Posted tagged ‘source code’

MPX Journal Entry and Pledge Screen Delay Hotfix 10.2.3932

October 11, 2010

This October Hotfix, MPX Version 10.2.3932, is being released to resolve two issues. The first is an issue where journal entries were not being created correctly at batch posting (MPX-5474). The second was an issue with delays in opening the donor pledge screen for databases containing a large number of active pledges (MPX-5821).  This hotfix is located on Source Forge.

The next scheduled MPX release will be delivered in November 2010. If you chose not to upgrade to this hotfix, all of these changes will be included in the November release as well. Please check the release notes to see if you need to upgrade before November.

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Data Conversions: How We Clean-Up Data During the Conversion Process

September 22, 2010

We’ve recently implemented new ways to do data conversions from legacy systems into OrangeLeap.

The first way, for simple data sets, is to use the import option in the UI to bring in Constituents and Gifts.

For more complex source data, previously we had populated database tables directly using scripts, which relied on a number of complex data relationships being constructed correctly, and manual implementation of business rules.

The new process starts with population of a set of intermediate conversion tables.  These tables are fairly simple and straightforward, and vary sightly based on the customer since they include separate columns for custom fields.  The data is run through a first pass of sanity checking and scrubbing at this point by an analyst or dba.  The second step is where the program is used to take the data from the intermediate tables into the program using the same application service layer that the UI uses to process the data.  This results in all the business rules being executed and the relationships and internal structures being populated correctly and consistently.

Another advantage the new conversion process provides is the ability to import many-to-one data sets such as multi-line gifts, and to associate the gift lines with pledges, soft gifts, and events.  The associations are made using references to the original legacy system’s identifiers, so that the original data links can be brought over in many cases.

We are also able to import many more complex relationships in a two step process, where all the constituents are brought over first using the ‘add’ function, then the complex relationships between the constituents are constructed afterwords using a ‘change’ function.

By Dan Meany

Dan is a Senior Developer at Orange Leap

Dirty Data: What is it, how does it cause problems, and what is the solution?

September 8, 2010

Dirty data is a huge problem during implementation. It slows performance, causes crashes, and is an overall nightmare for our developers. What is it, how does it cause problems, and what is the solution?

Dirty data is data that is riddled with inconsistencies:

  • Misspellings
  • Numbers and letters in the same fields
  • Data in the wrong fields (for example, phone numbers in postal code fields)
  • Invalid data (for example marking a donor as a lapsed donor when they gave a gift last month)
  • Duplicate data
  • Format errors (such as a comma in an email field)
  • Incorrect, inconsistent, or misspelled titles

The main problems associated with dirty data are:

  • Slowed performance
  • Invalid reports
  • Inconsistent donor communication (for example, sending a lapsed donor letter to a current donor or failing to recognize a major donor as such)
  • Software crashes and freezes

What’s the business impact of dirty data to a non-profit?

Dirty data can cost a non-profit 10’s of thousands of dollars!  How?  It increases implementation costs.  It loses donors (failing to properly recognize a donor can result in donor’s not giving to your organization again). System crashes or freezes cause unnecessary down time and generate unwanted maintenance costs for an organization.

What is the solution?

Our developers have created a program to automate the clean up and conversion of data in order to facilitate a cleaner implementation. The process locates and fixes all of the mistakes in the data before conversion.

At Orange Leap, our software prevents users from creating dirty data by limiting the amount of access they have. We use a variety of strategies to prevent the mistakes that lead to dirty data:

  • Pick lists eliminate input errors by forcing the user to make a choice
  • Automatic format verification (using regular expressions)
  • Business rules ensure that you don’t accidentally create a duplicate constituent or manually mark a donor as “lapsed” that has recently given a gift.

Our short term goal is to facilitate cleaning up of the data during implementation and our long term goal is to prevent the data from getting contaminated to begin with. Once our software is installed and tested with clean data, hopefully our strategy to keep data clean will prevent the data from becoming corrupted in the future. Find out more about Orange Leap here.

What exactly do you mean by “Open”?

July 24, 2008

While some words and terms have multiple meanings, that is not the case with “open software.” So it’s very troubling to see the scores of nonprofit CRM software vendors who, in recent months, have been parading around the term “open” to describe their respective products, with each company using its own definition.

While it’s encouraging that the open software movement is forcing vendors to adopt this posture, there’s simply too much creative marketing spin with little substance. The result is a lot of messaging clutter and – no surprise – confusion about what open means, why it matters and what a nonprofit should do vis a vis its CRM solution.

To try to help nonprofits sort through the clutter, I recently wrote an article (it was featured on NTEN’s Blog, on Fundraising Success and PNN Online) on the three levels of “openness” currently available for nonprofit’s for CRM. Not all solutions touted as “open” are equal in their functionality and benefits for nonprofits. In fact, some definitions of “open” are complete misnomers.

For example, Blackbaud has been talking a lot recently about their new “open” initiatives. They point to new user forums, podcasts, blogs and “sample code” for downloading as evidence of being “open.”

I enthusiastically applaud Blackbaud for finally beginning to try to listen to customers. Engaging in a dialogue with customers can only help Blackbaud – really any firm – become a better company. (It is something we at Orange Leap learned that we cannot live without over the last seven years and I suspect that Blackbaud will wonder why they didn’t do it earlier.)

But, while forums, podcasts, demo sites, etc. are excellent communication tactics and a smart use of the Internet, including social media — they are not features of open software. The reality is that this vendor’s products and services still remain a “walled fortress”, lacking integration, access or collaboration outside of the company with the very community of nonprofit users it serves.

For any company serving nonprofits, an authentic move towards being “open” would involve:

  • Eliminating large, up front and version upgrade license fees. If we really believe organizations should be able to ‘try’ before they buy, then we should do away with license fees that cause vendor lock-in. An organization may quickly discover, once they are using a product and not being shown a ‘demo’ that it does not meet their needs. However, when a vendor has extracted huge fees up front, a nonprofit feels held hostage. That is good from the vendor’s point of view, but not for the charitable group.
  • Openning up its source code so users truly own the code in which they’ve invested. Open source makes sense for all non-profits, whether or not they ever read or develop a line of code. This is fundamental for transparency, vendor accountability, and innovation and, at the end of the day, makes the product better for everyone. It ends the idea that a software vendor knows more about your mission and needs than you do. And, it allows you to reap the benefits of incorporating other nonprofits’ innovations into your software.
  • Freely giving away application programming interfaces (APIs) for all products to allow innovation and creative problem solving by nonprofits and the entire marketplace. This is eOrange Leaping nonprofits and a true sign of “openness”.
  • Creating a partner and product ecosystem to provide services. Now customers are not restricted to using only that vendor’s services or products. Choice is power for nonprofits, so vendors should integrate with other products (like accounting packages, Web applications, etc.). Currently, nonprofits and potential partners have to blindly brute force many systems with little or no support from their vendor. Coercing customers into all-in-one software and services solutions meets the vendor’s needs, but not those of nonprofits.

So, let’s applaud the moves by all vendors to embrace an open posture. But let’s also demand that if they are going to call themselves “open,” they eschew the marketing spin and truly live up to that promise in their products and services.

Open Source CRM Gaining Traction

July 3, 2008

I just finished reading Bill Snyder’s July 2 article on PC World (the same article was originally published by CIO on June 30) titled “Open Source Delivers More Control, Less Cost.” This article is more compelling proof that businesses, large and small, are shifting to open source CRM because it’s a superior way to run an organization. From giants like H+R Block to six-person operations, the commercial sector now is well underway in giving up cumbersome, closed and expensive CRM systems like SAP, Siebel and even Salesforce.com.

The reasons for this shift are varied, but come down to three key advantages:

  1. Cost – Open source CRM does not require prohibitive upfront investment and the related risk. In addition, choice among vendors and service providers ensures the best pricing (i.e., you are not locked into your vendor for all changes and services).
  2. Control – According to Matthew Carson, CTO of a streaming media firm with 500 customers in 77 countries, “Control is a big issue. You want to be able to write the (CRM) system around your business model, not the other way around.” Amen. Your software should not drive your business.
  3. Ownership – Kurt Miller, president of a six-person business chose open source CRM over alternatives like Salesforce because, in his words, “No matter what happens, I control my own data.”

We are seeing this exact same trend among nonprofits, large and small, for the same reasons. In fact, as illustrated above, some of the most common arguments against open source CRM are being patently disproved by the diversity of open source success in the market.

One argument I often hear is that open source CRM lacks the robust features and functionality of closed, proprietary systems. This is a myth propagated by closed CRM companies’ sales and marketing machines. While different products certainly have different features and strengths, Orange Leap Open is every bit as powerful and robust — and more powerful in many key areas — as the leading nonprofit CRM solutions.

But, don’t just take my word for it. Consider the assessment of Keith Heller, Founder and Principal of Heller Consulting, the nation’s leading technology consulting firm with a specialization in helping nonprofits use Blackbaud’s Raiser’s Edge®, which is one of the most common donor databases in the philanthropic sector: “No product matches Orange Leap’s native features in enabling nonprofits to conduct highly complex segmentation to deliver the right message at the right time through the right medium.” And, since we are open source, you can download Orange Leap to see for yourself.

The second argument I hear is that small organizations with limited or no IT resources will find open source CRM too complex. That is simply not true. As seen above, organizations with as few as six employees are reaping the benefits due to the cost, control and ownership of data. To quote Matt Asay’s comments July 2 on CNET, “Does this mean that the only way to benefit from open source CRM (and other open source enterprise applications) is if you’re a technology-savvy shop? Of course not. Most don’t need to tweak the code, and never will. But even those who don’t, benefit from those who do.”

Matt’s quote from an earlier post aptly sums up why the closed, proprietary model is in such trouble:

No decision is best made blindly. No product is best defined, designed, and implemented in an information/feedback vacuum. Opening up source code means customers can place greater trust in the software they use even if they never read a single line of code, precisely because others can exercise this choice in their stead.

I could not be more excited about what lies ahead for nonprofits as the advantages of open source CRM are realized. Openness, transparency and collaboration have long been hallmarks of the work that charities do in their communities and around the world. Isn’t it time you held your software to the same standard?