Last time I suggested that a holistic plan was in order if we were to effectively develop technologies for our churches. Here are some thoughts on how to develop that plan.
Does the system do what it needs to do easily and repeatably? Is it a huge hassle each week to get things to work, or does only one person have the knowledge to make it work? Does the system accommodate all the needs placed on it without a lot of reconfiguration?
Ease of Use
As much as I appreciate high-level engineering, if a system is too complicate for non-professionals (ie. the average volunteer) to operate, it doesn't work. As much as I'm a big believer in training, we always have to keep in mind that most of volunteers do something other than live production 5 days a week.
Few things bug me more than spending money twice. If you currently have a 24-channel board that is maxed out, don't buy a 32-channel (unless it's digital and you can add channels easily down the road). The cost to go from 32-channel to 48-channel is typically not that great (perhaps another 30-50%), but if you have to replace that 32 with a 48 in two years, you pay for it twice.
Some churches just throw money at their technological woes. Others don't spend any more than they have to (and usually too little). In my opinion, both approaches are wrong. Sure, having all kinds of toys is fun, but is it necessary? I would rather have some really good gear that gets the job done than know that we spent a ton of cash on top of the line stuff, which diverts funds from practical ministries (or worse, adds to the indebtedness of the church).
On the other hand, tying together a bunch of mixers from Radio Shack might be cheap, but it won't be effective. And every time you buy the wrong thing, you pay for it twice (or more).
I'm currently at the front end of this process. I'm starting by assessing our current equipment and our needs. By meeting with the people involved with all three service types, I can ensure that whatever I design will accommodate all their needs (accommodating some is not an option!). Once I know our needs, I will start drawing up a system that will work. As much as I can, I will re-use equipment we already own. Sometimes I will have to re-work my design to utilize existing equipment. Other times it makes sense to start from scratch.
Along the way, I'm soliciting input from our volunteer techs. I want to know what bugs them about the current system. How can we improve workflows to make things happen easier? What do they know that we have to do a few times a year that I haven't experienced yet? All of this is critical information.
Once the system is designed, we'll prioritize what needs to happen first. Every upgrade or change will be done with an eye to the future while making sure we don't do things twice. Underlying problems will be solved before we deal with surface issues. Where we can add additional infrastructure to ensure easy upgrades in the future we will (ie. pulling three Cat. 5 lines down a pipe when we only need one for now).
Ultimately, it comes down to spending God’s money wisely and getting the most bang for the buck. Because our budgets will be limited, I will fix as much as I can as fast as I can. I may not spec the top end stuff, but everything will be quality. Most importantly, all of our production needs will be met efficiently.
I’ll keep you posted on our progress as we evaluate and upgrade. It will be a lot of fun!