Sharepoint has turned out to be a great tool for us. We are now about 5 months into heavy use of it and it is serving as a great consolidator of information. We are able to keep our various project information up-to-date and in an easy to access location. The group calendar functions have been an added bonus. The one drawback that we have at the moment (due to a technical situation) is that the calendars are not linking withour personal calendars on Outlook. I have been told that will be rectified soon with a future update to our Microsoft Office software.
April 9, 2008
August 7, 2007
Admittedly this is kind of a “drive-by” posting. I will try to expand more later.
I met with a couple of people over the last couple of weeks from different small organizations. During the conversation with both of them, the discussion came around to the topic of choosing a donor database. There are many choices out there and each one plays a role for the organization that chooses it at the time it is chosen. It is worth considering periodically whether or not the software you are currently using continues to meet the needs of your organization.
Here are a few that are worth looking at if you are in the market for a database solution:
- Blackbaud’s Raiser’s Edge
- Donor Direct
This is hardly an exhaustive list as there are many more out there. Some good, some bad.
There are many things to consider when looking at a solution for your organization. I am not sure that I could do justice to the discussion here but let me lay out just a few things to consider when evaluation new software:
- Ease of use
- Data retrieval
- Organizational resources
- In-house vs hosted
- Your internal business rules
Maybe this helps. Maybe it muddies the water a bit. Comments?
July 25, 2007
I figured it was about time to keep my proimise to update you periodically about our implementation of SharePoint.
SharePoint is up and running and our IS team has tweaked the DNS records to allow for simple access to the site without having to remember a big long URL. Just a nice one word access to the site. The following pieces are being used at this point:
- Calendar – at this time limited to a group calendar for tracking days in and out of the office.
- Wiki – this is probably the biggest piece as we continue to load in all of the organization’s projects and cross-reference them as relevant. This is taking the most work at this point.
- Shared Documents – departmental procedures have been uploaded into a convenient spot so that anyone can access the procedures without having to hunt through a confusing array of folders and subfolders.
The rollout is slow for a couple of reasons. I want to make sure that we run it through a bunch of testing to see how it is going to function before opening it up to the majority of the staff. Secondly, we have had some challenges in the department that have taken some focus away from the development so things have slowed a bit.
I will say this – the biggest advantage that I can see for our application of SharePoint is the Wiki functionality. Since this application is staying inside the firewalls, there is not a need for external sharing and some of the functionality is more than we need.
Anyway, onward we go.
June 20, 2007
Okay, here is something for the wow factor! I tried to embed the original in this post but it didn’t want to work today for me. But here is the link to a demo of Photosynth software.
Enjoy wrapping your brain around the implications of the technology and how it might be used.
Thanks to As The Table Turns for pointing me to this.
June 15, 2007
One of the challenges that we face (and I am sure we are not alone) is the rapidly changing “project status” reports. For those that deal with gathering information and writing status reports for funders, you will probably shout a loud “Amen” to this challenge. The challenges often come from two sources:
- different information received from different project sources
- different information needed by various funders (i.e. individuals vs foundations vs organizations, etc)
So a couple of us started brainstorming quite a while ago about how we best manage the information that we have at our fingertips and the reports that are generated by our creative team. We started with a simple document library concept thinking that if we put our reports in folders organized by subject we would be able to cut and paste as needed. We quickly learned that this wasn’t going to work. So we continued to limp along a little while.
We began to realize that one of our biggest problems was not the accumulation of reports. That was easy. The hard part was the gathering (and dissemination) of consistent, accurate information. Often, if one staff member called their source for an update about a particular project, they received one packet. If a different staff member called a different source, they might get a different packet and not even realize that a) information was already available and b) what they were just given might be different from what the first person received. (Okay, I realize that this may point to a much large systemic issue that we will get to later. But for now stick with me.)
Then, thanks to the blogging of some of my peers such as Michele at Bamboo Project and Beth at Beth’s Blog, the light bulb came on. Why not use a wiki to manage the information? After setting some simple rules for how information is formatted when it is added to a page in the wiki, we should be off and running. The fluidity of a wiki is really perfect for keeping track of the most recent information about the various projects that we have at any given time. In addition, it allows the staff who write reports to gather the information that they need quickly and share new information with other staff just as quickly.
So then the question became – what platform? So I went to our IT team to see what help I might get for a hosted solution. Being somewhat familiar with what is available I knew we could get something that would work well for us. But I received a rather surprising response – “Why not try Microsoft’s SharePoint?” Not knowing much about it other than conceptually I agreed to at least consider it. After spending some time in quick review, I realized that we may have stumbled on a great solution! (Notice I didn’t go so far as to say the “p” word . . . perfect.)
And so, Project SharePoint is born. I’ll try to post more details as we complete the setup but for now, here is a brief synopsis:
- SharePoint has built in shared document functionality
- SharePoint has a built in wiki which (so far) seems to be very easy to set up
- SharePoint runs on the corporate intranet and can also be configured for remote access
- Calendar, task, and communication duties in SharePoint can be integrated with a user’s Outlook
Much of this we are still working on so I’ll keep posting as we go.
June 5, 2007
I recently read this post on the Freakonomics Blog written by Stephen Dubner that got me thinking about the processes that we put into place to accomplish our work. In his post, Stephen discusses complex systems and how they evolve due to the variety of inputs. In his post he posits the exercise of asking ourselves, “if we were making this system up from scratch today, what would it look like?”
I have been working on documenting procedures for a variety of activities within our department lately, and I suspect this post struck home due to this exercise. In addition to the “process” of creating procedural documents for those that come behind, we are working with our software provider to develop new systems for how our database presents information and tracks donor relationships. All this makes me ask the same question – if we were doing this from scratch, what would it look like?
It is a scary thing to think about demolishing our existing structures and starting from scratch. But maybe there are times when that is a better solution than continuing to limp along doing the same things time after time and expecting different results. I tend to think that non-profits are particularly prone to this thinking. After all, to start from scratch demands a certain level of financial commitment and an acknowledgment that resources spent on the existing systems may be perceived as wasted. (False perspective but that concept is for another time.)
Our organizations are complex systems in themselves. Breaking down the organization into its component parts (Finance, HR, Information Systems, Development, Programs), we can see smaller subsets that are complex systems as well. Realistically, any entity that involves more than one human interface is a likely candidate for defining as a complex system. Mid to large size non-profits will be especially complex as they start to deal with a multitude of human inputs.
Periodically asking ourselves what the system might look like if it was designed from scratch is a worthwhile exercise. It may be that nothing new is generated. But how often have you said to yourself, “If I was doing that I would do it this way”, or, “If only we could handle this this way.” I believe the concept of strategic planning is changing. The globalization of our world, the speed at which we are forced to make decisions and operate is forcing us into a new paradigm for planning. I believe that in the context on ongoing strategic planning we need to be asking ourselves the following questions:
- What are we doing that we need to keep doing because it is the core of who we are and what we exist to do?
- What are we doing that we need to do for a short time longer to complete and then toss it out?
- What are we doing that we should be doing differently because the original design and purpose has slipped?
- What are we doing that we should not be doing anymore because it is outside of our core mission and purpose?
Then take a look at the systems that are in place to support your activity and in light of the answers to the above questions, evaluate which systems should remain and which should go. Which systems need tweaking and which systems are operating at best efficiency.
If you had to do it over again from scratch, what would it look like?
March 28, 2007
Maybe this has been posted before by others but I found it today so I thought I would share. I was looking for some resources on wiki software that we could use for collaboration purposes in our department. I ran across this site that appears to do a good job of comparing the different platforms that are available. If you are looking at implementing a wiki for group work, check this comparison out.
December 7, 2006
As an update to the Donation Security post from a couple of days ago, here is a resource that you may find valuable as you evaluate various 3rd party providers. This document is a list of companies certified by Visa to be in compliance with their credit card processing regulations. Visa Compliant Companies
December 5, 2006
CRM Magazine had a great articlein their recent e-newsletter concerning online security and the concerns that people have in transacting business on the internet. According to a Gartner survey quoted in the article, nearly $2 billion in online sales will be lost in 2006. To quote:
Nearly half of online U.S. adults, or 46 percent of more than 155 million people, say that concerns about theft of information, data breaches, and/or Internet-based attacks have affected their purchasing payment, online transaction, or email behavior. Of all the behaviors affected, online commerce . . . is suffering the highest toll.
You can also find the full article here. But non-profits typically don’t sell items on the internet. So how does that affect the trust relationship in this context?
September 29, 2006
My good friends at McConkey/Johnston International sent me their latest e-newsletter yesterday. I thought I would share (with their permission) a very well written article by Sally Funk, Manager of Support Systems and Services. Sally provides a well articulated process for evaluating your donor software needs and making the final decision on a vendor. Because there are so many options out there now, it is important to determine what you want your software to do for you and then ask all the right questions. (more…)