I’m a big fan of a fascinating book entitled Predictable Success. The idea of setting your organization up to achieve long-term, certain success has become a very popular topic for business and church leaders over the past few years. Whether it is a more challenging economic environment or the shifting culture of today’s church member, business and churches alike are facing external factors which demand greater intentionality in how we lead, manage and execute. We all want to guarantee that any new process, system, product, or idea we roll out has a strong probability for success.

If I had to take a poll, I would estimate that 100 percent of church leaders would want their software strategies to succeed. After all, technology isn’t cheap. We need to be good stewards of the money, time and people needed to successfully implement whatever software tools we deem are necessary to be more effective. Here’s the rub: HOPING for success isn’t enough to make it real. You’ve got to be highly strategic from the decision process through the implementation and ongoing utilization. Working with thousands of churches has certainly taught us that at Church Community Builder.

So what does it require to successfully implement software in your church? I could talk about a lot of factors but in the interest of simplicity, I want to focus on one core principle highlighted in the book. In our experience this single, simple concept has had the greatest impact in helping churches achieve predictable success with new church management software and other technology.

“Decisions are not made by a closeted set of leaders and then tossed over the transom for others to implement. Instead, they are made collaboratively by the key people who will be materially impacted by the decision.”

The reason this principle for predictable success works is because it ensures buy-in and momentum from the start. When decision-making is shared, there is a core team of people that play a role in the successful implementation. When decision-making is centralized, there is a core team of people who either intentionally or unintentionally fight the very progress you hope to make.

We see way too many churches make decisions about technology through a closeted set of leaders or, worse yet, a single leader. Before we fully understood the consequences of this approach, our team spent many hours dealing with the repercussions as the rest of the church staff struggled to understand the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ behind the decision. Because they were left out of the conversation, they were often bitter towards the people who made the decision as well as the chosen software. Success is, at best, an uphill climb, leaving behind a trail of lost opportunity and wasted money.

 

There is a better way! If you want to achieve predictable success in your church’s software implementation, here are 8 critical steps to follow before you begin:

1. Identify the people who will be materially impacted. There are obvious roles, like your IT director or office administrator, but don’t forget about the other areas of ministry that will be impacted — small groups, children’s ministry, externally focused ministry, communications director, and others. Each of these roles will be affected by new software implementation, so having their input is important.

2. Evaluate their processes. After identifying the people who will be impacted, take time to evaluate how they could use the software to improve their area of ministry.

3. Let processes drive the key functionality you need. Once you’ve analyzed the various processes of your church’s ministry, let them help guide you in your initial process of research and implementation.

4. Identify your non-negotiables. What are the things your software must do? If a decision is made to pursue something that does not address a non-negotiable, be sure everyone is okay with that before moving forward. If not, you just created resistors who will hamper your success.

5. Identify your ‘dream list’. Separate from your non-negotiables, these are the things you would give up in order to achieve an integrated solution for your non-negotiables.

6. Identify your high-level goals. What do you all hope will be different? What do you all want to achieve by implementing a new system or process?

7. Assign and conquer. Pick a point person to do the research, but be sure to include all those who were identified in step one. Everyone doesn’t need to be responsible for researching, but don’t leave them in the dark when it comes to the decision.

8. Create accountability. Once the decision is made, be sure you create accountability so that everyone is on the same page about implementing the technology you choose.

 

If you follow those steps, the probability of making the right choice goes way up. You will also set your team up for a smooth implementation process. But wait! There’s a few more things to consider before you begin that journey.

 

These final steps can become the icing on the cake and provide a great insurance policy against having to repeat this whole process in 2 or 3 years.

  • Make sure your staff and volunteers understand the ‘why’ behind your decision to buy new software in the first place.
  • Prepare your data to move from one system to the next. Get rid of duplicates and bad records BEFORE the move.
  • Allow time to verify data and make sure things are functioning properly before rolling the new software out on a large scale.
  • Be sure to budget time and money for coaching and/or training. (This is one of the most common mistakes we see)
  • Identify someone who can clear obstacles, settle conflicts and keep the team on track.

 

A successful software implementation goes way beyond the software itself. Like most things in life, it takes vision, purpose, process and people working in harmony. Ensuring buy-in from your entire team is one of the easiest ways for you to achieve predictable success for any new process, system, or idea. So, whether it is your next church management system or a new strategy for connecting people to your church, make sure to involve the people who will be directly affected by the decision.

For more information visit Church Community Builder’s website.