They talked about upcoming improvements to RE, including the long awaited change so that email addresses aren't linked to a postal address. They emphasised their commitment to working on RE, and at the moment seem to be slowly introducing ideas suggested on their UserVoice suggestion site.
There were some slides about Online Express and my blog entry on it got a mention.
Then there was a session on mobile, and after lunch, the thing I was most interested in - RE NXT (don't call it Next, they don't like that).
There are some good introductions to it out there, so here are a few links:
IT For Charities
RE Decoded from Zeidman
If you haven't read those then this is the summary: hosted RE with a web front end that you can still access in the old way. The initial release in June next year will be the front end features that fundraisers use. In time other roles will have their bits NXTified until you can do every bit of RE without using the older interface.
My comment on RE NXT before I'd been to the user group was:
"I think one disadvantage of the fact that the underlying data is remaining unchanged is that we're stuck with the slow pace of change of that. For example, how long have people been asking for an email address which isn't tied to a postal address. I think I read this is coming in an upcoming RE release, but they only happen about once a year. I expect to see rapid updates with the interface, as that's easy to roll out, like with BBOX. I don't think we'll see the underlying data changing so quickly though."I heard from a Blackbaud person that RE NXT will have its own data, which it's going to have to do to store, for example, someone's web dashboard layout. So it can build on top of the RE data, but it can't really break the underlying model.
My opinion is that RE NXT is a good direction to go with RE to keep it viable for a few more years. There is no data upgrade pain, though there will be a user education exercise. The phased approach to bring in the new interface will bring IT support challenges, but is also a more gentle process than an interface change for everyone. It also means we don't have to wait for years for Blackbaud to finish everything before releasing it.