Android versus iPhone; PC versus Mac; Prius versus Porsche —there’s always a decision to be made, but what’s the basis of that decision? Cost? Convenience? Functionality? Design? Technology? Green-ness? Possibly a combination of all of the above? In the world of customer relationship management or fundraising software, you face a similar choice: cloud versus on-premise.
Statistically, the chances are that the CRM solution you use is installed on a server somewhere in your organization’s IT infrastructure — otherwise known as an on-premise solution. That will change. The tide is turning toward cloud- or Software-as-a-Service-based solutions. But what is driving that change, and what difference does it make to fundraisers?
On the face of it, CRM solutions in the cloud are the same as any on-premise solution, except they are hosted in a data center. But true cloud solutions can provide technology, economic and business benefits over the traditional on-premise solutions. The combination of these benefits is driving people to cloud-based solutions, and we will see them all over the next few months. But first, what is the technology case for cloud?
Ease of use
For many years, the software business has been making software that is endlessly configurable and difficult to understand without first attending training courses and reading forests of user guides — not to mention expensive. On behalf of the software business, I apologize, but the good news is that cloud solutions mean we are entering the next generation of software applications. One of Steve Jobs’ lasting legacies will be software that puts usability before complexity: software that doesn’t require you to spend long hours learning how to use it. Anyone who’s used an iPhone knows that “it just works." Similarly, today’s CRM user doesn’t want to know how it works, just that it works.
It’s far easier to integrate your CRM with online fundraising tools, the website, payment gateways, address verification services and social media when it’s in the cloud. Solutions designed for the cloud usually have what’s called an application program interface (API), which essentially is an integration kit for the software. It enables other Web-based services to interact with your database. Other technical terms you may hear are service oriented architecture (SOA) and Web services, which are essentially the same thing as an API.