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IT Needs A Facelift!

August 13, 2003

© 2003 by Nick B. Nicholaou, all rights reserved
President, Ministry Business Services, Inc.
Reprinted from Christian Computing Magazine

Technology touches every aspect of ministry today.  It’s also a major portion of ministry budgets.  In fact, it enables those in ministry to do more and to do it more effectively.  The surprising thing, though, is that most ministry teams are kind of scared of us!  Can we talk here?

In talking with ministry teams and with ministry IT folks throughout the nation, I have been surprised how consistently—

  • Users and leadership feel intimidated by IT, and
  • IT folks can’t understand why they’re not seen as the servants they intend to be.

There are some things IT can do to help overcome these issues.  Like most things worth doing, it takes intentional effort and focus, but those who have overcome these issues are great blessings on their teams and feel genuinely appreciated by their colleagues.

Users  Colleagues & Associates
IT team members typically fill two roles: support and consultant.  Our users know us mostly as support.  When they have a need, they call us and ask for help.  But, truth be known, many don’t want to call us!  They know that we’re often in a hurry and would probably talk down to them and quickly fix the problem instead of encouraging their growth by graciously teaching them.

You may be an exception to this common concern users voice.  But at a minimum, we can all (me too!) use an occasional reminder to be kind, patient, gentle, and loving as we serve those who sometimes need us most.  Because we’re often in a hurry, many even think we have poor communication skills.  They don’t realize that our acronyms help us communicate more efficiently!  But we’re probably wise to keep that efficient communication amongst ourselves.

Helpful support hints:

  • Answer your phone graciously!  “Hi, IT.  This is Nick.  How can I help you?”
  • Emphatically respond to users’ concerns.  “That would be frustrating.”
  • Restrain from giving a “quick fix.”  Instead, suggest they take some notes as you help them walk through fixing the issue themselves.
  • Follow up with users who’ve called for support as you walk through the office and pass their desk.  Be receptive for their unrelated follow-up issue that they’d also like help with.

I’m often reflectively grateful that God is so kind, patient, gentle, and loving as I turn to him about issues that are sometimes even repeat issues.  He’s our role model, making the support a true ministry position.

Working with Leadership
It’s with ministry leadership that we are also in consultative roles.  Many in IT miss an important opportunity while in this role.  It’s one that can revolutionize the way your team views their system and the IT team, save the ministry money, and magnify their ministry efforts.

One of IT’s greatest challenges happens when we learn that departments have purchased their own software packages, installed them, and begun using them without approval.  Ranging from applications to databases , these often duplicate solutions that are already in place.

It’s usually an issue of buy-in.  Because from their perspective IT may have never sought to understand their needs and the features they need, they don’t believe the software currently installed can help their department well.  This can be resolved by making appointments with each department head and asking them what their needs are and what features they need.  When conducting these interviews—

  • Practice good interviewing skills.  You’re only there to get the facts, not to offer opinions or describe current solutions.
  • Promise to get back to them within a specific timeframe that, if at all possible, they feel good about.
  • Check out your current solutions to determine whether they meet their needs and have the features identified.
  • If your current solutions fall short, contact the provider and ask about the needs you’re researching.  Can they be added?  Also look at other solutions, possibly even asking the department head if they know of any solutions they’d like you to look at.
  • Respond in a written report that lists the needs and features they want, how your current solution performs in those areas, if you’ve looked at other solutions and what you learned, and a recommended course of action.
  • Deliver.

Following this process will demonstrate to your department heads and executive team that IT really does want to serve them, and will improve your team’s ability to meet its mission.  And since your team is about ministry, the bottom line will be saved and growing souls.  What could be better?

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