This post was last updated on April 19th, 2022 at 10:31 am.
The verdict’s in! Churches are more efficient because of online systems. Church software online has been around for about two decades, starting with IconCMO in 2001. Churches still using a computer installed program or a hybrid system should consider changing to an online solution immediately. The online solutions offered today have proven reliable, are more robust and agile to change. These are all benefits to the church that they won’t have with systems that are offline.
Online Software Is A Proven Technology
Having a proven church software online solution is the first step in the right direction. Bringing a newer technology to the market is difficult. The initial release many times, is fraught with technical problems for the users. In the last two decades, multiple successful online solutions made it to market. They’ve been deployed in small to megachurch-type organizations.
Many people, including technology companies, were skeptical when online systems started coming onto the scene. Very prominent and vocal church software companies that were around from the late ’70s were against online software. They claimed that online systems would fail but there was another reason which they wouldn’t talk about — their investment in the legacy systems.
Why Legacy Software Companies Don’t Want To Invest In Online Systems
The newer online technology posed a dilemma for these legacy companies. The legacy companies invested a lot of money into developing installed church software instead of online software. They either kept their current offline system and tried to compete with the online systems, or they built a new online solution from the ground up, to level the playing field — an expensive proposition. Keep in mind at this time online software was available but still didn’t fully prove itself, thus making it even a more risky proposition. Of course, these companies changed their tune when they saw churches moving to online systems and leaving in droves away from their legacy systems. Smartphones, such as the iPhone introduced in 2007, have accelerated this process.
Reliability Was A Major Concern
When online software came onto the scene, the biggest fear aside from data security was reliability. Online systems need the Internet to work and early on in the United States, the Internet was spotty at best. Keep in mind these systems came to market when most people were still using dial-up modems via landlines. It was the dial-up modems and spotty Internet that online systems got the most heat from. Questions like what happens to the data if the Internet went down when saving or when a virus comes through the Internet connection?
Although these are valid concerns, fortunately the early adopting church software companies took a conservative approach to test, validate, and retest the online software before releasing it to churches. One way this was accomplished was by only sending the absolute minimum data across the modems, thus the system appeared to have quicker response times and less data loss. IconCMO was one of the front runners when it released its software package 20 years ago. It went very well because of this kind of preparatory work prior to release.
Robust Software Is A Must
Let’s start with an example of two operating systems to better understand what robustness means in computer technology. The two systems we’ll look at are Windows and Unix. If you are a Windows user you can relate to the following issue — rebooting. Windows needs rebooting every so often because it either locks up, gets slower, or some other performance issue occurs. However, Unix users find computer rebooting a laughable task since Unix computers can go years without rebooting. In other words, Unix is more robust than Windows because it’s less error-prone.
Why is one operating system superior when it comes to rebooting due to errors? Unix was designed from the ground up, using the Rule of Robustness or the “Unix philosophy.” This philosophy states that robustness comes from transparency and simplicity and they define these two items as:
- transparency — Software is transparent when a skilled programmer can examine its source code (i.e., the original written code version) and soon comprehends how it works.
- simplicity — It’s simple when its operation is sufficiently uncomplicated that a programmer can visualize with little effort all of the potential situations that it might encounter.
Note: In other words, the more that programs have both of these qualities, the more robust they will be.
Online Software Lends Itself Better To Agile Development
Let’s first define what the agile methodology is —
it relies on fast and periodic partial solution deliverables that can be tested and used to assess the next steps by project teams.Spaceo
Online solutions work better with the agile methodology because the developers can release periodic deliverables multiple times per year. The other ancillary benefit to this, is that users get to see the smaller releases and have more input on future development. This isn’t an option when large and less frequent releases happen.
On the other hand, installed software typically gets updates once or twice a year. Users don’t like to update their installed software every couple of weeks as it can be annoying and- to some people- scary. This is why the majority of users only do it once or twice a year. Unlike installed software, online systems’ servers are upgraded by developers. The only thing the user must keep updated is their web browsers which most operating systems do automatically, without any user intervention.
The benefits of agile development are multi-faceted. It helps to give faster incremental changes to the user. Additionally, users provide feedback on the current changes and provide suggestions for future development. Because users have more say in the development process with agile development, user satisfaction is better than other methodologies.
Online church software is here to stay because of the overwhelming benefits it offers with very few downsides. It’s less expensive in most cases and the user gets fast development cycles, more user input into the product’s changes and direction, faster technical support solutions, access anywhere, and so on. The users give up very little when going from an installed software solution to a web-based solution. Some say security is a big concern for web-based systems but installed software is not without it’s own set of security concerns. In either case, one does not edge out the other in their security since both can suffer from a breach. Thus, the online systems have more benefits than installed solutions.