Friday, 02 July 2010 16:18
This article is part of the Blackbus Marketplace program. Each vendor listed in our Marketplace is entitled to one feature article on the front page of Blackbus per month.
Are you an independent consultant or do you work with a firm? Contact us to get your feature article on the front page!
Note: This is the first in a three part series titled The Help. Part One is designed to help you find professional assistance. Part Two is to assist you in the evaluation process. Part Three is the final selection process.
There’s a New York Times bestseller out right now titled The Help. The book is about maids in the south during the civil rights era. As a consultant, I sometimes think of myself as the hired help. Being “the help” can be as challenging as finding good help. As a consultant who receives calls screening “the help”, I’d like to offer some suggestions to those of you looking to hire “the help ". The most skilled professionals will not be offended or afraid to spend a little time sharing their background. We love smart clients, and smart clients make sure they get the best resources available at the best price. Investing in professional help is not inexpensive. Make sure you are making the best decision for your organization.
Manufacturer’s Professional Services – Your vendor usually provides a full suite of professional services: Creative solutions for internet products; Programmers and Engineers for backend customizations, Implementation and Product Specialists for the front office. The benefit to working with the vendor is that you get your information straight from the software manufacturer. The professionals you will work with have likely received some training on the latest versions, and may have had some clients similar to your team. Unfortunately, the negative side of working with the vendor is inherent to the solution. At times, it will feel and act like a large corporate entity with the typical corporate foibles: too many mid-level managers and layers that have to be included as “billable hours” drive the entity; high amounts of turnover which may impact your project depending upon how complex or time consuming it may be; and the Model-T effect in which teams are narrowly defined and produce one thing over and over. This process is a result of its size and organizational structure. In order for the software manufacturer to succeed, it needs size. Because of the size, it is much more difficult to get the personal touch so often desired by many clients. Because of the size, however – it is also sure to have someone on staff that can help you achieve a solution. The price may be high, but you will get service.
Independent Consultants / Service Providers - Independent professionals and consultants are available throughout the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Many have specialties in The Raiser’s Edge, The Financial Edge, Education Edge, custom programming or even internet products like Sphere and NetCommunity. Many independent agencies will claim to have an expertise in Blackbaud, Salesforce, Common Ground… just about everything under the sun. Be wary. No one can be everything to everyone. There are also a large number of us, I included – that are former employees. That is no guarantee, but it does tell you that the person you are speaking to was trained by the manufacturer has a certain level of expertise in at least one or more of the manufacturer’s suite of products; and probably has worked in at least one or more nonprofits in a role other than consultant. This is important. As you can imagine, having worked as a Development Officer, an IT manager, or even as a software programmer for nonprofits is priceless. Having had first-hand knowledge of the limited resources, the budgetary and time constraints of employees at a typical nonprofit will give your consultant a little dose of your reality The biggest challenges to working with an independent consultant would be 1) availability and reputation, making sure you have the right person for the job, and backup. Is the organization small enough to give you personal attention but big enough to give you service guarantees? The price may be right, but only if the provider is qualified and reputable. So – regardless of your choice – Manufacturer or Independent – Finding the help is your first task.
10 Places to Look for Help:
- Blackbaud.com, or simply call your manufacturer’s account specialist.
- Blackbus – don’t forget about the Marketplace
- Google. (Believe it or not, many people forget about even looking anywhere except the vendor.)
- NTEN - Nonprofit Technology Network.
- Industry List Serv’s or other resources – educational, religious-based, arts & cultural, etc.
- AFP – your local chapter(s) are a great resource.
- Social Media Professional Groups: Twitter, Linked In, etc.
- Your peers.
Beyond Nines is dedicated to empowering nonprofits through cost-effective and efficient use of technology to leverage resources. Read more about our hosting services, consulting services and NetCommunity programming at www.beyondnines.com You can download the full three part series and more free downloads at www.beyondnines.com .