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Leaders should implement software based on needs, not constraints

Leaders should implement software based on needs, not constraints

Dave Sobel

For many organizations, effectively evaluating and selecting the right software to address organizational and management challenges is a difficult process. To determine the best software requires an honest analysis of needs and wants.

One solution does not fit all churches. It is imperative to do a thorough inventory of what you want to achieve with the software. If performed properly, an effective software selection process can mitigate problems and provide numerous bottom-line benefits to organizations of all sizes.

Church leaders must answer several key questions prior to purchasing software. For example:

  • What problems need solving?
  • How will the software be used?
  • Will users access the software remotely?
  • What is the budget?

If these basic questions are not answered adequately churches will not achieve optimal results. When implementing software leaders have to determine the need, evaluate the internal processes that will be affected and identify the stakeholders from which buy-in must be obtained.

Achievement through understanding

It’s especially important to understand what type of functionality your church needs. Understanding what your church defines as success will ultimately help in its achievement.

Employing change of any type requires buy-in from all those involved. This is particularly significant when installing software that may change the way your church performs essential business functions. Establishing a team of software users from the operations, congregational relations and information technology (IT) areas of the church is essential to providing a thorough understanding of exactly why a new program is being sought and how it will affect specific roles.

In addition, a team provides a holistic approach to ensuring that all of the church’s technical priorities are met. This strategy helps obtain buy-in from other members of the church who may not sit on the selection committee. Committee members can be dispatched throughout the church to provide insight on the selection process and get feedback from co-workers further providing a comprehensive picture of the software solution needed to address the issues.

If your church has an in-house IT department it’s important to obtain its input prior to purchasing any software tools, since the IT staff will ultimately perform all troubleshooting tasks. Still, make sure that the decision to select new software is based on organizational needs and not on IT constraints.

Lessen the risks

If your church does not have an in-house IT department, numerous IT management agencies are available that can walk your organization through the software selection process, help to install it and train staff on how to use it. Using a professional IT team will lessen some of the risks involved and smooth out the implementation process.

Introducing new management software or upgrading existing versions is an important decision. Leaders have to consider the organizational impacts, any possible downtime involved and how this can affect the bottom line. Planning is essential, but if done properly the right software can help organizations increase efficiencies, improve employee productivity and ultimately save money.

Churches pay a premium for custom software, so if an existing package can deliver 80 percent of what is needed, then it might be adequate. For example, if the software uses the term “activities,” but your staff refers to the same thing as “tasks,” it is far easier to change the internal terminology than to customize the software.

One of the biggest mistakes that people make when selecting new software is the misconception that it will solve all of the organization’s problems. New software won’t magically make your operations run more smoothly; however, it will provide insight. For example, a church that needs to track donations can benefit from software to log this information but it won’t fix employees who don’t keep up on paperwork.

There are several kinds of software to improve operational performance, but remember one size doesn’t fit all. Perhaps, your institution requires a financial management tool. With several options to choose from it’s essential to conduct a cost-benefit analysis to determine which solution will adequately address any trouble spots and provide a best match to the needs of the organization.

Objections from staff

When change of any kind is proposed there are always objections. Jobs are performed in a particular way and people are reluctant to shift to a method that may be better, streamlined or more efficient. Naturally, learning a new process or tool requires some degree of training. There are many common objections from staff that organizations will encounter with a new software solution including:

  • It’s too expensive
  • There’s too much training involved
  • There’s too much downtime

Decision makers must have thoughtful answers to these questions in relation to the needs of the church. Determining overall value to the organization and individual employees will ensure that naysayers become advocates and not enemies.

All too often employees are left to fend for themselves with new software. This tactic practically ensures that the new tool will not be used to its full capacity, that staff will become frustrated because they don’t know how to use the software and will likely avoid its use. If you want to get your money’s worth, it’s essential that a training budget be built into the cost of the new software. Spending money on training employees to use the software correctly will save enormous time and expenses.

While effectively evaluating and selecting the right software to manage your internal challenges won’t be an easy process, making the correct choice for your church will allow you to more effectively serve the members of your congregation and community.

Dave Sobel is the founder and CEO of Evolve Technologies, Fairfax, VA., a consulting firm that provides IT services. [evolvetech.com]

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