Over the past few years I've been trying to solve the problem of delivering high quality technology to small nonprofits. Basically how do you get them something that costs $30K a year for free or affordable cost?
I've worked with a wide range of open source and proprietary technologies... CiviCRM, Drupal, Salesforce.com, Microsoft, Google, NetSuite. Nick Lewis had this great quote today,
"Drupal doesn't speed up development for developers who aren't Drupal ninjas"As I thought about this, I realize this is true for any complex software system. The utility of the software system, its ability to meet user goals, its ability to support rapid and iterative problem solving are all related to the specialization and experience of the user/customer.
This has some really important implications for software buyers. We've been saying this for years about Drupal, but it as relevant for Convio, Kintera, Blackbaud, MPower or any other vendor provided system... the more you learn about the platform, the more you invest in the platform, the more you increase you capacity using the platform, the more likely it will to solve your problems quickly and easily.
Back to small nonprofits... "I'm focusing on my mission, you want me to learn the software? Waste of time." Those of us that serve nonprofits keep wanting Muhammad Yunus's digital Alladin's lamp. Maybe that is not reasonable.
Let's look at the last ubiquitous piece of technology.. MS Word and MS Excel. I remember when NTAPs spent a lot of time training people on those technologies. Eventually the training just became part of the tech plan and new hires came in with basic computer literacy. Not sure there are any more deep worries about the affordability of MS Word (which was a huge issue in 1996) or the capacity of organizations to use MS Word (also a huge issue in the late 1990s).
Databases in the sky, CRM and ERP and different beasts, but perhaps we need to look at the trajectory of MS Word literacy to understand where our world is going over the next decade or so.
(1) Eliminate / radically reduce cost. Big corporations like Google, NetSuite & Salesforce are following Microsoft's software donation playbook, just in a new business model.
(2) Ubiquity leads to capacity. Google is teaching the world how web applications work, increasing the literacy of the population for the smaller players like NetSuite and Salesforce. Though I'm not sure how much CRM/ERP literacy is possible... quickbooks is still a black box to most people.
What do you think? Is it just a matter of time before the "big iron" of CRM/ERP comes to the masses in an effective form?