Losing its way: What Blackbaud CEO Mike Gianoni found when he came to the company – and what he is trying to do about it

 In Constituent Relationship Management (CRM), CRM Technology

Mike confirmed what we and other industry watchers have felt and seen for many years: Blackbaud went on a spending spree to acquire new companies, but did not pay sufficient attention to both integrating and rationalizing their new and legacy products.

This article is the first in a three-part series based on our interview. Read the introduction. 

[testimonial author=”Mike Gianoni, CEO, Blackbaud”]“When I got here, this was a company that had stalled a bit. And it was a business that was a very positive culture but very siloed. And, I think, [Blackbaud] made a lot of acquisitions and did not really execute well on them. I think they were smart acquisitions but we had really not focused on innovation and integrating products. I think we lost sight of what the marketplace needs and how do we solve business problems.”[/testimonial]

Blackbaud’s Challenges

Among Mike’s other observations:

  • Having a positive but “very siloed” culture resulted in each product having its own development approach and methodology
  • Integrations were not given “first-class status” as a part of product development – but were rather treated on an ad-hoc basis. (Those of you who have weathered the Raiser’s Edge-Luminate Online or Blackbaud CRM-Luminate integrations may have felt this acutely in integrations that both did not work and often created data integrity problems.)
  • Through acquisitions of companies, Blackbaud ended up with 40 internal systems. Blackbaud created the very environment that they were trying to convince their customers to move away from – disparate, duplicative and disconnected systems.

Change in Culture and Approach

When you talk with Mike or hear him speak, he will frequently mention his engineering background as a window into his approach to making improvements at Blackbaud. Many of the changes that Mike brought to the company involved rethinking the process by which products are engineered, maintained and supported. As examples:

  • Product development is no longer siloed across the multiple products but shares a unified approach.
  • Blackbaud is moving most of its products into the cloud and they will share the look & feel of the SKY platform as well as its technical capabilities. We will talk more about this in the third post in this series.
  • Blackbaud now has more than 600 engineers working on product development.
  • Engineers have been moved to an agile environment across all products with new features being released every week.
  • The number of internal systems was reduced from 40 to 8. This resulted in lower costs for Blackbaud that Mike indicates have allowed a greater investment in product engineering.

A New Transparency and Accountability

The willingness of Mike to talk so openly about the challenges and direction of Blackbaud is encouraging – particularly to those of us who have been frustrated at the lack of transparency and slow pace of change at the company. Whether you feel love, animosity or indifference toward Blackbaud, it is important to every nonprofit organization that there are stable and innovative companies investing in solutions that address the challenges of nonprofits. And given the number of organizations who rely on Blackbaud products to meet their mission, Blackbaud needs to be one of them.

Streamlining Blackbaud’s CRM Software Landscape

In Part 2 of this blog series we look at the multiple CRM software offerings of Blackbaud and how Mike is working to rationalize how they fit among other Blackbaud products. and describe a way to think about how organizations fit with each product.

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