Kenny Clayton is a technology consultant with Guidant Partners. He is also a college friend who is deeply passionate about the Church and seeing the Kingdom expand. As a pastor’s kid, he has seen the church from the inside out. I asked him to share some of his thoughts about the biggest mistakes churches make when it comes to IT. (Yep. Everyone has one of those stories about the guy who knows all about computers who volunteers to help set up something…and it NEVER worked.)
PROBLEM: Technology is not valued within the organization If leadership is not on board and refuses to see/learn the benefits of technology, then initiatives will go underfunded or get pushed to the wayside altogether. If leadership is hesitant to change or adopt new technologies the natural result may be old equipment, overworked support staff, frustration, lack of proper training, and an outdated website. Failure to adapt is a good way to become extinct or irrelevant.
FIX: Develop a technology committee. Don’t be intimidated because your four year old can text faster than you. Very little, if any technical knowledge, is required to actively participate in strategic IT planning. CEO’s/Pastors/Board Members/Church leadership need to take part in this. Technical people are great, but sometimes lack big picture skills and end up lost in the details while missing the main points. Get a glove and get in the game, your leadership is needed.
PROBLEM: There is no clear mission regarding technology. If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail. Don’t let technology dictate what you do or become boxed in by what you think are your limitations.
FIX: Set Goals. Have a vision of where you want to go and craft some solutions that will help get you there. IT should support, enhance, and empower your organization’s overall goals, mission, tactics, and message. Leveraging technology can make you more productive, effective, and efficient.
PROBLEM: Stop being so cheap. I once had a Ford Probe that I paid $1,200 dollars for. Not having a car payment was great, but being on a first name basis with Triple A was not so great. You get what you pay for, and since many churches and non profits don’t want to pay for anything regarding technology, they end up with donated equipment and someone’s cousin doing the IT. Donated equipment and free labor may seem enticing in the short term, but in the long run it can end up costing you more in downtime, costly repairs, and mistakes. Being cheap also leads to a frustrated staff and non productive days.
FIX: Buy good equipment and hire professional services. You might be amazed at what you could accomplish if things actually worked and worked well. You might even be able to focus on what you do best, and not your computer problems.
PROBLEM: You don’t know where you are. Studies have shown that most people will walk in circles when they are lost in the wilderness. You have no idea how many computers or servers you have. You are not sure if you have a firewall or how your data is being backed up. You do not know how much you are spending in technology and are sure how long ago you evaluated your vendor relationships. Walking in a straight line will be easier after you ask yourself some key questions.
- Perform a check-up. Identify strengths/challenges in order to close the gap between where you are and where you want to go.
- How much are we spending in IT infrastructure, Support, Training, and Software? Over 70% percent of your IT budget will have to do with support of running the network. Ask yourself who is supporting your network and how are they doing it. There may be a better way to support your network
- Are we secure? Is the personal information of your staff, employees, members, and donors safe and secure? What would happen if that information got out? Have you blocked undesirable web traffic and web surfing?
- Where is our mission critical data? Every church and non profit collects invaluable information that is vital to the day to day operations, funding, and communication of the organization. Where is this information being stored? How are you backing it up? How would you restore it if it was lost or deleted or a server crashed?
- Who are we working with? Vendor relationships need to be evaluated and contracts may potentially need to be renegotiated. Internet service providers, print services, phones services hardware/software providers, and support services are critical relationships that need to be addressed. When is the last time you looked at how much you are spending on internet connectivity? You may be spending too much in these areas and can save money in the budget by doing a little research and having a few conversations.
PROBLEM: Your website is a disaster, and you have no social media presence. You may have good intentions, but if your website conjures up memories of my original 8 bit Nintendo system, it might be time for an update. You may be missing out on whole generations you could be reaching if you do not make an effort with social media.
FIX: Create a Web presence yesterday! Your website is the way many people will get a feel for who you are and what your about. It can be a very powerful tool and method of communication. On the other hand, a poor website can lead to a poor perception of who you are. Don’t underestimate the impact of social media. It can open new doors, relationships, and opportunities that otherwise may not have come about. It is free, so why not take advantage of it.
More about Kenny: Kenny and his wife, Sarah, live in Nashville. They have two dogs named Rocky and Smokey. Besides spending time with family and friends, Kenny enjoys music, UT athletics, hiking/backpacking, and general discussions regarding the solution to various world problems. He is also the sole source of folk and blues music being played at the office and can be overheard at any given time explaining the merits of real music verses more exoteric tastes.