April 18, 2016

The Perfect Fit?

I've spent quite a bit of time looking for the perfect to-do app – something I can download onto my Smartphone to help me keep track of everything I have to do. I want it to be simple and easy to use, but also to have all the intricate and advanced features I imagine will make me more productive. Occasionally I do find an app that has all the features I want, but then it turns out to be so complicated to decipher and difficult to use that I give up on it. Or, I come across an app that is easy and intuitive, but it lacks those important functions that I imagine I must have. It turns out the perfect “to-do list” app does not exist.

I've worked in a few churches and communities that have spent a lot of time looking for the perfect software to manage their database or help community members stay in touch. Many end up using complicated and difficult-to-use software because it has all the features the leadership thinks it needs. Maybe the software tracks donations and contact information and you can also pay the bills with it, but it's a nightmare to use.

A few weeks ago I was at a meeting where Kyle Oliver, Digital Missioner for the Center of the Ministry of Teaching, talked about the tension many communities feel between finding the perfect platform or application for a community and the fact that no one really wants to learn to use new software, or another login to remember. We sometimes imagine that there are technical solutions to our problems, when really the solution is managing personnel or time, or working on the norms of our community. Because ultimately there is no to-do list app that will force me to get my work done, no program that will keep community conflict from arising.

There are many social networking programs designed just for religious communities for example, but ultimately, most people are just as happy with Facebook. No parishioner, volunteer, or staff member wants another site they have to check unless there is a really good reason to do so, or they are extremely committed. 

And maybe a tried and true program like QuickBooks is the best solution for your financial tracking. Sure, it may not have a few features you might want, but your administrative staff cares just as much about ease of use as it does about those more advanced features. As a former church administrator, trust me on this. 

There is no perfect software or social media platform. Each community is unique, with its own challenges and needs. It's just not possible for a software developer to foresee them all. The solution is to find the application that both has the essential features and that your staff or community will actually commit to using to get the job done. 

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