One of the most frequently asked questions people in church technology get is “How do I know when it’s time to switch to a new technology platform?”
What some people don’t realize is that choosing a technology for your church is towards the end of the process. It may be that the problem you’re trying to solve can’t actually be fixed by new software.
Recently, we had the opportunity to meet with Elliott Wood, the Director of Consulting for Enable Ministries, a managed technology service provider that helps churches choose, implement and manage technology & software. Enable Ministries specializes in helping their customers manage and maximize their online giving platforms, office phone systems, cyber security, and even the electronic locks on church doors.
Elliott is a seasoned IT strategist and consultant - he’s had over 20 years of experience helping churches not just effectively implement tech tools, but understand the problems they want to solve with the technology they choose.
When we asked him about the process he uses with customers and how he tackles the “How do I know when it’s time to switch to a new technology platform?” FAQ. Elliott broke it all down for us in about 5 steps:
Step 1. Assessment
Enable Ministries’ process begins with a GAP assessment to determine the current state of a church’s technology needs and where the church wants to improve. This step is about locating the problem and setting goals at its core. According to Elliott, “typically - in almost every case, some issues aren't directly related to the choice of software…” Sometimes people treat software like a band-aid and they “expect the software to solve the problems that are really people problems.”
Step 2. What are you really looking for?
Before churches can find the perfect software, they have to return to the assessment: What is the main goal of the software? Elliott revealed to us that they “start with a high-level process design focused on translating which tasks the software needs to do to support the ministry processes.” This involves meeting with various user groups consisting of church staff and volunteers to document their processes and make notes of their desired requirements. This step allows churches to really address their usual process which can sometimes lead to re-implementing/relaunching the current software without having the church switch entirely.
Step 3. Searching for a new solution
Sometimes relaunching the current software isn’t the solution and a church really does need new software. This is when the search begins! Taking the church’s requirements noted in step 2, Elliott and the Enable Ministries team can convert them into a request for a proposal. Enable Ministries then invites different technology candidates to propose how their solution meets the church’s needs. Elliott explained that “we define how we want the candidates to propose and help them understand what's important to the church.”
Step 4 Process design
Process design can take many forms, it all depends on how the church envisions the ministry experience and how the technology supports the process. Elliott begins this step by really laying out the ministry process “I like to start with drawing out the ministry process… How would we like to see something flow if we were just talking about people and index cards? Someone walks through the door on Sunday for the first time - how do we get their information? What do we want to do with it? What is the follow-up step?” It may sound simple, but going through the ministry process will help people understand where issues may lie.
Step 5. Applying process design to online ministry
When it comes to online ministry, the key is understanding the context. If you’re launching an online ministry, you have to keep in mind how your church’s processes change when you’re online. How are you going to make anonymous become known? Can technology like Altar Live support that mission? The answer is yes.
Through our conversation with Elliott Wood, it became clear how much Enable Ministries cares for their customers. They do so much more than just supplying new technology for churches. Working with Enable Ministries has a powerful relational aspect to it that not only empowers churches but provides tools to strengthen their community.