Blackbaud SKY: Mike Gianoni wants to revolutionize how nonprofit software looks and acts

 In Constituent Relationship Management (CRM), CRM Technology

This is part three of a three-part series based on an interview with Blackbaud CEO Mike Gianoni. Read the introduction that links to all three parts in the series.

Mike is pivoting how the company approaches integrating and building products via the Blackbaud SKY platform. In the process, Mike is also trying to chart and lead the future of technology for nonprofits. His hope is to create a broader ecosystem that extends beyond Blackbaud’s own software and services and, ultimately, Blackbaud SKY will improve how competitor products look and act.

Our final post covers what we learned about Blackbaud SKY from Mike. We unpack its potential implications, in the short-term, for Blackbaud customers and longer-term for the broader nonprofit software market.

[testimonial author=”Mike Gianoni, Blackbaud Inc.”]”I know talking about the SKY platform can make some people’s eyes glaze over. My challenge is to find ways to help our customers better understand how Blackbaud SKY benefits them, even if they don’t rely on Blackbaud for everything.“[/testimonial]

The Evolution of Blackbaud

In our interview with Mike we were able to learn a lot about the state of Blackbaud when he became CEO and what he is doing to improve it. We are not historians – but we have been in and around Blackbaud for a long time. Blackbaud, in its 35 years of its existence, has gone through what we consider to be three historical periods:

  • Period 1: Mail software disks. From 1981 to 1999 the company focused exclusively on software and training for accounting, fundraising and school administration. Blackbaud sent you some shrink-wrapped disks, sold you some training and answered the phone when you called for support. That is all they did – but they did it well and became a market leader.
  • Period 2: We’re going public. In 2000 a private equity firm purchased Blackbaud and took the company public. Blackbaud continued the software business but started to emphasize another significant revenue stream – professional services – lots and lots of professional services for data augmentation, implementation, data cleanup, and business process improvement.
  • Period 3: Build some. Buy a lot. Blackbaud went through a time of unprecedented growth that was accelerated by buying company after company. Some of the more notable acquisitions included Convio, Kintera, and Target Software. As Mike acknowledged (and we covered in our first blog post) Blackbaud ended up feeling like many companies mashed together.

The future of Blackbaud: Blackbaud SKY is the limit

It is early days. Blackbaud SKY will eventually touch every product according to Mike. But what does Blackbaud SKY really mean? As explained to us it means the following:

  1. SKY is a new user experience. Modern, completely web-based and more flexible. It is a huge improvement to the outdated look and feel of the more dated Blackbaud products, such as The Raiser’s Edge and The Financial Edge, and also brings uniformity to how users experience Blackbaud software
  2. SKY will have “open” APIs. Refreshed APIs should open up a world of both customer-specific integration but also the possibility for a true third-party marketplace for products and services. “Open” has yet to be defined, or announced, including any pricing implications (if any).
  3. SKY will (we hope) allow for the streamlining and reuse of functionality across Blackbaud products. Historically, Blackbaud (or the companies it purchased) built functionality multiple times. Multiple products, in Mike’s vision, will leverage the same set of functionality across multiple products.

Where can I get me some SKY now?

The SKY platform, according to Blackbaud, currently touches the following products:

  • Raiser’s Edge NXT: Slow but steady progress. The great news is that Blackbaud is under promising and over delivering on their roadmap. The slightly less great news is that only a small part of RE is now on the SKY platform. For most functionality, you will still be using the “classic” version of The Raiser’s Edge.
  • Financial Edge NXT: The General Ledger and Accounts Payable “modules” are now SKY-ified. Additional development is underway for the rest of the product.
  • Luminate Online: Is wholly rewritten, is in beta, and is expected to be in general release later this year.
  • Etapesty: Fully on SKY now.
  • Blackbaud Outcomes, Bivalence, AngelPoints, are also built on Blackbaud SKY

Blackbaud states that 1 out of 3 customers has benefited from the SKY platform. This said, there are some notable exceptions to the list of software touched by Blackbaud SKY including Altru, the product suites acquired from Whipple Hill and MicroEdge, and Blackbaud CRM.  (Our second blog post in this series diagrams the more prevalent Blackbaud software as a primer.)

What does Blackbaud SKY mean for your organization?

SKY is an exciting development and promising future direction for Blackbaud. Unlike previous efforts to modernize Blackbaud products, SKY appears to have the commitment and resources from across Blackbaud.

We advise our clients to take a “show us” approach to RE NXT as they would with any vendor promises. Select and implement software based on what the vendors can prove to you right now. Blackbaud SKY is really only at the beginning of achieving the vision that Mike envisions. But we have much more reason for optimism than we did 2 years ago. BBCON, Blackbaud’s annual conference, will presumably be a significant platform for Mike to talk more about Blackbaud SKY. We will be there, and will share more news as we learn it.

We are grateful for Mike’s openness to talk with us and to make his team available to us to answer questions. If we can answer any questions for you, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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