Justify the Expense: Churches Need Metrics

featured-future-howThe old sales trick of providing a list of desired features and benefits to overcome purchase barriers may still work with some church leaders, but the Internet has taught consumers a thing or two about what is offered and what they really want. To justify the expense, churches need metrics from real data.

Rethinking Repairs

Technology marches on, and time can reveal the limitations and wear-and-tear on gear. Either way, repairing audio, video, and lighting (AVL) equipment is inevitable. Church operations are based on the Sunday-comes-every-seven-days schedule, plus weddings, funerals and mid-week events, where windows of opportunities for making repairs or updating AVL systems are extremely limited — and Sunday downtime is always unacceptable.

The typical solution is to identify failing/failed hardware and swap out the old for new gear. Rarely better than a mere band-aid, it is ostensibly cheaper than a partial system overhaul but usually only fixes a symptom, not the problem. When a church calls for a repair, the better solution is to not only fix the singular issue, but add in a review of each system and identify where automation can be inserted to both streamline operations (always important in volunteer-operated environments) and report on the status of technology in real-time. This is the first step in building a relationship of trust with the church, and is a stepping stone towards building out full automation and reporting technology across all venues/campuses.

Demonstrate With Data

The Cloud and Big Data are terms consumers are now familiar with, thanks largely to mobile applications and online storage and sharing.

Making little data from Big Data is a key to identifying the trends and opportunities of capturing greater market share in the House of Worship space.

It’s one thing to add in automation and control systems for simple power sequencing or instant feedback during an event, but it’s another to think about what kind of Business Intelligence can be derived from AVL. This is not something that’s caught on with the vast majority of systems integrators, as it’s a design space typically reserved for command and control military or large corporate environments. However, it ties into the mobile life of even consumers, who are given visualized representations of their consumption or engagement as a way of making little data out of Big Data.

For the thousands of churches with multiple venues, both on the same campus and at satellite/multi-site campuses, a visualization dashboard could report, in one screen, the overall health of each AVL system, in each venue, and which technologies are in use. This provides the technical teams with instant access to their overall AVL infrastructure and allows for troubleshooting from any location as well as instant notifications to key staff of any issues. Further, it represents a holistic viewpoint for seeing utilization patterns for noting preventative maintenance and setting automation to turn off any AVL technology that is accidentally left on (think projectors burning expensive lamps, moving light fixtures, and even digital signage left on during off-peak hours.

Business Intelligence as Church Stewardship

When you can demonstrate value with actual representative data, you’re helping the church technical leaders demonstrate good stewardship to the senior leadership team and providing helpful insight into the workload and potential issues that are more easily seen over time through trend analysis.

The concept of Big Data is a bit of a stretch here on a church-by-church basis, but when a systems integrator or manufacturer potentially has access to how products are used over time from all of their installed products in churches, the roll-up of many churches’ data tells a very helpful story for understanding maintenance needs/trends as well as operational lifetime management of a product category or series of products. Of course, this has to be spelled out to the church clients so that data of operational usage can be shared, but I would be hard-pressed to think of even one church that wouldn’t agree to this kind of harmless data gathering when it helps them with automation versioning (think firmware updates sent to an entire product line via IP) and automation of operation for greater efficiency and stewardship.

From a manufacturer’s point of view, I submit that it’s well past time to stop positioning your products as standalone devices; the Internet-of-Things (IoT) will affect consumers soon enough (if it hasn’t already) and their comfort level and expectation of stuff “just working” for them will be the norm. How can the AVL industry take advantage of this beyond retail applications? By blowing up the past paradigm of box sales and re-tooling the hardware, firmware, software, and networking capabilities to reflect the new reality of instant access with high availability.

While this is a future-thinking article, it is this author’s belief and experience in an enterprise-level Private Cloud that the future is already here — and the AVL industry as a whole needs to catch up fast.

What do you say about churches and business intelligence dashboards? Or about making little data out of Big Data for the AVL industry? Anthony Coppedge and rAVe want to hear from you! Comment below.