rock

Rock RMS

If you’ve been wondering where I’ve been lately, here’s an update.  For the past 3-4 years a small group of church developers have been working on a new next-generation ChMS. Our dream was to be able to provide a free open-source solution for churches of all sizes.  That dream is about to become a reality.  The Rock RMS (Relationship Management System) is literally just a few weeks from an open beta.

If you you’d like more information on this new system I’d encourage you to:

Getting this far has taken an insane amount of effort, but we’re very happy with where we’re at with the project.  Keep in mind though the beta is just the beginning. What you’ll see is just the tip of the iceberg of what’s actually done.  Many features will be added shortly after as we finish the polish and documentation.

Brand Identity Guidelines

Logo Design Love has an interesting post on brand identity guides for many leading brands.  There are some great gems in there.  Surprisingly, I was especially impressed with the Walmart guide. It’s definitely worth a slow skim (suppose that’s an oxymoron).  One topic to pay close attention to is section 9 on Tone and Voice.  Finding a good and consistent voice is so important. We’re working hard on voice at CCV and believe it or not for the Rock project.  We want the Rock ChMS to be more than a piece of software.  We want it to be a community.  One with a personality.

Social Media Audit

In late 2012 we engaged a local marketing firm, Off-Madison + Spin Six, to conduct a social media audit of our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram outposts. To be honest, I wasn’t sure of the quality of what we were going to get back.  Being a bit of a pessimist, I always worry that a consultant will come it read my watch and tell me what time it is.

The results however were incredible. They provided us back with a 63 page document that had an in-depth review of each of our outposts (I learned this new term ‘outpost’ from the process, cool right?) The report also gave numerous suggestions for improvements with some real world spotlights that showed what other leaders were doing. The document ended with a section on ‘content recommendations’ that were very practical and I dare say brilliant. In summary, I think the document was one of the most practical and useful marketing tools I’ve read.

With their permission, I’m posting the results of their audit for you to download/read/share.  While the content of the audit is very specific to our church the suggestions and resources are very relevant to any church trying to better themselves in the area of social media.

If you would like to pursue a similar project with them let me know.  I’d be happy to send you their contact information.

Enjoy the document.  If you find some nuggets you like, or if the document was helpful to you post in the comments below.

Mobile App Source

The last few posts have been discussing CCV’s mobile app developed using PhoneGap.  For anyone interested I posted the source on GitHub.  Currently, the app is only released on iOS, but the start of the Android project is in the ‘develop’ branch. Feel free to use it anyway you like as long as it’s non-commercial. Enjoy!

Note: Unfortunately, we can’t support this code or answer in-depth questions about it.  If you have quick questions feel free to post them in the comments and I’ll try to answer them.

Mobile Notes

In two weeks since launch we’re closing in on 4,000 downloads of the CCV Mobile App.  By far the most used part of the app is the digital sermon notes (47% of all events in the app are for notes, more on in app analytics soon.)

How the notes work is a bit hard to explain, it would be best to download the app and try it out.  Basically though there are a series of fill-in the blanks and free form note fields.  Below is an image showing the basic layout.

The note file itself is just an clip of HTML that is inserted onto the page.  We store the HTML in Arena attached to the same record as the podcast information.

The specific formatting of the note HTML is described in the Sermon Notes HTML documentation.  If you have specific questions I’d be happy to answer them in the comments below.

How Successful People Think Different

Steve Siebold, author of “How Rich People Think” spent the last 30 years interviewing rich people to find out what separates them from the Average Joe.  Below are four of his 21 findings.  I re-wrote them to be “Successful People” rather than “Rich People” as in the church world ‘success’ doesn’t always lead to ‘riches’.

  1. The average person has a lottery mentality, “How am I going to strike it rich?” The successful person has an action mentality, “How am I going to make this happen?”
  2. The average person longs for ‘the good ‘ol days’.  Successful people long for the future.
  3. Average people set low expectations so they are never disappointed.  Successful people are up for challenges.
  4. Average people play it safe with their resources.  Successful people know when to take a risk.

I have to say of these four the last is the one I have to work on the most.  I’m more low risk when it comes to money and investing.

Note: I haven’t read Steve’s book so don’t read this as a review of the book.  Just heard a commentary on some of his points and they struck me.

ChurchMag Top 20 Church Tech Blogs

The ChurchMag blog has just released it’s list of the Top 20 Tech blogs for 2012.  This is a great resource to find some great undiscovered blogs (I found a few I didn’t know about).  If you don’t follow the ChurchMag blog you should.  It’s in my Google Readers ‘Absolute Favorites’ folder for a reason.

I’m also honored, and humbled, to see this blog listed as #18.  Thank you for the privilege to be placed in the same company as these other great resources.

On a similar note, do you have a blog?  If so write in the address in the comments below.  I’d love to know about it.

Mobile App Released

Our mobile app was released this weekend.  So far it has been well received.  To date it has been downloaded to 2300 devices.  Below is a quick overview of the features it contains with a short description on how each is integrated into our systems.

(note click thumbnails for larger images)

Application Home

Contains the main navigation with a single promotion.  We’re moving to a “This Week’s One Thing” promotion strategy in our communications team.  This will highlight that one thing each week.  If you touch the ad you get more details.  Currently, this ad is driven out of our Arena database.  This will soon be moved to the Rock ChMS.

About Us

This page of the app shows the location of each of our campuses.  It also has an invitation feature that allows an attendee to send a personalized email to their friends.  This page is a bit of a ‘filler’ page in my mind and probably will be replaced with additional functionality in the future.

Prayer

This page displays a sample of the current prayer requests in our Arena database.  It only shows those that a person has OK’ed to be public.  Each is approved (and possibly edited for privavcy) by our prayer team. From this page you can also add a prayer request.  These requests are added directly into Arena.  This will in time also be transitioned into Rock.

Notes:

The notes functionality is by far the most popular.  This allows attendees to take digital notes during the sermon.  There are a ton of features to this part of the app (fill-in the blanks, free form entry, etc.).  I’ll do a future post just on this feature soon.

Message Videos

The app lets you select and watch sermons directly on your mobile device with support for AirPlay.  This again uses Arena’s podcast functionality to drive the content.  We currently host our messages on Vimeo so it uses their HTML5 player.  We’re currently looking for a better video network.  If anyone has some good recommendations please post in the comments.

Group Finder

This portion of the app allows someone to use their current location, or enter in an address, to find the closest Neighborhood Group (aka small group).  It also allows them to register for a selected group.  The usage of this feature has surprised us.  In the first two days over 25 families have registered for a group.

On-line Giving

Due to the fact that Apple does not allow donations in a native app we redirect the giving button to our website.  We have created a new highly responsive (thanks Titter Bootstrap) page that is very interactive.  If someone wants a peak at what the giving UX in the Rock ChMS will look like this is it. I hope Apple allows for a more native experience in the future.

For the most part that is the app.  I’ll be posting a couple of deeper dives into some of the features and code in the near future.

Standardizing Email

Our senior pastor made an interesting statement a few week’s ago in a leadership meeting when he said, “When I get an e-mail, I wish I knew what the sender expected of me.  Do they want a reply or is it just an FYI?”  This got me to thinking, “What if we could standardize our email subject-lines to clarify the purpose of an email…”

Our Creative Technologies team decided to pilot the usage of standard subject lines.  So far I really like the results.  It’s adding immediate context to a message, even before it’s opened.  If we can get wider acceptance and usage I think it could get even more powerful.  Imaging being able to write inbox rules that can filter based on message intent.  Messages that are just “FYI” could be saved until the end of the day; while those labeled “URGENT” (especially from your VIP list) can be highlighted in red with audible alerts.

The pattern we came up with is:

ACTION: Project / Summary (where project is optional)

The standard actions we are using are:

  • FYI
  • URGENT
  • REQUEST
  • UPDATE
  • INFO
  • FOLLOW-UP
  • APPROVAL
  • QUESTION

Some sample subjects could be:

  • UPDATE: The Story / Square POS a Go
  • FYI: Off-Madison Contact Made
  • INFO: Article on Social Media
  • URGENT: Tomorrow’s Meeting Canceled
  • REQUEST: Command Center / GL Code Needed

Evolution of a Mobile App

We’re close to rolling-out CCV’s first mobile app.  It’s been a long journey.  Before this weekend’s roll-out I thought I might walk through the project’s journey with all of it’s twists and turns.  It all started out over a year ago when we got serious about needing a mobile app. Our first step was to look at the church specific mobile app packages. These services can quickly provide a great looking app for a reasonable price.  Our two concerns with these services were:

  1. Most don’t have features that in our mind get people to come back and use them.  They don’t fell sticky.  They may get downloaded, but how many consistently get 3-4 uses a month per attendee?  I look at the feature list and don’t see something that would make me return.
  2. Starting with these apps was an option we considered, but most get deployed to the App Stores under the vendors account.  We felt that if we did this it would be hard to change course in the future.  By deploying under our own account we can quickly replace the app with anything we like in the future.

We also spent some time discussing what platforms we would support.  We ended up deciding that we needed to support both Apple iOS and Android on both the phone and tablet medium.  Part of me would have rather stuck to just iOS, but looking at the sales metrics, that’s just not an option. Therefore, we decided to embark on a quest to write two native apps (one for each platform).  Our initial features for our 1.o release included:

  • Announcements
  • Prayer Request (both praying for and submitting)
  • Group Finder
  • Sermon Video Streaming
  • Digital Sermon Notes
  • About Us Info (Campus maps, invite a friend etc)

As we’re pretty limited on resources with our current Arena projects and writing for the new Rock ChMS, development was  limited to my free-time.  I started out on the iOS app and go pretty far.  About 60-65% of the way through though I came to the conclusion there was no way with our current resources we were going to be able to write AND support two native platforms.  I quickly pinged a few outside resources to get a picture of what it might cost to have someone else develop the apps for us.  The quote I got back was $120K for both platforms.  That was not an option…

We quickly huddled and formed a new strategy.  We decided to experiment with HTML5/CSS3/Javascript to native wrappers like PhoneGap.  I wrote up a quick prototype in PhoneGap w/ jQuery Mobile and found the progress to be very quick and a good match to our current skill-set.  I have to admit it feels like cheating.  There are a couple of downfalls to this approach.  First of all the apps don’t have a completely native feel.  To be honest the normal user probably won’t notice, but those with a technical eye should be able to spot the difference.   Secondly, the PhoneGap apps are a bit sluggish.  Again the average person won’t notice the difference, but there’s no question that the iOS Webkit control is a bit slow in rendering.  Finally, while the frameworks (PhoneGap and jQuery Mobile) are impressive there still are some bugs. Most of these we were able to work around, but there still are a few known bugs that are impacting the app (they’re small through).

In the end the productivity savings more than made up for the lack of a truly native application.  This is our 1.o deliverable so hopefully we’ll learn a lot through the roll-out.  So far the application has received high marks from our internal testers.  In the end though I do feel like we cheated a bit.

I’ll post more once the app is released this weekend.