© 2004 by Nick B. Nicholaou, all rights reserved President, Ministry Business Services, Inc. Reprinted from Christian Management Report
We’re learning to change our game face as IT professionals, finding new ways to serve our teams and reduce our intimidation factor. With that in mind, here are some ideas that can help.
As our firm performs organizational health audits, a need expressed by nearly every ministry team is improved internal communications. Here’s an area where IT can really help. Consider initiating an intranet and improving the use of internal collaboration software.
- Internal Collaboration. Some of us have been doing a form of intranet for years by providing internal collaboration systems (Exchange, GroupWise, etc) and by centralizing data.
- Intranet. In it most recognized form, an intranet is an internal website that helps our teams share prayer requests, praise reports, encouragements from peers and leaders, calendar items, and more. Some include policy and procedure handbooks, organization charts, and instructions on how to use ministry equipment such as telephones, voice mail, and photocopiers.
- Interview Your Team Members. Most ministry staffs are intimidated by technology and those who work with it. We’ve often talk fast and in acronyms that, although part of our everyday language, are unfamiliar to them. Many also perceive us as dictators of policies and solutions.
Consider scheduling half hour appointments with those in your ministry who use your system. Start at the top and work your way down. Ask them open ended questions like, “How is our system currently meeting and not meeting your needs?” Be careful not to defend anything, just respond by repeating what they said to confirm you understood them correctly. Then take steps to answer their concerns and let them know that you did so.
Ministry staffs want to know how to use their systems better. While they may think they need different software, training will often show them they have what they need— and how to use it. A few budget dollars here can go a long way in improving productivity and efficiency.
- Regular In-House Training Opportunities. Consider offering regular in-house training sessions. By developing and using ministry staff outside of the IT department, you can improve your team’s abilities while reducing their dependency on the IT department. This also demonstrates your trust in them.
- Video Training. Here’s a great opportunity to make short training sessions available to your team. Consider making them available in mpeg or avi files that can help your team learn how best to do tasks such as send emails, create columns in your word processor, add records to your database, or print envelopes. Time spent developing a video training library will help current and future staff.
Today’s networks are transmitting data at gigabit (1000Mbps) speed. Is yours ready?
- Wiring Diagram. Surprisingly few ministries have network wiring diagrams. Yet these diagrams help troubleshoot network issues and help staff in many ways. Consider scheduling time to identify where each cable goes, label wall plates to match your patch panels, and prepare a diagram or spreadsheet for future reference.
Cable Testing. Has your cable ever been tested with a device such as a PentaScanner? More than testing for tone (which means no broken connections), these devices print a page for each cable drop to document its ability to reliably transfer data at high speed. This process is inexpensive and can bring great improvement to your users’ experience as problem cable runs are identified and fixed.
- Gigabit. Today’s data transmission standard is gigabit. Many newer computers can transmit at this speed, but your current hubs or switches may be limiting. These network devices, if gigabit-capable, can speed up your system and make your users very happy. Consider replacing all older hubs and switches with high-quality auto-sensing gigabit switches such as those in the HP ProCurve line.
Here’s a quality-of-life issue your team will love you for. Check each computer monitor to see if it’s good for their eyes. Replace older and blurry monitors with flat panel displays (15” minimum). They’re reasonably priced and bring the added benefit of freeing up some of their desk surface!
These are just a few ways you can greatly bless your team in 2004, making their 2004— and yours— better than it otherwise would have been.