In our last post, we started discussing the HEARRR method of assisting other ministry areas (especially other non-technical ministry areas) with technology. As a recap, the first three steps are Hear, Educate, Advise. Today we'll pick up on with the Rs.
This is an important and often overlooked step. I should point out that the one doing the Responding is not you, but the other ministry area leader. At this point, you've heard what they want to accomplish, educated them on what's possible and practical (and possibly, affordable) and advised them on some possible solutions. Now it's time to let them respond. This step is critical because it makes sure you're all on the same page.
For example, if you're taking about sound boards, they could say they need a 32 channel board with 8 mixes. You could advise them that a LS-9 would be perfect. They may respond by saying that they don't want digital. Now you know you shouldn't bother looking further at the LS-9. The very opposite may also happen. You may think analog and they want digital. By giving them a chance to respond to your early suggestions, you verify that you're going after the same thing.
This is also a step often skipped. Let's be honest; as techies, we tend to be pretty loyal to gear that's worked well for us in the past. So when we need something, we tend to go with what we know. This is not necessarily a bad thing. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. However, this tendency can also keep us from discovering new technology that may be a better fit for a given situation. It's always important to take a quick tour around the internet or call your dealer (or two) and ask for suggestions. Twitter a question, read some blogs, page through a catalog or three. You may well discover something that you didn't know about, forgot about or didn't consider off the top of your head.
Now it's time to cull through your research, and pull out two, perhaps three options. I like to give people choices, but not too many. We don't want to send them into analysis paralysis. They asked you for help in determining what they need. Giving them a catalog and telling them to choose doesn't help. You're the tech expert. Give them two or three good options at different price points and walk them through the pros and cons of each. It may be that the best option is the least expensive one. Or not. But make sure you can substantiate your suggestions.
And don't recommend junk just to get to a certain price point. This will come back to haunt you later. Technology can be expensive. The worst thing you can do, however, is to buy technology two or three times because you bought the wrong stuff originally. Think ahead and make sure you steer them toward something that will not only work well now, but into the future. Recommend gear that you won't likely have to service every month. And suggest gear that is easy for non-techies to use. Don't suggest a 32x32 matrix routing switcher with breakaway audio when a simple 4 button push switcher is all they need, even if the former fits the budget. You'll get far more tech support calls than you want by making it too complex.
This seems like a long process, and it can be. But if you take the time to do it well, a few things will happen. First you will build trust with other ministries and church leadership. You won't just be, "that guy who always wants new gear." Second, you will actually end up with better equipment in your church--better equipment means less support for you. Third, you'll find yourself actually developing a unified technology strategy for your church. The more significant the role you play in picking out technology, the less cobbed together junk you'll have to deal with. Sure, it's a little more work up front, but it pays off big-time in the end.