Archive for June, 2015

Freedom!

Written by Nick B. Nicholaou on . Posted in Articles, Uncategorized

© 2015 by Nick B. Nicholaou, all rights reserved
President, Ministry Business Services, Inc.
Reprinted from Christian Computing Magazine

Many who serve in church IT are frustrated because they don’t feel the support of their church leadership. This is more common than one might believe, and there are reasons for it! Let’s talk about it, and find the path to freedom and, hopefully, to joy in serving.

The Dilemma
I talk with many who serve their church in an IT role, and some talk of their frustration in that role. “The staff doesn’t follow the policies I’ve put in place, and that even includes the pastors!” I have heard that statement– or one a lot like it– many times. And quite often the IT person feels hurt to the point of looking for another job so they can get out of working in the church environment.

But serving in the church should be a great source of joy, peace, and spiritual satisfaction! Where’s the disconnect?

Cause and Effect
There are some common causes of this type of corporate dysfunction. The most common one I see has to do with recognizing IT’s proper role in the church.

  1. Church leadership, specifically those at the pastoral or board level, are rarely IT experts. Accordingly, they lean heavily on IT to help them.
  2. IT is responsible to consult and inform church leadership and encourage them to make good IT policy decisions regarding budgets, security, system use, etc.
  3. IT is then responsible to enforce the decisions leadership makes, whether those decisions are wise or unwise. And this is where IT often crosses a line that causes a domino effect of frustration on both sides of those relationships.

Quite often IT sets policies it believes are necessary rather than relying on leadership to set policy. Sometimes it is because leadership won’t do their job in this area; sometimes it is because IT wants to protect the church and leadership from the effects of the poor policies leadership made. And sometimes IT wants to protect leadership from poor decisions they might make that will not sustain a stable and reliable IT system. Most often, though, leadership won’t make the policy decisions that need to be made, and instead delegate those decisions to be made at a lower level.

That is when IT’s policies begin to break down; staff– even at the pastoral level– won’t adhere to IT’s policies. Thus the statement by an IT Director that staff won’t adhere to “the policies I’ve put in place.” But it is not IT’s place to set policies; it is leadership’s responsibility. Wise leadership asks IT’s opinion and recommendation as it sets policies, but the policies must originate from them.

Transitioning
The transition from IT setting policy to leadership setting policy can be challenging. The first step is to help leadership and IT recognize the problem and agree to do things differently. That is humbling for both sides, but good leaders recognize their shortcomings and rely on their team relationships to accomplish more than either can alone.

The second step rests in the hands of leadership. They may choose to set no policies, set policies that aren’t good, or set policies that are good. It is not up to IT to shield leadership from potential failures in this area! IT needs to carry out the policies leadership sets.

  • No policies. No policies will result in a breakdown of the system in a year or two. This failure will increase team frustration and system costs, and lower productivity. Eventually leadership will realize that some policies must be set.
  • Poor policies. Policies set without IT’s input will likely be not much better than no policies. I’ve seen churches where the non-IT staff drove the policies leadership set, and those policies usually have the same result as having no policies because they were established based on the recommendation of those who are not IT experts and lack appropriate perspective.
  • Good policies. When leadership asks for IT’s recommendations and sets policies accordingly, better policy decisions are made.

What happens, though when leadership sets policies and some staff– and maybe even some pastors– don’t adhere to them? Those are technically violations of leadership’s policies, and should be enforced by leadership with the assistance of IT rather than by IT alone. In the beginning leadership will be tempted to make policy exceptions, until they realize that many exceptions is, in effect, no policy. During this time IT needs to be humbly supportive and consultative, and never play the I told you so card.

Freedom!
There is great freedom in a ministry environment where leadership fulfills its role of setting IT policy! IT no longer feels that everyone ignores their policies, because they are not IT’s policies! And leadership no longer feels like IT is fighting against them because IT is acting on their behalf! And when someone complains about a given policy, they are directed toward leadership rather than IT feeling frustrated.

OS Version Update: Windows, OSX, Android, & iOS

Written by Nick B. Nicholaou on . Posted in Articles, Uncategorized

© 2015 by Nick B. Nicholaou, all rights reserved
President, Ministry Business Services, Inc.
Reprinted from Christian Computing Magazine

The Operating Systems (OS) on our computers and devices impact our computing experience and productivity. Whether it’s about Windows, OSX, Android, or iOS– the question I often get is, “What’s current and, even more important, what’s dependable?”

The Purpose of the OS
People get very excited about new operating systems! People are excited about what’s coming! They want to know what we think, and whether it’s okay for them to upgrade!

All of that excitement is good, and we’ll talk about the latest OSes in this article, as promised. But before we do, I’d like to inject a little reality into the discussion. You see, OSes should have very little impact on what we do and how we do it. An OS is really the foundation that allows the apps we do our work (or play) in to function. And it’s the apps– like Microsoft Office– that really impact what we do and how we do it.

Every OS comes with some small applications we like to call applets. Windows comes with Notepad and WordPad, and OSX comes with TextEdit, for example, that can do very light word processing. Does anyone use those applets? Not typically! No, we use Microsoft Word or Apple Pages because we want the full-featured word processing experience. So, it’s not the OS that helps us be productive, but the apps we install on top of the OS that really affect us.

But the OS can have an impact too. If it’s buggy, our apps won’t work as well as we need them to. OS quality can, thus, impact our productivity.

I mention this because running the latest and greatest OS isn’t always as important as the marketing and hype would have us believe. I’m not opposed to new OSes; I like how they add a freshness to our lives. But the bigger issue is productivity, and productivity happens mostly in our apps.

Windows
The new version, Windows 10, is about to hit the streets! It is a vast improvement over Windows 8 (and 8.1), and in our testing has proven itself to be solid! That’s great news, because Windows 8 wasn’t so great; it had a very steep learning curve and was not fun to use on systems without touch screens. Windows 10 includes a Start button (one of the biggest complaints from users when Windows 8 debuted was the absence of the Start button) and even re-introduces the Start menu! And Windows 10 is a solid network citizen.

Windows 10 is also free! Well, free to most users of Windows 7 and Windows 8 systems anyway. Microsoft wants everyone to move up to this OS, so they’re giving it away to most Windows users! My firm (MBS, Inc.) will be encouraging folks to move to it. Here is Microsoft’s minimum specs for Windows 10:

  • 1ghz or faster processor
  • 1gb RAM (for the 32-bit version) or 2gb RAM (for the 64-bit version), though I would recommend doubling those RAM minimums
  • 16gb storage (hard drive or flash)

Some changes you’ll notice in Windows 10:

  • Internet Explorer has been replaced! The new browser is called Edge. It’s a lot less bloated than Internet Explorer, and looks good!
  • The lock screen is more functional than it was in Windows 8, allowing you to see notifications, etc while the computer is locked if you want to (this is a configurable feature so folks won’t see notifications while you’re at lunch).
  • You can now talk to your computer– or yell at it!– and it will talk back! The feature is called Cortana; think Siri with a Seattle accent.

Microsoft has said this will be the last version of Windows– ever. Perhaps this will be like OSX where everything is a version of OSX 10 (10.1, 10.6, 10.10, etc). More interesting, perhaps, is why they skipped the numeral nine in naming this version. There are lots of theories out there, the most likely of which is that various apps call out Windows 9* in their code because of Windows 95, 98, etc. But my favorite theory continues to be that “seven ate nine.”

Mac OSX
When Apple released OSX 10.9 (Mavericks), they broke the system that reads and writes files over networks. I worked with some Apple engineers, hoping they’d fix that. They didn’t though; they made it worse by spreading the ‘joy’ to also affecting reading and writing local files, treating most users to spinning color wheels throughout their day. Proving the saying, “Free isn’t always worth what you pay for it”, my firm never encouraged anyone to move to Mavericks.

When Yosemite (OSX 10.10) came out, there was marginal improvement, and then a couple of updates improved it a little further. The result was our conclusion that it would not get back to what it was before Mavericks, and that we should probably approve Yosemite so folks could move forward. The latest version is 10.10.3, and we recommend it.

Android
Android OS updates are a challenge because many device providers (for smartphones, for example) are slow to update the OS. Going outside of the providers’ recommended OS sometimes means not being able to use the device on their system, so upgrading can be risky. The latest version is Lollipop (5.1.1), and it’s predecessor is KitKat (4.4w2). We recommend checking with your device provider before upgrading.

iOS
The latest version is 8.3, and it seems solid. Apple controls the OS closely, and this one is good!

My favorite part of iOS 8 is the ability to pay for things with Apple Pay. Apple Pay is the most secure payment method available because it doesn’t actually transfer credit card or debit card information, but instead transfers a token, and the token will expire. Apple Pay requires an iPhone 6 or 6+, a newer iPad, or an Apple Watch connected to an iPhone 5 or 6.