Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer keynoted the 2018 Impact Summit this week, discussing the Ballmer Group’s recent $69M investment in Social Solutions.  His comments and presentation highlighted the foundation’s commitment to providing opportunities to youth and families. “Every kid deserves a chance at the American dream,” Ballmer said.

In addition to expressing his appreciation of the myriad nonprofit professionals and organizations in the room, Ballmer’s presentation offered key insights into both the direction of Social Solutions as a company and its products, ETO and Apricot.

Here are our key takeaways from the presentation:

1. Many Companies Evaluated, Social Solutions Selected

Ballmer is a fierce believer in the power of software and technology to improve processes and lives.  “In almost any tough set of challenges I see software as a key enabler of people doing better, of being more productive,” Ballmer noted.

Software, to Ballmer, is a means of addressing the challenges that nonprofits face.  

The Ballmer Group evaluated many nonprofit software providers.  Its internal evaluators identified Social Solutions as the most productive company both in terms of its current products (ETO and Apricot) and its product roadmaps.

2. Investment Intended to Accelerate Development

Referencing his desire to see powerful tools in the hands of capable nonprofits, Ballmer clarified the purpose of his investment: to accelerate the pace of development for Social Solutions’ product roadmaps.

This is very exciting language for current Social Solutions customers.  It means that the Ballmer Group investment is designed to get more and better functionality into the hands of nonprofits faster.

In addition to new tools, Social Solutions is focused on overhauling the user interfaces of both ETO and Apricot; something ETO users have requested for years.  

3. One Condition: Integration Support

Ballmer told the crowd of around 200 that although he wants his investment to accelerate product development that there was only one real condition on his investment: Integrations.  He specifically required Social Solutions to develop an Apricot API and better support integration with other products.

This may not mean much to many smaller nonprofits, but there will be some very positive outcomes from improving integration capabilities.

First, better integration capability makes it easier for third party software developers and customers to build links to their own products and extend the value of ETO and Apricot (we here at Treadwell build API-based applications to connect to ETO, and we expect this to make our integrations easier to develop).  

Second, organizations that need to share data with other systems will find the process simpler and less expensive.

Finally, we expect that the investment in integrations will create an ecosystem or marketplace of complementary products.  Imagine being able to export your ETO data to Tableau for visualization. Or perhaps wordpress web developers could integrate an application form directly into your website.  

Integration capability will make ETO and Apricot power components of a greater data ecosystem.

Were you in attendance at Steve Ballmer’s keynote?  What were some of your impressions/takeaways?