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Reports, Plug-Ins and Imports – Oh My!

The Raiser’s Edge and The Financial Edge are very powerful tools. They both ship with a large number of stock reports and include a wide array of features. Nevertheless, some users find that they need something different, perhaps a custom report, a custom GL import, or even the ability to integrate with a third party application. No matter how much functionality a piece of software has, there are always organizations that need additional features. For example, with ImportOmatic, which was designed to provide much greater import functionality in The Raiser’s Edge, some clients wanted features that were not included in The Raiser’s Edge already. Many times the needs are very specific to one particular organization’s processes, which is where customizations come into play.

We work with clients of all sizes from across all areas of the nonprofit world. We have done customizations for The Raiser’s Edge, The Financial Edge, The Education Edge, BBNC, and many more solutions. It is always neat to work with a client to understand their specific needs, and then create a tailored solution to resolve their business needs. While we have done customizations in all shapes and sizes, today I want to unpack 3 categories: custom reports, plug-ins to perform a specific function, and customizations to an ImportOmatic import profile. I’m going to talk a little bit about each of these areas and provide some real life customizations Omatic has done to get your imagination going.

When The Raiser’s Edge and The Financial Edge were designed, Blackbaud created a custom report framework that allowed users to export data from the product and build a Crystal Report on that exported data. Users could design custom reports without being required to have knowledge of SQL (Structured Query Language). It also made it possible to integrate the users’ custom reports into the products so that they could be run as if they were stock reports. This made a great deal of sense, given that stock reports in both products are written in Crystal Reports and only a few users had the technical expertise to write SQL queries. If you think about it, that really was quite an achievement. Users with report writing skills could, and still can, create custom reports and extend the reporting capabilities of Blackbaud products. This type of custom reporting goes on today in many organizations.

Even though the supported framework for custom reports in Blackbaud products is powerful, it does have some limitations. The report developer can’t leverage the power of SQL in a standard custom Crystal Report. Another limitation is that multiple data sources aren’t supported when running a custom report from within the product. Oftentimes, we get requests to build a custom report into one of our products to leverage the email functionality in MailOmatic for Schools, for example. In this example, some of the custom reports we have been requested to build include custom billing statements for Student Billing, custom report cards and custom transcripts for Registrar’s Office, to name just a few. On The Raiser’s Edge side, we’ve built many advanced reports such as extensive appeal analysis reports or summary reports that pull data from several different reports for a centralized view. In either case, it gives us options as to reporting technologies (Crystal vs. SQL Server Reporting Services) and delivery methods. If you have technical individuals in your organization, you might have the resources to build these kinds of reports too.

Plug-ins, on the other hand, are oftentimes used to do one specific thing and are only limited by the developer’s imagination. Many of our products are plug-ins and they are chock full of functionality. Blackbaud provides many small plug-ins that can have a big impact. These are plug-ins that can globally delete phone numbers by phone type, globally delete addresses by address type, globally fix data issues, the list goes on and one. We’ve developed plug-ins for The Raiser’s Edge to redistribute pledge payments across the lifetime of a pledge according to a special set of rules and calculate donor giving levels based on special ways of counting giving. One organization needed a very large plug-in customization involving custom record types and tables, rules management, and integration with The Financial Edge that went beyond standard integration. Plug-ins come in all sizes and do a wide variety of things. The great news about plug-ins is that the plug-in module is already within your Raiser’s Edge and no purchase is necessary to build them. If you have programming skills in your organization, you can build this type of customization too.

Finally, another common type of customization that we see involves our own product, ImportOmatic. Last year, we released an API (application programming interface) for ImportOmatic. Since then, we have written a lot of custom code for our clients. The API in ImportOmatic allows us to apply logic to incoming data to transform it to conform to client’s needs. We’ve used the API to pull data from external databases, query web services, conditionally set funds, campaign, and appeals based on gift amount. We’ve even used our API to create a custom export, that’s right I said export, from an ImportOmatic import profile. It ran a custom SQL query and produced an output file with the results of that query. Most importantly, if you have ImportOmatic, you have the API. Just like plug-ins, there is absolutely no additional expense involved.

If you’re interested in learning more about customizations, plug-ins, or the ImportOmatic API, please contact us or join one of our upcoming webinars. Go to our web site to register at: www.omaticsoftware.com/Events.aspx.

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