The first CiviCRM user group meeting of 2011 took place on Thursday 10th Feb at the Create Centre in Bristol, the first in a while, but with several more programmed in for the coming year to attempt to make it more of a fixture in the UK CiviCRM community.
It was extremely well attended with 14 of 18 signups showing up. Showing the real desire of events of this kind to network with other people involved at all levels to get a much better idea of the Civi ecosphere and the myriad ways of using it.
We kicked off with introductions which I won’t repeat in full here, but we had everything from a implementer for local church groups to a Civil Engineering equipment company utilising Civi to track which customers had which items out on site.
Most of the room implemented or used CiviCRM integrated with Drupal, although some developers used both and we started with some news on integration projects. The greater flexibility of the new Joomla integrations and the Make it Happen project for Word-press led onto a look at and fuller explanation of “make it happen” for people who were not as familiar with it.
Some users wanted to know what had happened to the standalone version, and were pointed to the vanilla drupal (like the demo version) as a case of drupal simply doing the authentication.
There followed a short discussion on the usability of CiviCase for bulk entry of data around groups of contacts, it had been seen as cumbersome. Dominik referred the meeting to a usability in Civicase thread on the forums (http://civicrm.org/blogs/colemanw/pushing-envelope-civicase)
The idea of having pre-configured CiviCRM instances, ready for churches or schools was mooted and there was some indication that there was work being done in that area. MichaelMcA told us about the puppet project for customised server setups that could be upgraded centrally, and Drupal gardens was suggested as a similar solution above the hardware layer. MikeH pointed out that a lot of installs were on Vservers, so it would good to see work going into that.
We moved off the technical topics to look at peoples training needs, several training providers being present. The main conclusion was that end user training wasn't as as important as admin training, that organisations can deliver that in house if their in-house admins are sufficiently trained and confident.
One size fits all training might not be appropriate as many installations are designed specifically for the organisation involved and customisation and different modules must be emphasised in the training.
Currently two types of training dominate, general user training and sysadmin training.
Developers tend to be self taught. Developers should undertake workshops to identify requirements before implementation and not assume that all modules will be used in the way they were designed. There was a call for more training materials, webinars and videos.
We got on to a discussion about open source philosophy and how to promote it in general to make sure that CiviCRM was given not just a chance when considerations for CRM solutions are being made, but that the moral and economic advantages of open source solutions should give it the edge. People felt this was becoming easier than it used to be and we were able to share our knowledge of big organisations implementing CiviCRM successfully as possible case studies for aiding that promotion.
The meeting finished with diary dates being proposed for the next meetings (not agreed but watch this space) and reminders of up and coming training.
Apparently the meeting continued for several hours in the pub over the road, but I had to get home for dinner with my family.