[Linux-aus] Candidacy Support Statement - President or Ordinary Council Member

Kathy Reid kathy at kathyreid.id.au
Wed Dec 7 17:57:13 AEDT 2016

Thanks everyone - this sort of robust debate and evaluation of our
actions I feel helps us both ensure we're doing the right things, and
doing them the right way. This feedback is welcome - it is passionate
and well argued. The opposite of passion is apathy.

TL;DR a round table / hangout / teleconf with passionate people is a
great idea - thanks Hugh for suggesting it.

AJ, your email questioned a number of actions and directions and I'd
like to take the opportunity to respond if I may.

        Why choose CiviCRM, choose to have it outsourced not hosted
        internally, and why does it cost $23k?

To begin the selection process, we identified a set of user
requirements, written as user stories (ie. 'As the Secretary I want to
do X function to get Y outcome). This set of requirements was tested
against both existing MemberDB and CiviCRM demo instance. We didn't go
further than CiviCRM (for instance SugarCRM or other open CRMs) because
the fit with CiviCRM was strong, and it also ran on Drupal (our existing
web platform), and there are several CiviCRM providers in Australia.
Should we have looked wider for other CRM tools that fit the
requirements? Possibly, but each assessment is time - and we are
stretched for time.

We also (at Hugh's prompting - all credit here) looked at whether
MemberDB rewrite would be a suitable option. The writer of MemberDB
advised us to adopt CiviCRM.

We sought three quotes for CiviCRM implementation (the three CiviCRM
partners in Australia listed on the CiviCRM website). One vendor didn't
respond, a second's approach was appalling (requiring a signed document
before a conversation) and the third, from a company called AgileWare,
was thorough, methodical and robust.

I have no relationship or history with AgileWare.

So, to why we would outsource the setup and support of CiviCRM. Firstly,
it's a specialised product. You need product knowledge to configure it
appropriately, and undertake ETL from the other system (MemberDB). So
why get it hosted externally? For the same reason. It's a specialist
product, not say a vanilla httpd or smtpd - it requires specialist
knowledge to host and tune it well.

Is $23k too much? No, this included setup, configuration and ETL of
CivicCRM and some training on getting the most out of the system. Both
Hugh and I bounced this off others who work in the web space - as I do
professionally - and this was considered 'ball park'.

One point I'd like to make here is about *using* an open source system
versus *running* one. While I agree that Linux Australia should wherever
possible run open source systems, it's the Council and Subcommittees
that have to *use* the tools that we put in place. I, and others in
Council, spend hours per week on LA systems - they need to be easy to
use - and not a chore. If there's an error, I need it fixed. If the
system's down, I need an SLA to tell me when it will be up. LA is no
longer a small operation - we run 10 events or so a year, with a
turnover of over a million dollars, and over a thousand confirmed
members, and a broad stakeholder group.  For example, to do membership
renewal, we had to export from MemberDB into mailchimp, then we will
have to spend several hours manually reconciling records, via raw SQL,
in MemberDB. Not my idea of fun. The point is we're stretched - better
systems help us do more tasks, quicker - freeing up time to do other
things. These systems need to be stable, mature, and well supported.

        Is Kathy a benevolent dictator?

This thread I find a little hard to swallow to be frank. We openly
called for nominations to the Membership committee, and a cursory
question to any members of the committee would answer the 'did Kathy
railroad this through' question.

I'm not going to apologise for having a plan - a strategic outlook - for
the organisation. Quite frankly, I see it as the role of the Council to
set this direction - with input, guidance and feedback from the LA
Membership - and AJ has provided some frank and fearless feedback on this. 

I'd really like to see *more* feedback - what's working, what's not
working, what we should be doing, what we shouldn't be doing.

Kind regards,


On 07/12/16 10:49, Hugh Blemings wrote:
> Hi AJ, All,
> Thanks for your considered reply AJ.  What follows is a bit of a combo
> of attempt to respond and open letter, please bear with me.
> I've had a busy few weeks and while I'm aware there were some
> outstanding questions from your earlier emails, I just haven't had the
> bandwidth sorry.
> You raise some fair questions about the choice of membership
> management platform, in particular going for FOSS alternatives versus
> something FOSS+paid for or whatever combination CivCRM might be seen
> to represent.
> I had understood that this had been canvassed by the Membership
> Committee and while I recognise Kathy may have a preference for
> CiviCRM, yours is the first suggestion I've had that she has allowed
> this preference to overshadow a proper evaluation process.  I'll leave
> it to her to comment further on that - not I hasten to add because I'm
> cranky about what you've said :)
> Candidly - would love to have you contribute if you've the bandwidth -
> I'd reached out once or twice and not heard from you so assumed you
> were frantic - which is ok :)  It'd be wonderful to have your
> expertise and energy back in Council or wherever you feel fit to
> contribute.
> The tricky bit with this will always be whether we can have tools that
> are truly maintainable in the long term versus varying degrees of
> commercial offerings. While in some ways unfortunate, the move to Xero
> does seem to have paid other dividends, but perhaps this could have
> been accomplished with Libre tools as well ?
> I'd, truly, love to be proven wrong in this, but given the
> difficulties we face as an organisation just keeping what we have
> ticking over with stretched but capable volunteers I'm frankly unsure
> where we go in the pay versus roll your own equation - I trust others
> smarter than I to research, report and implement.
> I'm going to suggest something a little radical perhaps too - is it
> worth convening an actual real-time conversation (say teleconference)
> to kick some of these things over amongst interested folk.  Email can
> at times be a blunt instrument ?
> Cheers,
> Hugh
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> linux-aus at lists.linux.org.au
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