CiviCRM stumbled into my life back in 2007 when I was evaluating future products for the closed source consultancy who employed me. Who decided to look into open source? Well that was me! I’d been in IT for a while and could see the changes in software were coming, no longer were the niche technology stacks that giants such as Oracle and Microsoft owned proving to barriers, instead open technology and the power of the enthusiast guided by the brilliant were taking shape. Back in 2007 CiviCRM reminded me of an Atari in the CRM sector full of Playstations. But there was one outstanding factor, the Atari had been produced using Open Source, meaning that its growth potential was huge. Together with the fact that it was, at the time, wedded to Drupal for the most part meant it had the perfect launch pad to make it serious contender when it came to software selection.
That was all of 8 years ago, since then a lots happened in both the CiviCRM world and in mine! Most notably reaching 10k installs for CiviCRM and coincidentally Veda taking on their 10th employee! As with any such stats they tell a story, not only is the reach of CiviCRM extending but CiviCRM shops are also maturing, staying the course as you might say.
The reason CiviCRM is extending its reach to end users is a subject I’m not qualified to talk about, but I thought it would be interesting to look why I’ve managed to stick around in the CiviCRM space, being a person with a very short attention span, for over 8 years.
So here goes (note that the list is in no particular order);
The user base
Primarily the user base of CiviCRM is not-for-profit driven and personally for me this is one of the fundamental drivers for keeping my energy and enthusiasm up. I guess I feel more responsible knowing that the funds being invested could have been used directly for the cause so therefore the investment in technology becomes all the more important. Another aspect of the user base is the variations from micro charities to one
Changing the world (well ok, lets concentrate on the CRM world)
Everyone wants to feel as though they are doing something worthwhile and the definition of “worthwhile” has varying sources for all. For me its the feeling that I can make a difference to a almost infinite number of users by releasing extensions, core code enhancements or even by a simple bug fix. I think it’s important to iterate that we’re not talking customers here but users, the atomic piece of work is not just for my circle, its for the world. Some of you may remember a post I published when we launched the Gift Aid Online functionality within which I shared how I found out that our local temple was using the extension we had written. For me it just highlighted that we shouldn’t underestimate how far into the world we can reach and help those that otherwise would have to invest their hard earned capital into closed source projects.
The pace of change
For those that have been in the project a while, the pace is pretty frantic right? The collaborative approach of open source has the tell tale sign of rapid growth when the community behind it is active. So the true reason for sticking around the symptom is that there is a very healthy community. One that's not afraid to tackle all aspects of the project, from funding through to bug fixes and technical direction.
Inspired by the brilliant
Funnily enough this is the section that I really didn’t know what to do about. I wanted to mention a lot of names but also knew I’d probably miss a few off and might cause offence. So I think I’ll play it safe, there are many brilliant people in the project, striving to do the best they can and tirelessly working to making it happen. I cant emphasise this enough, sometimes I’m in awe of how they get the energy to do what they do whilst keeping doing their jobs so to speak. I know its something I struggle with, taking weeks if not months to reply to emails on occasion and to all those I apologise. A key aspect to note here is the brilliance is not restricted to the providers, it stretches deeply into the user sphere too. It’s an absolute inspiration to me and makes me want to give everything I can to the project.
I’m sure there are plenty more reasons that keep me going but I do need to bring this post to an end in a coherent manner! I think the message I’m trying to get across is that yes, paying the bills and making a living is important, but for me its not just about the numbers. Its much much more than that and I feel that the more tech shops we can reach out to that get the message can only help grow the community.