Since 1981, the company has delivered software, services, data intelligence and expertise to help their customers make the most of every dollar. With products to support fundraising, grantmaking, donor management, marketing, analytics and more, Blackbaud equips agents of change to maximize the impact of their work.
For many years, Blackbaud’s software solutions and company data were hosted on different data centers around the world. But the organization recognized the opportunity to modernize and streamline the way it delivered hosted services to customers by offering the benefits of the public cloud.
Their private cloud systems limited the ability to expand services into locations without established data centers, adding complexity to scaling capacity and consistent deployment of features and customizations. Blackbaud’s infrastructure engineering leaders saw an opportunity to better manage costs and offer new services. They knew a shift to the public cloud would increase agility, security, capacity and cost efficiency, allowing them to better meet the needs of social good organizations around the world.
During their consumption agreement with Microsoft in 2018, Blackbaud’s IT team began seeking out partners to support their migration project. Microsoft recommended Insight as a result of our close technical partnership and deep experience with Azure. Two other vendors were also considered, but Insight demonstrated a unique willingness to work collaboratively within the company’s requirements to meet the immediate goals of the migration.
With the cloud agreement in place and the support of this new partnership, the project was ready to launch.
The migration plan focused on customers using Blackbaud Raiser’s Edge NXT® and Blackbaud Financial Edge NXT® — the company’s flagship fundraising and financial management tools for nonprofits — as well as Blackbaud CRM™, which provides comprehensive customer relationship management for larger organizations.
Blackbaud’s infrastructure engineering team built out the tooling needed to relocate Raiser’s Edge NXT and Financial Edge NXT products into Azure, but individual customer migrations were initially performed on a one-off basis. Insight developed a programmatic approach to execution and took on the bulk of the implementation efforts. This included identifying eligible hosted customers, evaluating the technical feasibility of migration to Microsoft Azure, scheduling and coordinating the migrations, then performing the relocation and validating post-migration functionality.
Blackbaud CRM is highly configurable, and customers using the product often have intensely specialized environments. This created additional layers of complexity when it came to the next phase of relocation efforts. As Blackbaud’s team developed scripted processes to set up net-new Blackbaud CRM environments in Azure, Insight built additional scripts to assist with the export and import of existing Blackbaud CRM customer data. This included proprietary modules used to streamline the process of backing up and restoring IIS web configurations, SQL databases, Active Directory users and many other custom application components.
Insight’s team worked directly with Blackbaud CRM customers to develop and execute project plans — from evaluation and scheduling to custom coding work, testing and support. They also added functionality to the Azure environment as needed to meet individual customer requirements.
As the migration project extended across the global organization, Insight served as a consistent source of expertise and direction for internal and external stakeholders alike.
Jonathan Doonan, the development services manager at Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland, explained the benefit of this coordination: “For the actual implementation, we had everyone choreographed down to the last minute, so we knew exactly where they should be and what they should be doing. This was a huge migration, and it wasn’t to be taken lightly. With this amount of data, you can never predict how long it will take.” Because the university team was well prepared and had worked closely with the Blackbaud and Insight teams, he said, “going live was a great success.”
Together, Insight and Blackbaud successfully executed 14 Blackbaud CRM relocations and relocations for more than 900 customers involving Raiser’s Edge NXT, Financial Edge NXT or both in 2021.
The migration has allowed Blackbaud’s IT team to reduce infrastructure costs by taking advantage of additional burst capacity in Azure during major upgrades. This approach has also reduced scheduled downtime, allowing routine maintenance to be performed more strategically. In addition, newly consistent scripting, standards and automation, supported by Insight, have simplified and accelerated general processing and delivery while ensuring any unexpected issues can be rapidly resolved.
Most importantly, however, these modernization efforts have enabled nonprofit, social good organizations to continue to grow, transform and maximize their social impact around the world.
Raiser’s Edge NXT and Financial Edge NXT users such as Lambda Legal, which migrated to Microsoft Azure in a matter of hours, have benefited from seamless functionality.
“Post-migration, one of the most noticeable differences has been the decreased time that more complex queries and exports take to complete,” said Fran Cohen, Lambda Legal’s director of donor databases. “Overall,” she added, “the migration to Microsoft Azure is allowing us to spend more time on the key functions of our jobs in order to better support Lambda Legal’s mission of achieving full recognition of the civil rights of LGBT people and everyone living with HIV.”
Meanwhile, those leveraging Blackbaud CRM now have a dedicated environment offering enhanced security, greater availability and access to new features. Benedict Chiu, head of data and technology for the Australian Conservation Foundation, a community of more than 700,000 people, expressed the value of the relocation project for his organization. “The migration to Azure has kicked off a new cadence of upcoming work that will significantly benefit us by streamlining our operations, enabling more advanced data analytics, gaining better insight on our donors and the opportunity to utilize additional services.”
This initial engagement has established an ongoing relationship of trust and collaboration between Insight and Blackbaud. In addition to ongoing migration and modernization efforts, Blackbaud has engaged Insight to conduct a comprehensive cloud and data center strategy assessment.
“Our partnership with Insight has allowed us to accelerate our migration to the public cloud,” shared John Yeager, Blackbaud’s senior director of application management for infrastructure engineering and cloud operations. “That acceleration, in turn, has allowed more of the social good organizations that Blackbaud empowers to realize the flexibility, security, capacity, speed of innovation and ease of automation offered by the public cloud.”