We asked IT suppliers for their predictions on how IT in the charity sector will change over the next year. Gareth Jones selects the best responses.
“The cloud will go mainstream with everyone starting to see how it can improve the way they work and make outsourcing easier. This will really facilitate multiple-device working with the ‘take your device to work’ concept really taking hold. A whole range of new donation solutions will take the limelight around micro-donations and I think we will see the first near field communication (NFC) donation systems. Charities will start to focus on mobile web optimisation as smartphone and tablet traffic continues to overtake that from PCs.”
Richard Craig, chief executive, Charity Technology Trust
"Digital, and specifically mobile, will need to become part of every charity’s DNA over the next 12 months as supporter demand continues to push everything online. As a result, we will see more charities exploring mobile communications and fundraising, and linking this with their social media strategies.
Gaining more value from data will be an ongoing challenge for charities and we will start to see the emergence and adoption of Smart CRM technology: software that gives intuitive feedback based on database activity to support better business decision making. The EU cookie law that comes into place on 26 May 2012 may also aid charities by ensuring that those who opt in to cookies are absolute advocates."
Robert McAllen, product manager, Blackbaud
“We’re going to see a need for access to centralised information, which will bring better integration between different virtual platforms. Not-for-profit organisations need to face up to the demands of, and keep up with, tech savvy supporters, volunteers and donors. Organisations are already beginning to see the impact of platforms such as the cloud, as well as other trends including return on engagement (ROE) replacing ROI as charities recognise the need to get closer to supporters and develop personal relationships with them.”
Jon Jorgensen, group sales director, Access UK
“Cloud computing will enable organisations to build robust, reliable IT systems, at an affordable price and without the need for dedicated IT staff. Meanwhile, new data analytics and visualisation software tools are providing powerful new insights to optimise operations and reveal stakeholders' regard and experience for your organisation. New online collaboration tools, coupled with the effective use of social media channels, will enable deeper, more productive engagements - resulting in new support, opportunities, ideas and practices.”
Mark Wakefield, corporate citizenship & corporate affairs manager, IBM UK
“Last year, end users were playing catch up; this year we predict more mainstream implementation. Expect to see increased competition in the cloud. New start-ups in the charity space will start to take advantage of established cloud technology to offer competitively priced solutions for smaller charities. Meanwhile, charities are at last starting to see a financial return on their social media investment and social CRM is surely just over the horizon.
“It would be remiss of us not to offer a couple of curveballs for consideration. In the Olympic year, Windows 8 will fail to light the business world’s torch, leaving windows XP and 7 to take the podium. And Apple will have a change of heart and lift the ban on charitable donations. Forget the January sales – lookout, as the charities with the biggest budgets rush on the app store!”
John Bird, managing director, thankQ
“We envisage that more charities will be preparing to take advantage of the VAT exemptions for adopting shared services. With this in mind, FDs will expect greater integration capabilities from their financial management solutions. The sharing of services also requires the sharing of information, so it is crucial for the finance system to be able to talk to a range of third party applications, not only within their own organisation but with partners.”
Matthew Kirby, marketing manager, bluQube
“Integration of existing systems to build more effective results is something that has long been considered expensive, largely because of the number of legacy systems which ‘have to’ be included. In the current climate though, is there an opportunity to rationalise and work on only those areas that really deliver good value? Put another way, can a charity rationalise a complex web of point solutions across marketing, fundraising, communications and data management and replace them with a more open, connected and functional system covering all of the core functions but costing significantly less? Lots of charities are asking this question and finding answers in the SalesForce platform and other cloud-based options.”
Martin Campbell, managing director (UK), Convio
“The consumerisation of IT (CoIT) and adoption of bring your own device (BYOD) should make 2012 a watershed for IT practitioners in the charity sector. Initially seen as a threat, BYOD will become both an opportunity to save costs and a vehicle for productivity gains as workers take advantage of resources familiar to them at home. The tools are there in the guise of mobile access management and mobile device management services. The real challenge will be in the area of policy development surrounding the implementation of these services.”
Trefor Davies, chief technology officer, Timico
“Proposed changes to gift aid processing and reporting will require all technology companies to be adaptive to the new HMRC requirements. While direct mail will still be the overwhelming driver of all gifts, online transactions will increase 30-40 per cent, and account for approximately 7 per cent of total revenue vs. the ~5 per cent today. Facebook will become more integrated, but email will still prove to be the major driving force for online gifts, responsible for driving 90+ per cent of these gifts. The reason is simple- the average donor at 65 years young is still not represented enough on Facebook to make a major difference- at least not yet.”
Jon Biedermann, vice-president, DonorPerfect
“Cloud-based services are going to become more important for the third sector, but it’s likely to be those smaller charities, who can migrate their systems more easily that adopt earliest. We are also going to see the emergence of more innovative, disruptive online solutions that challenge established approaches to raising funds and managing information.”
Jonathan Grove, managing director, Futurate Software Services
“The hot IT topics and challenges faced by charities are: making IT budgets stretch to cover increasing requirements such as new media and increased security at a time when income is shrinking; coping with the increasing trend for staff to want to use personal devices such as smartphones to access organisation resources such as email and databases whilst maintaining security; and making good strategic decisions on when to embrace cloud solutions and technologies and when to retain on premise control over systems.”
Phil Anthony, director, Co-Operative Systems
“With many charities the need for staff and volunteers to access information remotely is paramount and many are already investigating flexible and mobile working solutions such as hosted email and document sharing solutions such as Googleapps and sharepoint. Over the last 3 months Cloud 9 has seen a marked uptake in Cloud solutions together with online back up and replication to address the need for disaster recovery.”
Julie Baldwin, sales & marketing director, Cloud 9
“As the lines blur between consumer and corporate technology and personnel become increasingly tech-savvy, 2012 will see the sector’s IT departments asked to manage any device (MAD) or support any device (SAD) as staff bring their own devices and applications such as Dropbox and Evernote into the workplace. We’re also seeing a move from the low-cost devices traditionally used by charities to hosted cloud-based services that can integrate fixed and mobile-based telephony on a single device, accommodating remote working and unifying communications.”
Paul Richards, Director, IP Solutions
“This year, the UK’s charities need to concentrate on driving down their IT costs without compromising on quality. The best way to go about this, from a communications perspective, would be to consolidate their IT services to one provider. By unifying their communications – internet, telephony, mobiles etc – this will put the charity in the position to be able to negotiate economies of scale and as a result drive down their overall communications costs – freeing up revenue to invest back into their work.”
Shelley Wilson, Public Sector Manager, Daisy Group