Sticking with the concept of not getting into particular products and technologies too quickly, here are some non-technology questions to start wtih. Again, avoid giving much thought to any particular companies or products.
- Are you currently using a ChMS plus something else? How well is that working? Example: ChMS product AND Service U, or ChMS product AND Church Teams, or ChMS product AND The City (even though The City could be the ChMS product used with something else). Or, very common, ChMS product, perhaps other things as well, AND a whole bunch of spreadsheets, or Word processing documents, or other “databases” that aren’t necessarily very well connected with the implied main database
- Learn and understand what these other products do. You will either need to replace them with the new database, or integrate them with the database if they provide functionality that your chosen solution does adequately address. Planning Center Online is a good example here. Many worship departments live and die by planning center. If the database cannot replace it (I don’t know of any that can) you need to start asking questions about integration. Planning Center has a published API for integration with church databases, by the way
- How many of your departments have some other system (distinct user login) that they primarily use? (list department and system name) – define system. People will not think of Excel or Word tables as a system, but they will use them to manage data that should be in a ChMS
- How many of the departments using the ChMS as their primary system use a secondary system (list department and system name) – See above
- IF you are currently using multiple components, and want to change that, what staff process or commitment will enforce that change? If you (the team) are not willing to enforce, what is the likely outcome? Eliminating data silos is one of the most important advantages of a modern ChMS
- How committed is the staff leadership to fully embracing a new decision? Can that be quantified and fully articulated?
- How committed is the staff in general? What processes will be used to encourage and equip the staff to utilize only the selected product(s)?
- Should there be a mandate on staff use of the selected solution? Are there consequences of failing to comply? (and if there is not a mandate, which is certainly a choice, what are the consequences of that decision, both on the data and on the staff?)
- Like Cortez, we should “burn our ships” (a historically disputed event, but go with me here) regarding old systems. Obviously we cannot kill off office, but we can limit and ultimately shut down access to any current system with a login. Making old systems read only upon conversion is the most effective way to get there from here
- If any staff member needs a phone number, address, email, picture, or anything other information about someone in the congregation, do you expect them to go to the ChMS, or might they go elsewhere? If “elsewhere” is the answer, what does that mean to you? – “Might” is too vague. “Will” is really what we are after. If the ChMS is inaccurate, but their private outlook DB isn’t, then you can bet they will use Outlook. A successful ChMS transition should eliminate this very quickly, by eliminating other silos and making the ChMS the most accurate source of data. Once this happens people won’t need convincing
- Who are the key players or departments who will make the final selection?
- How important is task management or business process, or workflow, in your solution? (if you don’t have such a solution now, should you?) – This is very difficult for people to grasp on the front end of a transition, and sounds sales oriented by a solution that offers it…
- How many of your departments would say your ChMS is their primary system for communication and ministry management (list them)
- Are you, as a staff, willing to adapt to best-practices of the ChMS you choose, or are you determined to forge your own path? (Those two aren't necessarily oppisites)
- Have you have a major church-wide initiative where the ChMS facilitated well? One where the ChMS was an impediment? Can you articulate the issues? – Were the failings the fault of the ChMS or the staff, or some other cause?
Thanks to Kevin McCord for the majority of these questons and Joel Lingenfelter for some great clarifications.
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