|A typical Constituency Organiser updates the Merlin Database|
No doubt there were issues with the way Merlin was introduced. The training programme was far from adequate, but equally so where many of the people being sent for training. Personally I don't think it is too much to ask that people being put in charge of a political party's IT and pledge database have at least a minimum understanding of what is required. When an IT trainer has to begin by explaining what a CSV file is, how to populate a spreadsheet, how to do a basic mail merge and (I kid you not) in one case how it is possible to write letters personally addressed to residents without having to individually type each one - then we clearly have issues greater than the software!
What is actually happening to Merlin has yet to be officially confirmed. I believe a new system, developed jointly with the Canadian Progressive Conservative Party, is being trialled in certain target constituencies where there is a CCHQ trained Campaign Director, ahead of a decision being taken post 2015. No doubt if a new system is introduced, all those members who have spent the last 6 years using every opportunity to complain about it, will now turn their ire on the new system and say how wonderful Merlin was, and how we should never have changed. Just like they did when Merlin replaced BlueChip, and just like they did when BlueChip replaced Fileplan and Silverjay (now I am giving my age away!)
For the record, I wish to write two things about Merlin.
1. There is nothing wrong with it. It works fine. If it is maintained correctly, details are entered accurately and the person running it has even the most basic IT skills, then Merlin is fit for purpose. I run three Associations from it, two with large memberships and the third a critical target seat. Merlin has never let me down. Yes, there are a few features which, in hindsight, could be better, but I have never needed to achieve something and not found a way of doing what I wanted.
2. The guys who run the help desk deserve medals. Yes, they are short staffed and under resourced, but I have also seen the pressure they are under and the absolute stupidity of some of the enquiries they have to deal with. I actually heard one of the technicians take a call from an activist in Dorset who was phoning to say what a useless system it was because it wouldn't work in a power cut. Then there was hr man (who held senior office in a Kent Association) who told me, without a hint of humour, that the reason CCHQ demanded the machine's were switched on 24 hours a day was to enable CCHQ to 'listen-in' to what was being discussed at constituency offices.
As I have previously blogged, if CCHQ are listening, all they are likely to hear in many Association offices is the sound of tumbleweed!