Plan the celebration too

The next time you have a large project that takes months to plan and execute, be sure to plan the celebration too. For the Arena implementation project we recently completed, we planned two celebration events.

First, we invited all staff to an ice cream social in the Student Center on the afternoon of go live. We took Shelby down starting at noon. At 2:30 pm we brought Shelby back up (now in a limited role), turned on Arena for all staff, and started the party. At the party we used the Internet cafe computers for staff to log in and try a few simple things in Arena. The timing turned out to be really cool. By having the party exactly as the system was going live, we weren’t buried in help desk calls and it was too soon for anyone to have had a negative experience. Bonus!

For the two weeks immediately after go-live, we beefed up our help desk by increasing the hours of our contractors, Philip and Leo. This allowed us to have a “dispatcher” physically at the help desk at all times to take calls, e-mails, and work orders.

When this period was over, we had a second celebration. This time it was just the IT Department (Ian’s daughters crashed the party). Six months ago Brian moved to a house just 3 miles from the church. We decided to seize the opportunity to invite ourselves over to sit on his back deck and just relax. We all brought something to put on the barbecue grill. God provided a spectacular spring day and a good time was had by all. Here are a few pictures.




Yours truly










Philip and Jeremy

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Arena communications plan

Subtitle: "Another lesson in how difficult it is to communicate effectively"

Regular readers of this blog know that Church of the Resurrection went live on the Arena church management system earlier this week.  Travis (the project manager) and I knew that frequent and effective communication would be critical for the success of such a large project impacting all staff.  We developed and executed what I think is a model plan not only for selecting and implementing a church management system, but also for keeping the staff informed throughout the process.  The below outline shows the many ways, times, and occasions on which we communicated to large numbers of staff regarding the project and the status.

  • 8/23/07 – Project kick-off meeting.  Key staff from every department present.  All executive management present and supportive.
  • 8/24 – 9/21/07 – Requirements gathering meetings held with each department.
  • 9/6/07 – Project overview presentation at quarterly all staff lunch meeting.
  • 11/15/07 – Selection of Arena announced in Staff Chapel and subsequent all staff e-mail.
  • 1/10/08 – Implementation kick-off meeting.  All staff invited.  Arena demonstrated.  Go live date of 5/6/08 announced.
  • 1/29 – 2/14/08 – Arena functionality and design review meetings held with each department.
  • 2/7/08 – Arena demo presentation at quarterly all staff lunch meeting.  Go live date of 5/6/08 announced.
  • 3/13/08 – Arena training plan announced at monthly senior staff meeting. 50 training classes to be held over a 5-week period immediately prior to go-live.
  • 3/21/08 – All staff e-mail stating that all Shelby users need to take Arena training, with a link to review class schedules and sign up.
  • 3/17 – 4/28/08 – Once per week all staff announcement promoting Arena with reminders about training classes and go live date.
  • 4/10/08 – Staff Chapel and all staff e-mail announcement reminding people to sign up for training.
  • 5/1/08 – Staff Chapel and all staff e-mail announcement about the scheduled Shelby outage, Arena go-live, and go-live party on 5/6/08.
  • 5/6/08 – All staff e-mail announcement that Arena is live.  First sentence of second paragraph: "Starting now, you will use Shelby only for Financials, Check-in, and Contributions (Check-in and Contributions will be moved to Arena later this year)."

Looks like a solid plan, huh?  Help desk ticket received this afternoon:

I am not able to access ShelbyEZ. I don’t know if I have forgotten my login name and password or what? I think it use to automatically connect..? Could you please let me know what my information is to access it? Thanks.

In response I sent the following e-mail to this person’s supervisor:

Apparently after 9+ months of heavy communication about the Next Generation Church Management System and Arena, [this manager-level staff person] still isn’t aware that we aren’t using Shelby any more. 

What lessons do you draw from this?

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Chris Randolph joins the BBQ tour


Chris Randolph, lead support tech for Arena joined us yesterday and today for the immediate post go-live support period.  In accordance with our Shelby-Resurrection tradition, we had to take him for barbecue.  (We also had to memorialize it with the traditional bad cell phone picture taken by a well-meaning waitress with an unsteady hand!)  This time it was the original Jack Stack in Martin City.  Those of you who came to the Fall 2007 Church IT RoundTable will remember Jack Stack from our Wednesday night banquet.  Good stuff, even for Memphis boy Chris.

This Arena thing has been cool.  Every time we meet with one of their team, we eat meat.  When we think about Arena, we start salivating.  Pavlov’s dog had nothing on us.

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Arena go-live party


Jason Gant, Director of Student Ministries (youth pastor) picks his toppings


Brent Messick, Managing Executive Director of Operations (my boss)


Debi Nixon, Executive Director of Adult Discipleship is EXCITED!


Specially trained "Arena Facilitators" each received a fuzzy monkey to make it easy for their fellow staff to identify them


Andrew Conard, Congregational Care Pastor (aka "Nerd Pastor") gives Arena the thumbs up


 Adam Hamilton, Senior Pastor, gets his first chance to use Arena

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Arena go-live

Today is the day we go live on Arena.  We’ve been planning and preparing for this day since August 2007, which is 9+ months.  To track our progress, check out:

Arena go-live war room

Time line starting now:

  • Shelby V5 goes down
  • Backup V5 database
  • Change permissions in V5 to limit what users can do in V5 so they will be required to use Arena
  • Install 2-way triggers
  • Start Arena agents
  • Test
  • Shelby V5 comes back up
  • Arena is live
  • Ice cream party to celebrate Arena go-live
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Next stop on the Shelby-Resurrection BBQ Tour

Ben Lane from Shelby is here for our Arena go-live tomorrow.  Continuing our long-standing tradition, we had KC barbecue for lunch.  Despite the crude and blurry cell phone pictures, I think you can get an idea of the experience.  Yum!

President's Platter from Gates


L to R: Linda Ronsick (data quality), Ian Beyer (cyberentomology), Matt Bradshaw (bit shepherd), Ben Lane (disc golf connoisseur and Arena trainer), Leo Johns (consultant, pro keyboard player, amateur disc golfer), Travis Morgan (MBA and disc golfer), Doug Blackwood (uber volunteer), Jeremy Grabrian (a man confident enough to wear shorts), Brian Slezak (curmudgeon)

Ian and Matt are carrying boxes of leftovers. Yes, we had so much food that even with 10 people eating we couldn’t finish it.  God provided abundantly for us.

Go live is tomorrow.  I hope we’re ready!

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