Yesterday I went to the Civil Society IT Conference.
The opening plenary talk was from Ian Osborne. He talked a lot about the Cloud. I'm still sceptical as to whether it will make much difference to small to medium charities. One of his passing comments was about online databases which made my ears prick up, as I'm working, in my spare time, with a local charity to get them off DabbleDB, an online database tool. There are a few around and I think for a very small charity, they represent a good solution for record keeping. It's not rocket science, but if well packaged and delivered it could give a good alternative to Access.
The first workshop I went to was Martin Jervis from Blackbaud talking about a CRM implementation they did with British Heart Foundation. He did well at not blowing their own trumpet and the fact that the BHF project manager co-speaker wasn't able to attend meant he could be effusive with his praise for the absent person.
One of the things BHF did was to fit their processes with the software, something which I remarked on after a conference four years ago. Someone else said you do that for the run of the mill stuff, like HR and Finance, and work on tweaking and bespoking the area where your charity specialises. Interesting thoughts.
Andrew Brenson from Save the Children spoke about Creating a sustainable IT strategy, with some common sense stuff about hitting the right point on the adoption curve, and the importance of not letting a strategy gather dust, but refining it.
I was fortunate enough to meet my counterpart in another Christian charity and it was useful to share experiences and explore the differences between our approaches to CRM and websites.
There was a session on Getting Your Website Strategy Right with Catriona Campbell from Foviance, and her work with clients on user personas. Also talking about TV and online video was Jackie Brambles who I vaguely remember from Top of the Pops, but who has been presenting other stuff in the US and then back over here since then.
Touchstone did an extended plug for their CRM stuff. The interesting thing about that session was that it works in an online way with Azure. I wondered when Azure first came out why it was positioned in the way it was, not directly rivalling App Engine or Amazon EC2. However now I can see that it's a platform for their own offerings, like Dynamics, or for third parties to do the equivalent.
Robert Schifreen from Security Savvy gave a talk about security, which can never be really done well in a short space of time. However I think he was scary enough to make you look at it again.
Recent IT conferences have had social media all over them. This one didn't at all which was strange. I found all but one of the sessions (guess which one) were useful, and if there's a different spread of stuff next year I'd consider going.