I quipped on Twitter “Reviewing some websites for people and giving comment. My version of Community Service.”
See, every week people from mid-sized mega-churches ask me a) for referrals of web developers looking for work (I dunno if there are any) b) for general advice on getting a decent website off the ground, or c) how to improve what they have. Much of the time I save the requests and hit them all at once when I am in the mood. Last night though I couldn’t take it any more and went off a bit on one unsuspecting friend who really just wanted a). I kinda feel bad, but there are some big truths in my response that I thought I would share. You are just going to have to show me grace and look past the unprovoked, frustrated tone.
Here is what I said:
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BOTTOM LINE: IT Governance starts with relationships and is supported by good policy.
IT Governance is an area of practice that many CIOs in for-profit businesses struggle to get movement on. This may be because when pushed up against a deadline, most staff just want to get things done and forget the “arbitrary rules” they don’t understand the benefit of. In some ways, this is our American culture pushing us to conquer our enemy with whatever method is necessary so long as it isn’t illegal or immoral.
Recognizing that most ministries have no less pressure to perform than what is found in enterprises, I pondered if it is even practical to request staff to live within boundaries which are hard to define and harder to nicely, kindly enforce. After all, most executive staffs do not even understand the legal and security risk of not governing IT well. None the less, the world of IS is chaos without direction and management. Read the rest of this post...(341 words, estimated 1:22 mins reading time)
The new job in Florida has been my only non-family focus since arriving here 8 months ago, and it has been an embarrassingly absurd length of time since I have contributed anything to the church technology world. Hoping to get back in the swing of things with blogging and share with everyone some of the stuff we have worked on since my arrival. Won’t be long now, so check back in the next two weeks while I develop a discipline of giving back. While this is way cooler than anything we have done, and the ministry impact is next to nothing, but here is some sweet action to get your mind racing with your own Macbook [Pro] mod:
David Drinnon was kind enough to reference a comment I left on his site in a fine post this morning on building site maps and information architecture. In it he even calls me a friend!
What I love about blogging is that I left a partially thought through comment on his site last week and then he gives me kudos today and places my thoughts alongside his wisdom such that I come out looking like a champ! The reality is that he has some great nuggets in that little post including Web Sort and Adobe’s Website Production Management Techniques.
In a beautiful example of what goes around comes around, I am today beginning work with my team on the Information Architecture for a new site we are trying to crank out by the first two weeks in December. David’s help could not have come at a better time!
As many of you who follow my blog know, I am slowing down on my posting here as I am transitioning out of building sites & applications (on the side and during the day job). I’m moving back into leading IT teams and projects and interfacing with executives, and that means my focus is shifting in life and in technology. This is a great move for me, but I am realizing I never really accomplished what I wanted to with this blog.
I had hoped to give churches a resource for making decisions about the internet and software, and also to reduce the demand for my time by other churches who daily reach out to me for help (selfish, I know). Some of that happened, but not to the extent I was capable of. Sometimes we are left with regrets like this that we can’t go back and correct. In this case, it was a personal choice to not prioritize blogging more than I have. Thankfully, others have stepped up to more than take up the slack and do it a lot more succintly than I can. As always, the Lord provides (see the far sidebar of this site). Read the rest of this post...(533 words, estimated 2:08 mins reading time)
Stuart was kind enough to post a comment asking for helpful hints for building a web site as a lay person. My comment grew larger than the comment window, so I decided to just post this in case it is helpful for small churches using an all lay person team to build their a website.
First of all, Stuart, bless you and all those out there like you with willing hearts who want to contribute something via the web. I pray you can get it done and done in a timely manner.
It is impossible for me to download 7 years of thinking about this stuff into a simple post, but let me get you started with just a few tips: Read the rest of this post...(517 words, estimated 2:04 mins reading time)
Don’t over reach. Understand your churches needs and the expectations of those who care about the project.
Don’t get too many people involved. If it is a small site, keep the total team smaller than 5 … including decision makers.
Know your audience. Is it insiders or outsiders? Is it local people or people new to the area?
Focus on your churches message and mission. What are you on about? What kind of church are you. Use stories and editorial type content to show who you are.
This entry is part of a series on building church websites. Check out the first post.
Require Project Sponsorship and Involved Stakeholders
Having fought through a number of IT projects in the past without executive sponsorship and involved stakeholders, I don’t think I would do it again. It isn’t fair to the team of people who are working so hard to get the site built. If the project isn’t important enough to the organization that an executive or Elder needs to oversee it, then the web project has a low opportunity for success and the outcome will be poor. When we say “executive sponsorship”, we aren’t just saying a dictum or decree is handed down that all staff will cooperate so the site gets built. We are saying that a) this individual is accountable to others for the projects success, b) he/she is engaged in every phase, and c) the person is clearing roadblocks for the web team that they can’t clear themselves. Read the rest of this post...(2337 words, estimated 9:21 mins reading time)
This entry is part of a series on building church websites. Check out the first post.
Know Your Users
There is a temptation with church people to try and reach everyone all of the time. Some churches egocentrically want everyone to be *their* audience. As a result, Church Marketing Sucks. Knowing and prioritizing your users will get you further than any other single thing you can do on a web project. When you have been diligent in this phase, hard decisions during the stretch become much more simple. Don’t allow your project to move forward until you know the secrets your users aren’t telling.
Church Mission and Vision
In some cases, your churches mission and vision will put you a long way down the road of knowing who you are building the site for. Our mission actually uses the language “All People”, so we did not have the luxury of being handed our target audience. We had to put together a cross-departmental team to profile our audience segments and decide who we would focus the site on. You might be surprised to find out, “the lost” won’t cut it as a target audience. Read the rest of this post...(1453 words, estimated 5:49 mins reading time)
When our church decided to launch the 3.0 version of our site, we knew it would be a serious effort. As “the web guy”, my charge was to be the glue that holds the pieces of the project together. There are numerous how-tos available for churches who are just getting started with their sites. My hope in this series on how to build a church web site is to share our story in a way that could help someone who already has experience in building sites and could learn from our approach.
Some statistics suggest that as high as 60% of all IT projects fail. With the added difficulty of getting IT things done in non-profit organizations, the challenge may have actually been a bit bigger for us. I am of the opinion that each project requires its own path. This path is largely determined by the goals and size of the project, the length of time for project completion, and the budget. A single approach won’t work for every web project.
I may say more about the recent redesign of Stonebriar Community Church in the coming days, but I wanted to let everyone know the site is live now. Nathan Smith has a little write-up on it. Already some good feedback on how we can improve things. If you find problems, there is a link in the lower-left corner labeled “Problems with the site?”. Click it. Use it. I am taking off for a few days to rest, but afterward may write more about my involvement as the PM and IA guy. I learned a lot from Nathan, Chris, and David.
By the way, I work full-time for Stonebriar and this redesign project was one I managed on company time with company resources. That said, they don’t have anything to do with this blog, and all commentary is my own. There is no policy on blogging (thank goodness), but if they had one, it would include them wanting me to let you know these comments and discussions are not necessarily representative of the church. Like any employee of any company, I have my own beliefs, perspectives, passions, and druthers. I speak out of a freedom of speech which still has to be in check with what is responsible given my association with the organization. Just wanted to make sure all of you knew this BSpotted blog and site are done on my own time. I will put something more official sounding in my bio soon to this same regard, but with all the new web traffic I thought I should clarify. Read the rest of this post...(270 words, 1 image, estimated 1:05 mins reading time)