish a white paper comparing and contrasting Luminate CRM (LCRM) and Blackbaud Enterprise CRM (eCRM) to help non-profits choose the right solution.  Eggers plans to act on this recommendation.
Luminate CRM is here to stay
All of the Luminate CRM oriented sessions continued the love fest by starting with a humorous Q&A slide listing five or six different ways to say “Luminate CRM is here to stay!”  If repetition is believing, this matter should be settled.  Beyond the lovely declarations, the Luminate CRM roadmap session, presented by product managers and former Convio employees Lori Freeman, and Timothy Grailer, previewed the investments that Blackbaud is planning to make in this product.  The normally scheduled product updates was recently released on schedule, and several enhancements are currently in the works including:
–    Improving flexibility of the tight integration between Luminate CRM and Luminate Online
–    New batch data entry features
–    Batch gift entry of TeamRaiser gifts within LCRM
–    Integration with Blackbaud Merchant Services
In addition, Blackbaud is currently engaging customers in a discovery process to evaluate a series of potential LCRM enhancements including:
–    A data warehouse solution to be shared by The Raiser’s Edge, LCRM, and eCRM
–    Integration with Blackbaud Direct Marketing
–    Enhancements to general usability
Given the current development efforts, and enhancements that may emerge from client discovery, one begins to see a picture of LCRM deeply integrated with Blackbaud’s broad suite of non-profit solutions.  In theory this will allow Blackbaud customers to choose from a slate of several CRM options, and then combine their chosen CRM with pre-integrated software products in the areas of online marketing, business intelligence, eCommerce, and direct marketing.  Maybe there was more to the Convio acquisition than just eliminating a feisty competitor.
Furthermore, during a sidebar conversation Freeman said that nearly the entire LCRM engineering team was currently working for Blackbaud. This seems to add credence to the notion that the company sees LCRM in its future.
How was the “Luminate CRM is here to stay” message received?
I can’t speak for everyone, but as far as the BBCON attendees I spoke with, responses ranged from hope they really meant it to downright skepticism.  Beyond the understandable consternation about Common Ground’s retirement, the biggest cause for skepticism seems to be eCRM. That’s because eCRM is the biggest player in Blackbaud’s Infinity software application platform. Think of Infinity as Blackbaud’s home grown bid to deliver to the non-profit sector what Salesforce.com delivers to everyone: A cloud platform for automating a wide range of business processes, and a vibrant ecosystem of integrated apps. That being the case, some folks don’t believe Blackbaud will stand by and watch Salesforce.com/LCRM cannibalize the Infinity/eCRM market.
But based on my own recent software selection consulting experience it’s clear that all other things equal, an eCRM implementation can cost an order of magnitude more than an LCRM implementation.  Not to mention the fact that the Salesforce.com application ecosystem is light years ahead of Infinity. So unless eCRM implementation costs fall dramatically in the foreseeable future, it seems there’s room for both products to find a home in the non-profit CRM space.  Although, I wouldn’t be surprised if Blackbaud sales leads with Infinity/eCRM, and then falls back on Salesforce.com/LCRM if a) eCRM is too expensive, or b) the client is already invested in using the Salesforce.com platform. But only time will tell what really happens. Ultimately it may be the market that decides.
Want to learn more about the roadmap details?
Unfortunately, the LCRM roadmap session slides are not available for attendees to download from the BBCON 2012 website, although strangely the Luminate Online & Teamraiser roadmap session slides are.  But, there are at least two ways to gain more insight, and if you’re an existing LCRM customer, help shape LCRM’s future development:
1. Attend a Luminate CRM roadmap webinar
Register here to attend the upcoming roadmap webinars.  If you’re a Blackbaud customer and you’re not able to attend, contact your account manager.
2. Participate in Blackbaud product discovery
Are you an existing customer and want to make your voice heard?  Sign up to participate in Blackbaud’s Product Discovery, and you can help shape the future releases of LCRM and other Blackbaud products.  I got to experience the process first hand at BBCON when I sat down with Kyle Thomas, Interaction Designer for The Raiser’s Edge Mobile App, to test drive the first release smartphone app, and a hi-fidelity prototype of the upcoming tablet version.  Kyle took lots of notes while I tooled around, asked questions and made suggestions.

Share your thoughts and questions.
– Did you attend BBCON 2012?
– Do you currently work for a nonprofit that is using Blackbaud or Convio?
– What are your thoughts on the future of crm?
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