Written By: Stu Manewith - Apr 6, 2021
Blog8 min read

Omatic Cloud: An Integration Platform for Blackbaud CRM Twenty Years in the Making

Most members of Blackbaud’s illustrious family of customers could tell you that Omatic Software, known for its flagship ImportOmatic, made its name building sophisticated, albeit plug-in, data health and integration products for the Raiser’s Edge (‘RE’). From humble beginnings in 2002, Omatic leapt out of the gate as a sophisticated and streamlined data integration solution. And, as Omatic evolved and matured, our technology for RE stayed ahead of the curve with features that prevented duplicates, scrubbed and transformed records, allowed for batch gift importing, and ensured that data adhered to system configuration standards.

Far fewer members of the Blackbaud family know that Omatic began building data health and integration customizations for Blackbaud CRM (‘BBCRM’) in 2012, initially for former Raiser’s Edge users who had become used to the benefits of ImportOmatic, and later for a broad swath of large organizations spanning the nonprofit sector. Regardless of how and when they became BBCRM users, Omatic uniquely took the basic ‘goodness’ of what ImportOmatic delivered and successfully built business processes that addressed the unique data integration needs of the BBCRM customer base.

And now there’s Omatic Cloud, Omatic’s post-modern web-based data integration platform for BBCRM. Because Omatic knows the intersection of nonprofit data flows and integration technology so well, and because we know what BBCRM users need in terms of data-heavy processes, it was a natural.

Answers from the Experts

But we’d really like to give voice to our team of integration and technology experts who can talk in detail about how Omatic Cloud and integration products for BBCRM came to be, and what Omatic Cloud can do for BBCRM users today. So, let me introduce our panel and then we’ll delve into some key questions and answers:

  • Emily Dalton, Omatic’s Senior Vice President of Product Management
  • Ken Haigh, Omatic’s Chief Technology Officer, and Data Security and Compliance Officer
  • Matt Hall, Omatic’s Principal Solutions Architect

Stu: Can you tell our readers a little about the evolution from plug-in to Omatic Cloud?

Emily:  ImportOmatic – Omatic’s data integration solution for the Raiser’s Edge – is a fantastic solution, but from a technology perspective, it is a plug-in that lives within RE. A few years ago, we observed some key trends in the nonprofit sector that we wanted to help with, and that was our impetus to start building our next generation integration platform, Omatic Cloud.

  • Nonprofits had more technologies, more tools, and more choices which led to more complex technology stacks. As an example, we started to see more overlap between the Blackbaud and Salesforce technology ecosystems, as well as more adoption of a ‘best of breed’ approach. Fast-forward to today and COVID has accelerated this shift.
  • There are more touchpoints with constituents in how they interact with the organization. And at the same time, there is an expectation that everything is as seamless as Amazon – so we have more touchpoints with higher expectations from our supporters. This means that data integration and having that single source of truth for end-users has become more and more critical.

We have a highly fragmented technology landscape and also heightened expectations from our supporters. To address that, we built Omatic Cloud from the ground up as a web-based integration solution that is untethered to any specific system. This allows us to deliver an integration solution for BBCRM that is a product, not a customization, so it is future-proof. We also integrate with other main CRM systems – including Salesforce, Raiser’s Edge / RE NXT, and Altru – and we have a robust Connector library. With point-to-point or custom integrations, you are really only managing one data flow or one system at a time. But Omatic Cloud was built as a common data ingestion point for BBCRM or your main CRM database.

For BBCRM, it becomes the best of both worlds – you can leverage the investment in your core system – your single source of truth, while remaining agile and spinning up whatever best-of-breed technologies you need around it, knowing that the integration challenge is solved today and into the future.

Stu: Can you tell our readers about the Omatic Cloud product discovery process and what you learned?

Emily: At Omatic, before we build a solution, we do a lot of product discovery, which is very much akin to market research. We spend time in the market to ensure we have a deep understanding of the data challenges that organizations are facing and attempting to resolve. Then we ideate and prototype and test those ideas in the market, until we converge on a solution that solves a key problem.

When we started product discovery for Omatic Cloud we were really interested in automation and touchless data flow. And our assumptions that data managers wanted to fully automate their data was pretty wrong! We found that many times external data sources could be untrustworthy, and that ensuring high data quality in the main CRM system is extremely important. So, it’s not enough to automate the data flow – we have to allow users to see what’s going to happen with their data before it happens; we have to let them stop the data flow and review and make decisions on it and touch it. And we have to gain their trust that we are not letting poor quality data through to the main database. Only once we have done those things could we start to identify automation opportunities.

Stu: Historically, integration solutions for BBCRM systems have been customizations. Can you share a little about the differences between integration customizations and Omatic Cloud as an integration platform?

Matt: Great question! The biggest difference is there aren’t any bits to deploy in your BBCRM system — everything is cloud-hosted and accessed in BBCRM via BBCRM’s standard web services. Since it is cloud-hosted and we don’t need to deploy new code in your environment, we’re able to immediately deploy fixes and improvements without coordinating maintenance windows and change processes.

In addition, with an actual product, clients now have the full backing of Omatic’s Services, Products, and Customer Support teams. When BBCRM integration components are customizations and ‘one-offs’, it can frequently lead to headaches down the road when changes are required and the people with the knowledge aren’t readily available.

Stu: I know this is a burning question for some – how does Omatic Cloud work with Batch in BBCRM?

Matt: One of the primary reasons that we see clients use BBCRM Batch is to review records and data before they get committed – as a way to prevent errors or other issues from hitting the system. With Omatic Cloud, data review and user control are the key tenets of the platform itself. We know that users want to ensure – with a very high level of confidence – that the data are accurate and are being handled properly. With that in mind, we have built a lot of control and decision points into the data flow so that users can review the data (to whatever extent they feel is necessary) before commitment to BBCRM. Omatic Cloud is really pulling that decision-making and control a bit further ‘upstream’ from Batch.

All that said, we have integrated data to BBCRM Batch in the past, when client processes required it. So, we also still have that ability and flexibility if needed.

Stu: In the wake of recent data breaches and data security overall, can you tell our readers about the safety of Omatic Cloud and how we ensure the security of our clients’ data?

Ken: It starts with having a security culture. We have embedded security as a core value for Omatic, carried through in whom we recruit, thorough background checks, security training during onboarding, and throughout a team member’s career. This culture is further and fully supported by a leadership team that cares deeply about the integrity, safety, and security of our customers’ data as if it were our own, because sometimes it is, and robust information security management, managed by our internal security and privacy team.

Security can’t just be an annual event; it is important that we make it an integral part of our operations. So, we are actively scanning for security threats using a combination of technologies, and identifying threats in real-time through services provided by our cloud provider, Microsoft Azure. We can also be proactive, so it is equally important that we have robust quality assurance processes, and leverage outside third-parties to perform external penetration tests. There needs to be separation of duties and multiple checkpoints, and we have designed our change control processes with that in mind.

Of course, as data flows through Omatic Cloud from system to system, all customer data is encrypted in transit and at rest.

And lastly but not at all least, in case of an incident, time is of the essence, and you have to slow down an attacker. By limiting access to resources, we can reduce lateral movement within our walls. We have a robust incident management process focused on quick assessment, and a tested plan to follow so we can quickly contain an issue, and work towards addressing the root cause.

Stu: I know that organizations that work with us have raised concerns about bandwidth throttling, latency, network traffic, and related issues that might affect performance. How do we mitigate performance issues?

Ken: As I mentioned previously, Omatic Cloud is built using Microsoft’s Azure cloud services. Leveraging Azure cloud services allows Omatic to focus less on managing physical hardware and securing physical environments, and focus more on managing the availability and scalability of the services. We are deployed into four different regions and can switch between the east and west coasts of the United States.

We also need to be careful not to overwhelm your BBCRM instance. So, we throttle requests to 20 maximum concurrent connections.

Thank you, and stay tuned in to Omatic

I want to thank Emily, Ken, and Matt for sharing their expertise with us, and for providing so much germane information about Omatic Cloud – our data health and integration platform for Blackbaud CRM. Omatic is excited to be working with so many organizations across the sector that use BBCRM, and would love the opportunity to speak with you about how we can help you better manage your data and ensure that your BBCRM system is always current, clean, and complete.

For further information, please click here [landing page link] or contact us at info@omaticsoftware.com or 888-662-8426.

About our panel of experts

Emily Dalton is Omatic’s Senior Vice President of Products and has over 17 years of experience in the technology industry, singularly focused on serving nonprofits. She spent 10 years at Blackbaud, starting in Customer Support and moving into roles in Product Marketing and Product Management. In addition, Emily leads our CSR program, Omatic Philanthropy, fostering a culture of giving that starts with individuals and grows into our community.

Ken Haigh is Omatic’s, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Technology Officer, and also serves as the company’s data security and compliance officer. Ken has over 27 years of experience in Software and SaaS and has served as CTO and COO for multiple venture-baked, high-growth companies. Ken also worked as the Director of Software Development at Blackbaud for their CRM products, and works with various local social good organizations.

Matt Hall is a Principal Solutions Architect on Omatic’s Product Development team. He works with internal and external stakeholders to understand client needs and ensure they are implemented in a secure, reliable, and scalable architecture. Prior to joining Omatic in 2016, Matt spent eight years in the higher education nonprofit arena, working for both the Georgia Tech Alumni Association and the University of Connecticut Foundation. Matt also spent four years at Blackbaud as part of the original enterprise solutions team.

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About Stu Manewith

Stu Manewith joined Omatic Software five years ago, and serves as the company’s Director of Thought Leadership and Advocacy. In that role, he is Omatic’s nonprofit sector domain specialist and subject-matter expert, and is responsible for actively promoting and demonstrating Omatic’s position as the nonprofit industry’s leading partner in the areas of data health and integration. Prior to Omatic, Stu spent 13 years at Blackbaud, working with Raiser’s Edge, Financial Edge, and Blackbaud CRM client organizations as a consultant, solution architect, and practice manager. Previously, Stu spent the first half of his career as a nonprofit executive, fundraiser, and finance director, working in both the healthcare and arts/cultural arenas of the nonprofit sector. He holds business degrees from Washington University and the University of Wisconsin, and he earned his CFRE credential in 1999.