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Computer Questions for Ministry Growth Series
Is it IT, or is it IS ?
It is not IT, it is IS !
Information Technology (IT) discussions often focus on the technology aspects - - perhaps because there is so much happening with new releases and improvements almost every month. An understanding of the technical aspects of the tools we use is important so that we may be more efficient. But sometimes it appears we lose sight of the target of that efficiency.
The term Information Services may not have the 'sexy' attraction or notice that has enveloped the common conversations about Technology, but the Services portion is the key point.
Do your computer related meetings begin with "How may we better serve?" ?
We are called to serve. We are all parts of the body ministering to one another, in service to one another. How we build-up and encourage our ministry partners is more important than how bright and shiny our computers may appear to be.
Do you ask - - What can we do with this new "Wiz-Bang" technology ?
Or, do you ask - - Do our ministry needs really require this "Wiz-Bang" technology ?
(Substitute the name of the latest product announcement for "Wiz-Bang".)
Tools appropriate for service may be more mundane than leading-edge technology. Yes, it is sometimes nice to play with new toys. However, there are sufficient commercial enterprises that will pay the costs to explore and validate the suitability of these new tools. Ministries that wait can avoid the "bleeding-edge" costs and diversions of energy for which missions are not well suited.
Are you being distracted by the technology "bandwagons" that come and go ?
Is your ministry off on a technology tangent instead of employing mainstream solutions ?
Another focus of the IT vs. IS question relates to the "help desk".
I had occasion to over-hear several indicative phone-call requests for assistance. The IT department side (the one side I was able to hear fully) quickly jumped to "the correct way to ask for assistance is ..." rather than first attempting to understand and solve the caller's problem.
In the world of IT, it is natural that there are "processes" or "procedures" that work well with machines. Some of
that slides into "practices" for providing services. However, I suspect our fellow missions staff will appreciate a bit of
grace and mercy - - then some coaching on how most efficiently to request service. My advice would be to first solve the caller's
problem, then explain the why and how of using the preferred method for requesting assistance.
A related example comes from a ministry that did not have adequate/qualified IT staff to service the needs of existing databases. Consequently
a cross-departmental "self-help network" had developed: someone with basic query and report writing skills was helping another
department. When the underlying database engine was updated, the helper also requested his workstation be updated.
This led to the IT staff declaring that such "rogue IT" (being done outside the IT department) should not be allowed. All the parties to the self-help approach were not impressed !
Are "process" and "departmental turf" displacing your "people" viewpoint in IT ?
As an aside, I have a theory: Technology people should have at least 4 years commercial (the so called "real-world") experience before joining a ministry. The commercial businesses can add to the practical finish of the education. This begins the depth and breadth of experience which enriches the ability to serve. "It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way" Proverbs 19:2 NIV
So, let us talk about "Information Technology (IT)" when we are discussing how to provide our "Information Services (IS)" to our ministries; but let us keep our eyes on the 'Service' of IS.
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(c) 2006,,2009 David McQuoid
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