© 2005 by Nick B. Nicholaou, all rights reserved President, Ministry Business Services, Inc. Reprinted from Christian Computing Magazine
Ministries change computer systems and software for a variety of reasons. Some of these are good, and some are wasteful. What are some of the “right” reasons to change?
It’s unfortunately true that there is no such thing as “perfect” software. You will always experience a percentage— hopefully small— of unmet expectations or needs. If you need your software to do things that it currently cannot, and these are critical issues of ministry or productivity, then it may be time for a change.
Changing systems always has a cost. Some mistakenly think it will only be the cost of new hardware, software, and engineering. But there is more: the cost to your team’s efficiency and productivity as they transition from your current system to a new system as well as a likely change in ongoing support costs. The end result may be worth it, but the full cost needs to be counted up front in the decision-making process.
Explore Your Options
If you’ve been generally pleased with your hardware, software, or engineering vendor, consider talking with them first about the issues that are driving you to consider a change. It may be that your system has become dated, and all you really need is an upgrade. Or it may be that your vendor is readily able to meet your new needs. Making these foundational changes slowly vs rushing to judgment may save your ministry a lot of money.
If the change you’re considering is regarding your church or donor management software, your current vendor may be willing to further develop their product so that it fully meets your new need. If the rest of the product serves your team well, this may be the best solution. One caution though: any custom programming they do should be done with the understanding that it will be included in their product as a regular feature from now on. This will help you ensure that the changes you need will be supported through future software updates. If you find your software company to be unresponsive to your needs, this may also be an indication that it’s time for a change. As a ministry, you need a programming and support team behind you that has a servant attitude and a felt desire to empower you in your ministry.
Some software is written so it can only run on certain kinds of hardware. If the support for your hardware is too costly, or the hardware is so out-of-date that you’re always having to work around it, or it can’t run many of the programs your team needs, this may also mean it’s time for a change.
The Bottom Line
A wise church business administrator told me that the cost of his hardware and software was the smallest portion of his operations and productivity cost. He correctly calculated that the cost of lost productivity would quickly out-pace the cost of bringing his system up to current standards.
If your system is costing you in support or lost productivity more than it would cost to change, then good stewardship would suggest that it’s time for a change. If your lost productivity is due to a lack of training, however, then it might be a better decision to invest in your team than in hardware and software by getting them some good training. The goal is ministry. Let’s give our teams what they need to accomplish the goal.