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Blackbaud Folding Convio’s Common Ground Product

By Mark Hrywna - September 17, 2012

Nearly four months after its acquisition of Convio, Black­baud announced both that it would discontinue Convio’s Common Ground and a restructuring that eliminates 51 positions. In what was described as an unrelated development, the company also announced that former Convio CEO Gene Austin will be leaving.

The 51 positions represent less than 2 percent of Blackbaud’s 2,800-employee workforce worldwide. Convio brought about 450 employees via the $275-million acquisition this past May. Blackbaud spokespeople said they expect some of the 51 staff to remain in their positions for up to 18 months but also more than half to eventually shift to among 120 open positions in the firm.

Austin became president of Blackbaud’s Enterprise Customer Business Unit after the acquisition, reporting to President and CEO Marc Chardon. His replacement was expected to be announced after this issue went to press. The Charleston, S.C.-based nonprofit technology firm announced to customers on Aug. 30 that it would discontinue Common Ground, one of Convio’s two CRM systems based on Sales­force.com, with support for the product ending after March 2014. eTapestry and The Raiser’s Edge will be options for small and medium-sized nonprofits while Blackbaud CRM and Luminate CRM, a former Convio product, will be offered for larger and enterprise-sized customers.

Some of the 51 positions being restructured are in the Common Ground group, but across different areas and functions, including service, sales and marketing, among others, according to Karoline McLaughlin, Blackbaud’s vice president of corporate communications.

In a message to customers, Blackbaud said it must simplify its product portfolio to “eliminate confusion and to allow us to focus on the products that have the greatest impact for our market.”

According to the statement, “Ultimately, our decision is based on the recognized need to focus our efforts on a discrete number of solutions. This focus will help us invest more deeply in our go-forward solutions and deliver value more rapidly to you.”

The product integration team, which included Blackbaud and former Convio product management, went through an objective analysis, which included a number of factors taken into consideration, such as financials and market opportunity, said McLaughlin.

Common Ground will be supported through March 2014, with the intention to transition everyone from Common Ground to another product by that time, McLaughlin said.

Laura Quinn is among those disappointed to see Common Ground go because it was a strong product that had a different niche than eTapestry. “To me, it’s really a detriment to the market. They (Blackbaud) don’t really have a product that fits the same niche,” she said. It was by far the most flexible of products in the Blackbaud suite, said Quinn, executive director of Idealware, a Portland, Maine-based nonprofit that provides information about software and technology.

“I expected something consolidated but Common Ground would not have been my first choice,” said Quinn, adding that most people probably assumed Sphere products — from Blackbaud’s acquisition of Kintera in 2008 — were on their way out. “I’m kind of disappointed that they didn’t think there was a place for multiples of these products. Clearly, it’s better business to have fewer products versus filling more niches for nonprofits,” she said.

Quinn believes there are notable markets for all three: eTapestry, Common Ground and Raiser’s Edge. “The move that would have been friendliest to the market would’ve been to operate all three. I don’t think they were redundant products. They had strengths and weaknesses in different areas,” she said.

Higher-end products like Raiser’s Edge are not as customizable, in addition to having a higher price point, according to Quinn. The move perhaps implies that there’s a preference for existing Blackbaud products compared to potentially Convio products, she said, which offer more functionality for the space. Overlap between Convio’s Luminate and Blackbaud’s NetCommunity also becomes concerning, she added.

eTapestry starts at a lower price point, making it possibly a better fit for smaller nonprofits than Common Ground but Common Ground was “definitely in a different niche,” said Quinn, with the power of having a fundraising platform built on Salesforce.com.

“It’s not the obvious move. It now makes me concerned everything they have could be next. That’s something nonprofits should be concerned about,” said Quinn. “It’s not a move that’s good for the market,” she said.

“There are not a plethora of really great tools in the lower market for nonprofits.” NPT

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