Dreamforce 2011 – My Favorite Week of the Year

August 26, 2011

So time for my contribution to the ‘I can’t wait for Dreamforce’ blog posts! There are a lot of them, and I find them fascinating reading – everyone has different perspectives, but the enthusiasm of the authors is palpable. I’m looking forward to meeting a number of my favorite authors there next week. In a post back in June (Why I Love Salesforce.com Events) I explained why I love going to Salesforce.com events and all of those reasons are still very true.  Added to that is that I’ve been named as a Salesforce MVP for evangelism and contributions to the community, which means that I get to participate in some of the events, and I’m excited!

Dreamforce is stuffed full of keynotes, educational sessions, networking events and parties.  In the midst of all this noise, it can be difficult to pay attention and figure out what’s important.  That’s why it’s key to go into it with a plan.  Unlike previous years (this will be my 5th Dreamforce), I’m going to have to drag myself away from most of the Developer track sessions – given where we are as an organization, I need to focus more on rollout, adoption and governance sessions in order to bring some best practices back with me.  This doesn’t mean that I’m going  to skip them all – mobile and iOS development sessions are very interesting to me.

So here’s what am I going to do next week:

Listen: from the opening keynotes to the last session, my ears are going to be open. The keynotes contain the big product announcements which show the direction that Salesforce is headed in. We’ll get a better sense of what the ‘Social Enterprise’ means and I can begin to assess what that can mean for Citizen Schools. As well, there will be new product announcements: Dreamforce is where Apex code, Visualforce and Chatter were all introduced – I’m very curious to hear what’s coming this year. Even if you’re not going to Dreamforce, you can watch – they’ll be streamed live and are worth the time investment.

Learn: the opportunities for learning at Dreamforce are tremendous with over 400 sessions being offered. There’s no where near enough time to go to everything that I’d like to. Fortunately, I’m bringing five colleagues this year and we’re splitting up to cover as much ground as we can. Additionally, almost all the sessions are recorded and are accessible online after the conference. Beyond the sessions, the Developer zone is a great resource if you’re interested in what’s involved in getting more technical with the Force.com platform.
Network and Share:  This is a fantastic week for networking!  The vendor expo, general networking sessions, Birds of  a Feather (BOF) sessions, and of course, the parties in the evening are a great place to meet others, share tips and best practices and otherwise build relationships that you can leverage when you return home.   As an MVP, I’ll actually be hosting BOF tables on Tuesday and Wednesday and will be in the ‘Ask an Expert’ booth on Thursday.  I really look forward to meeting any of you at these events!
Reflect:  Probably the hardest thing to do given the firehose of information, but it’s really important if you want to leverage the excitement into real world success when you get back home.  Have a notebook, sketchbook or tablet with you and in spare moments, jot down the ideas that resonated, features you want to try out , or code you want to explore and then when you get home – do it!  There’s nothing worse than going to an event like this and then not taking advantage of the opportunity to improve your knowledge and use of the Force.com platform.

Most of all, though, I’m going to have fun!  The Salesforce community is smart, passionate and enthusiastic – throw yourself into the mix, drink the Koolaid and enjoy the week!


Keeping Non-Profit IT Relevant In An Era of Consumerization

July 20, 2011

Several recent articles (http://bit.ly/oZEmvS, http://bit.ly/n5oOhj) have discussed the rapid consumerization of technology and the difficulty that corporate IT groups are having in keeping up with the changes.  The statistics show that use of consumer devices (smartphones, tablet devices) and social media services (Twitter, Facebook, blogs) for and about work is increasing rapidly, swamping the ability of Corporate IT to support, implement and control.  At the same time, the number of high profile security breaches and losses of personal data is at an all-time high, leading to increasingly draconian regulatory remedies and pressure on IT to keep data secure.  I’m going to address these trends in the context of the impact on Citizen Schools and other non-profit organizations and some of the ways that the Force.com platform and consumer technology can be used together to mitigate some of the issues.

At Citizen Schools, about 40% of our staff are recent college graduates, a generation known as ‘digital natives’.  These people have grown up with ready access to the Internet, social-networking service and consumer-friendly technology.  In college, they became used to collaborating with other students on Google Docs, sharing files, music and movies via peer to peer networks and coordinating their lives via Facebook and all of those tasks were easy to accomplish.  When we hand them their Windows-based laptops, tell them they have to use Outlook for email and to try to collaborate with colleagues on Sharepoint, they aren’t happy (and sometimes revolt), even though the tools themselves are perfectly functional and make sense from a business perspective.  They want to use their Macs, their Android and i-phones, and (increasingly) their tablet computers to do their work.

From an organizational IT perspective, all of these factors cause problems.  For my small tech team supporting nearly 500 staff, our first instinct is to want to standardize, to minimize the number of different devices, browsers and applications that we are expected to support (despite expectations, not all computers are the same, nor do we have expertise in all software).  Each time that we say ‘No’, however, we become less relevant to our staff, and increase the likelihood that they will go around IT to accomplish what they need to do. Of course, each time someone uses their personal laptop (which may or may not  have virus protection or a strong password) or shares a file through an online service like Dropbox, they put their organization at risk of a breach of personal data. Smartphones and tablets add even more to the risk, being that much more portable and desirable, and in many cases, even less secure.

Fortunately, non-profits aren’t yet subject to the same requirements as other industries, but state and federal regulations are becoming increasingly strict (and are already more so in Europe).  The consequences of a breach, however, remain high, potentially calling into question the operational capabilities of the organization in the minds of funders and impacting the organization’s reputation.

So how do we let our users have the tools and devices that they’re used to working with (and with which they’ll be more productive), yet try to minimize our organizational risks?  We’re nowhere close to having all the answers, but here’s the approach we’re taking, keeping in mind that our primary platform for data and CRM is Force.com and that we use Sharepoint for a lot of document management and Microsoft Office for most document creation and editing:

  • Devices:  Although we’re not going out and purchasing iPad’s centrally for the organization, we are strongly encouraging staff to use their personal iPads for business purposes, subject to a few constraints (and have purchased a few on a pilot basis).  First, if they’re connecting to our Exchange email, iOS forces you to create a security code, which eliminates one of the up-front biggest concerns about having sensitive data on the device (no password at all).  Second, we’re requiring staff to install and activate the free Find My iPhone application,  and agree that in the event of loss/theft that they’ll wipe the device.  It’s not as strong an approach as central control of devices (as with our Blackberry Enterprise Server), but it gives us an extra level of security.  We’ll be implementing a similar policy on personal smart phones within the next few weeks (as soon as we identify a good app for Android phones – suggestions welcome).
  • Collaboration:  We’re headed full on for Force.com Chatter deployment across the organization, with all users who don’t have Chatter-enabled licenses scheduled to receive Chatter Free licenses.  We’re still working out the launch campaign, usage guidelines, etc, but this is too powerful a product for us not to take advantage of it.  We anticipate using it for regional team coordination and management, cohort-building across the network, collaboration around internal projects and general subscription-based communication.
  • File Sharing:  Personally, I’m a big fan of Dropbox and I use it for personal purposes all the time.  Professionally, however, I have some concerns, particularly in light of their recent data breach.  There are certainly other services out there, but the landscape is changing rapidly and we’ll want to have a solid contender in place.  Sharepoint continues to be our primary platform for document sharing and management, but browser compatibility issues and limited functionality on mobile devices are problematic.  As a result, we’ll likely be using some combination of Sharepoint and Chatter files for internal file sharing and probably use something like Dropbox for one-time/short-term external file shares.
  • Force.com:  As we roll out Convio Common Ground this fall, we’re going to make a big push on mobile for our Senior Management and other external relations staff.  This will initially be accomplished through use of the full Salesforce Mobile license and application, which will give key staff the ability to manage their accounts, contacts, opportunities and many of the custom items that we’ve created while on the road, particularly for managing tasks and logging calls and meetings. The mobile application not only provides additional security for our data by requiring an additional key code to access the application, but also has a remote wipe feature that allows us to delete the Salesforce data if such a need arose.
In the long run, however, I’ve got more ambitious plans, particularly when it comes to mobile access for our front-line program staff.  These are the folks who are most in touch with the consumer tools and technology, and we want to provide them with a toolset that will allow them to manage their interactions with students, families, teachers and administrators.  In order to achieve this, we’re going to need to define our mobile strategy in a much more comprehensive fashion (deciding between native, web and hybrid apps – thanks @quintonwall!) and then building out the applications to support different business functions on the different platforms.  As we do this, it will also help us to define the platforms that we want to invest in to support those apps, so that we can have the right applications available on the right platforms for the right users.

Force.com is going to be a key factor in our ability to be successful in this approach, as we’ll be able to leverage all the existing functionality that’s provided by the platform, including role and profile-based security, access our data through APIs like the Chatter and Apex REST API and then present the data using powerful technologies like JQuery Mobile or Phone Gap that are focused on a great user experience.  It’s not going to be a small project, but it’s one that’s got a much greater chance of success than building apps the old fashioned way because we’re meeting users on their terms, rather than trying to prescribe how they do their work.

For technologists, how do these challenges resonate for you?  What are you doing to mitigate them?  For end-users, how about you?  What do you need from tech to be successful?


Own It – Working With Consultants on the Force.com Platform

July 13, 2011

There is a very strong consulting ecosystem that’s developing around Force.com work for non-profits.  Ranging from small or independent consultants to companies like Groundwire, Exponent Partners and Heller Consulting who specialize in non-profit work to enterprise consultants like Appirio, Accenture, and Deloitte (note that this is by no means an exhaustive list, so I know that I’ve left many names off).  Depending on your organization’s needs, you can generally find a team that can do the work that you need done, and for many non-profits, who don’t have the internal technical talent, this is a perfect solution to get converted, or launch some new functionality (like website integration).

One of my favorite parts of  Non-Profit User Group meetings is when people stand up to discuss and demonstrate the cool stuff that they’re doing with Salesforce.  It always gives me great ideas for things we can do (and adds to my already long to-do list).  One trend that I’ve noticed however, is that when I ask about how something has been done, I often get the answer ‘Oh, our consultant did that, I don’t know how it works’ or something similar.  As a technologist (and I recognize that most of those presenters are not technology-focused), this is very dangerous situation, and puts your organization at significant risk in the event that something stops working or if you want to modify what’s already been created, particularly if the consultant that you worked with originally is no longer available.

So what to do?  Based on my experience (both good and bad), here’s what I try to do when working with external consultants on our Salesforce.com organization and what I would recommend for your technology staff and Salesforce Administrator(s) to follow.  Make sure that you discuss these items with your consultants going into the project, as some of these tasks take time to perform (and are often quick to be dropped if the project is running behind).

Participate in the project as much as possible

Most consultants are going to want you to participate in the solution, but what I mean is really jump in to the project.  If there are custom objects to be created and custom fields to be added, do it yourself, don’t rely on the consultant to do it.  This will have the double benefit of saving you money on the project, as you’re doing the work rather than the consultant, as well as ensuring that you really understand what’s being done to your setup.  There’s (almost) nothing worse than going into your organization one day and saying to yourself ‘why is that field there?’ or even worse ‘I don’t remember that custom object, what does it do?’  Make sure to fill out the description fields on objects, fields, reports and report types so that you and your successors can manage your organization effectively (to be honest, this is more of a do as I say, not as I do recommendation, as we’ve not been disciplined about this and are paying the price currently).

Clicks not Code

This should be second-nature to most Force.com consultants, but in doing your solution design work be really disciplined about evaluating every proposed coded customization through the lens of clicks (workflow, formula fields, summary rollups, AppExchange apps) and process change before going the route of custom coding.  The more custom-coding that you do, the bigger the maintenance burden you create for yourself, and the more eventual cost you’ll incur, either in your own staff time or in getting those consultants back in.

Get Documentation

In most cases when working with a consultant, you will have come up with some sort of Statement of Work or Requirements document that defines what it is that you want them to do.  This document serves to define the scope of the project for cost estimation purposes as well as when the inevitable change requests happen during the course of the project, and it’s a key way to look back at the end of the project to determine if you got what you wanted.  What those documents don’t give you, however, is an explanation of how the solution achieves your goal, or even how much and what types of tools they used to create the solution.

  • Before the project is completed/signed-off on, make sure that you get a list of every Visualforce Page, Component, Apex Class, Apex Trigger, Static Resource, Report etc. that was created or modified as part of the project.  Ideally, you will have specified (or the consultants as a best practice will use) naming conventions/prefixes and namespaces to identify these components at the start of the project.
  • Ensure that code has comments embedded which, at a minimum, defines the purpose of the object.  More comments are usually better.  Comments are critical when another developer has to look at the code and figure out what it’s doing and can allow work to progress much faster.  As Salesforce.com Administrators or super-users, you most likely already know how to view, create and modify Custom Objects from within the Salesforce User Interface.  What you may not know, is that you can do the same for Visual Force pages and Components, Apex Classes and Triggers, and other elements of custom functionality.  Go to the Setup Menu and expand the Develop option (just below Create, where you access Custom Objects).  There, you will see entries for each of the different schema types that can be developed.  If you click on Apex Classes, for example, you will see a list of each class contained within your organization, whether custom developed or installed from an AppExchange or other package (like the Non-Profit Start Pack).  If you then click on a Class name, you can see the code inside the class, which is where you will find comments.  Comments are indicated by two slashes for a single line comment (e.g.   //This is our seach method that is called every time a character is entered), or if there is a large block comment, it may be indicated within a /*comment here */ block.
  • Get or make diagrams which show the flow of a process or navigation of a site/wizard, particularly for complex items.  When something isn’t working as expected, or you need to bring someone up to speed, these artifacts are a big help.

At Dreamforce last year, we listened to the song Own It by the Black-Eyed Peas numerous times, and that song has stuck with me since whenever I’m working with Salesforce.com.  The platform has given administrators the ability to own their systems in a much more intimate fashion than ever before – don’t give up that control to your consultants!


How we’re using Salesforce.com at Citizen Schools

June 24, 2011

A couple of weeks ago, I laid out the factors that have contributed to our decision to consolidate onto Salesforce.com and the Force.com platform.  In this post, I’ll outline the different ways in which we’re using the platform.  As part of our project to convert from Raiser’s Edge to Salesforce, we’ve had to do a quick as-is analysis for our consultants, so this is very much on my mind at the moment.  As I put it together, I realized that we’ve done quite a lot in the last 3.5 years – still more to go, but it’s pretty substantial, and more importantly, we did almost all of it ourselves.

One observation that I’ve had is that a lot of non-profits rely on consulting partners to do their implementations and then support them afterwards.  Consultants are great (I’ve been one myself) – they bring a ton of experience to the table and can be a great aid in eliciting business requirements, translating them into a new system and getting the organization going.  My concern, however, is that no matter how much knowledge transfer/training/documentation gets done, it’s never the same as having staff get into the system and get their hands dirty with it (so to speak).  To me, that’s one of the real beauties of the Force.com platform – it allows you to do a tremendous amount of customization without ever writing a line of code  and I think that is a great way to get your staff involved and really owning the system.   Look for an upcoming post about this topic detailing how we’re working with our consultants on our current project.

With that – here are the different ways we’re currently using Salesforce at Citizen Schools:

Lead Management

Lead management functions are currently being heavily used by two of our external facing groups, Campus Talent Recruitment, who recruit our Teaching Associate staff members and increasingly by Civic Engagement, who recruit our volunteers (whom we call Citizen Teachers).  Leads are captured at college career fairs, signing up people at various events, and increasingly (particularly for Citizen Teachers) on the web.    For the latter, we’re primarily using Web-To-Lead forms across a variety of web platforms, all feeding in to Salesforce and using a simple lead assignment rule to allocate the lead to the appropriate staff member for followup.

For Citizen Teacher leads, we’ve got a pretty clear process for qualifying, managing and converting, which feeds into our volunteer recruitment process (see below), but for Teaching Associate leads, we’ve got a bit of a gap due to a missing piece of our architecture.  Our primary platform for job applications is Taleo and we currently have no integration between Salesforce and Taleo, so at this point, we may have leads who actually apply for jobs and may or may not be hired, but we’ve got no easy way to track that cycle from first contact to hire.  I’m working on a quick and dirty solution to that (which I’ll discuss in an upcoming post), while we evaluate longer-term strategy.

Volunteer Recruitment

Citizen Teachers and Apprenticeships are recruited side-by-side by Directors of Civic Engagement (DCE) and support staff in our  different regions (Citizen Schools currently operates in MA, NY, NJ, NC, TX, NM and CA).  A mix of custom and standard objects are central to these processes, which have multiple starting points and process flows, but which culminate in one or more CTs being assigned to an Apprenticeship record (through a junction).  CTs are also provided with Customer Portal licenses to use our CT Nation online community.   A custom online application is hosted on Salesforce Sites and allows volunteers to apply to the program and provide information for an automated background check.

Apprenticeship Management

The Apprenticeship is one of the fundamental units of analysis for Civic Engagement, both in the individual regions and on a national basis.  DCE’s are typically recruiting volunteers for a specific number of apprenticeships (based on the number of students and schools in their region) and have metrics to track progress towards goal (number recruited vs target number by campus, apprenticeship sector, and Corporate partner vs other types).

Program/Student Management

All student and program data are tracked in Salesforce, with most data being input and managed at the individual school level through the customer portal.  Custom object structures have been developed for managing student demographic and performance (attendance, grades, test scores) and campus levels.  Extensive use of custom apex and visual force and custom objects are used (only Contact, Account, Person Account used from standard suite of objects).  Regional and national staff are the primary consumers of the data entered at the campus level, with extensive use of custom reports and dashboards to produce reporting and moderately frequent export to Excel for more sophisticated analytics.  Limitations in the object reporting capabilities of Salesforce have been somewhat of a constraint on analytic use.  As a result, we’re seriously evaluating moving our campus users to Force.com Platform licenses, although that means we’ll need to migrate our students off of Person Accounts and onto pure custom objects.

 

Community Management

Our CT Nation online community (CTNation.org) is a hybrid site, using Salesforce Sites to host public facing pages (using custom CSS and VF page templates, with content managed through the CMSForce app from the AppExchange) and to host Force.com authentication services.  Upon login, the user token is passed to GoLightly.com and the user is logged in and can transition between private Salesforce content specific to the authorized user and the user’s GoLightly account.  User provisioning and license management are performed through Salesforce.com.  Salesforce Content is used to host Apprenticeship Curricula and made available to VisualForce pages through Content Delivery publication.

Student Alumni Management

Our 8th Grade Academy program includes ongoing support and outreach by Citizen Schools staff, and provides us with important data about student progress through high school and into college.  Alumni Engagement staff are key uses of Activities, Student (person account) and Program Record objects.

Staff Alumni Management

As staff transition from full-time to alumni status (particularly our Teaching Fellows), our Staff Alumni Engagement team keeps in touch with them by cohort and communicates with them via monthly newsletter.  We also keep track of where they’re employed and engage them in advocacy campaigns and the broader thread of education reform.

 


Why I Love Salesforce.com Events

June 16, 2011

Cloudforce Boston is happening today, and I’m excited! This mini-Dreamforce (only 1 day) brings some of the best elements of the Salesforce.com event experience to cities around the world. For non-profit professionals, whether current Salesforce users, thinking about using or just curious about all the hoopla, Cloudforce is a great way to get your feet wet.

Here are a few things I love about these events:

Passion
From Marc Benioff’s stage presence to the technical and product evangelists to customer and community MVP’s, there is an almost tangible passion about the product that is hard to find about other enterprise software. As non-profit staff bring their passion to work with them, so too do members of the Salesforce.com community. I find this passion and excitement to be invigorating, and in some sense, restorative, so that I return from one of these events full of the possibilities that the platform provides.

The Vendor Expo
Most enterprise software has a vendor community that has products designed to supplement it or integrate with other systems, and conferences are a prime way for them to show off what they’ve got. Salesforce.com events are no different, with lots of giveaways, product sheets and chaos, primarily oriented towards the for-profit customer. In spite of this, I find the Expo A tremendous opportunity to take a look at products, get demos, and figure out how products that are marketed to for-profit companies might actually be useful for my organization. It also gives me an opportunity to talk to the vendors and find out what their non-profit discount philosophy looks like or even to do some negotiation around creating such a policy.

Networking
I’m a fairly typical tech guy – somewhat introverted, focused, etc. In short, not really a great networker. These events, however, provide a tremendous opportunity to find out how other folks are solving similar problems to mine. Whether it’s at the non-profit user group meeting that’s happening this morning before the event starts or in a developer-focused session or at a Tweetup afterwards, there’s a ton of information to be shared and connections to be made, all of which can be leveraged once you get back to the office and are staring down the barrel of a long, hard deployment.

In short, if you’ve got a Cloudforce coming to your area, check it out. Yes, there will be a lot of marketing hype – that’s a given – but there’s a lot of value to be taken away, particularly as it’s free!

What do you like (or hate) about these events?


Why do we use Salesforce.com at Citizen Schools?

June 2, 2011

In contrast to my last post, which dove right into a problem and some code as a solution, I thought I would use this post to provide a bit of context about Citizen Schools’ use of Salesforce.com and why I think it’s the perfect solution for non-profits.

Some Background

When I joined Citizen Schools a bit over three years ago, they system landscape would have looked familiar to many non-profit technologists: a series of small, custom-built databases that serve very specific departmental or functional needs and an off-the-shelf fundraising package (in our case it was the Raiser’s Edge by Blackbaud). In addition, we had a fairly large implementation of Microsoft Sharepoint 2007 that was being used primarily for document storage, and were using Taleo for staff recruitment. Not surprisingly, none of these systems were integrated and data typically had to be entered into several of them over the course of various business processes.

As CTO, one of my responsibilities has been to develop a strategy for integrating our information across different functions (Program delivery, Volunteer Recruitment, Fundraising, Talent) to present a more holistic view of our relationships to different internal stakeholders. As any good technologist knows, there are multiple strategies for data integration within an enterprise, ranging from integration at the presentation layer to database replication to building pure custom solutions or buying in an enterprise platform and customizing it to meet your needs. In my time, I’ve developed solutions that have used all of these strategies and they all have their benefits, costs and tradeoffs. Most of them are also expensive, either in dollar outlays for software and consulting services to implement and internal resources to support and enhance.

The Problem

As a direct-service organization, focused on closing the achievement and opportunity gap for middle-schoolers, the technology team at Citizen Schools has neither an over-abundance of dollars nor of resources, so the question quickly became how to deliver on my responsibilities given my organizational constraints? How did I assess my options?

  1. My background has mostly been in developing custom systems to support organization-specific needs, so that was my go-to approach, but it quickly became clear that with one FTE devoted to system development, our ability to deliver functionality quickly and consistently would soon be overwhelmed.
  2. We had the Raiser’s Edge (RE)  as a core platform for our Development team – could we leverage that and customize it to support our other needs?  RE is the ‘Cadillac’ of fundraising systems, but it’s built on old technology (pre-.Net Visual Basic),  is expensive to license and would be tough to access across 40+ different locations for all the different business functions under discussion.  External consultants could likely be brought in to perform customization, but supporting those customizations and any requested enhancements would put us in a similar position to point 1 above.
  3. Could we use Sharepoint or some other presentation integration tool to provide integration for end-users and then update the disparate back-end systems?  Given that Sharepoint was already heavily in use internally, using it as a platform to manage data and reporting had some attaction.  Unfortunately, as @IanHSmith tweeted this morning, ‘SharePoint is a barge sinking under it’s own weight’ and building applications on Sharepoint shares some of the worst attributes of pure custom solutions and package customization (this has gotten somewhat easier on Sharepoint 2010 than it was on 2007, which we had at the time, but is still, in my opinion, inordinately difficult).

No good options, the potential for a lot of organizational pain and expense, and not a real solid sense of there being a light at the end of the tunnel (other than it being a freight train headed for me and the team).

Salesforce.com to the Rescue

I’d worked with Salesforce a little bit and attended Dreamforce 2007 with a prior job and had been impressed by what I had seen, but hadn’t yet bought into the system as a really viable option for non-profits.  Attending Dreamforce 2008 while wrestling with the options outlined above served as the catalyst for me to convert and become a true-believer.  There are a number of features, that when taken together provide a compelling case for a non-profit considering using Salesforce.com.

  • Price:  With heavily-discounted access to the full-featured Enterprise Edition, the Salesforce.com Foundation provides non-profits with a platform that they can expand and grow with over time at a price that won’t break the bank (especially since the first 10 licenses are free).
  • Clicks-not-Code customization:  We rolled out our first two functional applications on Salesforce with virtually no custom coding because we could do things like adding custom fields, change page layouts and create whole new types of objects (think database tables) all without writing a line of code.
  • Non-Profit Starter Pack:  As we started using Salesforce for functions other than fundraising, we have not used many of the features of the NPSP, but the Foundation’s commitment to it is evident and it looks to provide a significant set of functionality to non-profits for their domain-specific needs.
  • Apex, VisualForce and the APIs:  As Salesforce continues to extend the Force.com platform, it’s capacity to meet our evolving business needs is expanding as well.  We now make extensive use of all of these features, with more to come – we’re especially looking forward to the launch of Siteforce as well as leveraging Chatter more effectively .

If you’re involved in selecting or building systems for non-profits, I’d strongly recommend evaluating Salesforce.com very seriously.


A new blog – my first!

May 24, 2011

My name is Will Nourse and I’m the Chief Technology Officer at Citizen Schools.  Citizen Schools is a national education reform non-profit, headquartered in Boston and operating programs in more than 30 schools in 7 states.  You can find more about Citizen Schools here:  http://www.citizenschools.org

As CTO, I’m responsible for the delivery of technology to nearly 500 staff across the breadth of the organization.  Having a small staff and limited budget, I’ve got to think carefully about the number and type of platforms  (hardware, software and services) and vendors that we work with.  In the 3+ years that I’ve been here, we’ve been making a push for standardization and consolidation (e.g. on Dell for laptops), leveraging my resources and budget dollars more effectively.

A major part of our standardization strategy has been to leverage the power of Salesforce.com and the Force.com platform to support our data management needs.  Not only does the Salesforce.com Foundation make use of the platform cost-effective for non-profits through free and heavily-discounted product licenses, but the platform itself is very easily extensible (for business users as well as IT staff).  As a result, we’re able to deliver new or enhanced functionality to our staff at a faster pace, at a lower Total Cost of Ownership, and begin delivering business value sooner than in traditional software development models

My goal for this blog is to share some of the ways that we’re using Force.com and other technologies, provide some insight on the trade-offs that we face from staff and budget constraints (and how they differ from for-profit companies), and, ultimately, give back to the communities from which I’ve learned so much.  My plan is to provide code examples, tips and context about our architectural decisions.

Please feel free to comment or contact me with questions!

Mandatory Safe Harbor statement:

Any views expressed in this blog are my own and should not be taken to reflect any opinions or positions held by Citizen Schools.


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