I joined OM in late 1993 to help with the development of PETRA. I had expected to be programming, but took over the management of the project in mid-1994. The project is now in the final stages of programming for the first release which is intended to provide at least equivalent functionality to our current system, in which Bob Craton, who many of you know, had a significant part in developing. We expect development to continue for the forseeable future, and are already looking towards what to include in the second release. It is wider than just a software development project - we are integrating the software with telecommunications: especially email and fax.
I will start by looking at some of the background to management of your data using a computer system, and then move on to some specific examples of what we hope to achieve using PETRA and our associated infrastructure. I will be leaving some time at the end for questions, but feel free to make comments and observations as we go along, particularly where you feel I may be over emphasising particular points.
Whatever you do, keep in mind that God is always in charge. I could spend the entire time telling of how we have seen Him at work during the project, bringing the people with the right skills, even putting in delays to the project !
The data that you have is never standalone:
For example, when you receive a gift, the accounts department must enter it into their system, the mailroom must handle the gift receipt, your donor development staff will want to analyse gift patterns, even the missionary on the field would like to know about it ! Again, when someone goes to speak at a church they would like to know:
Seen a move to integrated systems in the UK financial services industry where they were finding that the data they needed to target the selling of new financial products to customers was stored on their systems, it could not be interrogated as it was held in separate systems.
Before any decisions are made regarding the system that you are going to implement you need to find out what is actually needed by your organisation. This is a project in its own right. First of all, you need to have done some strategic planning. When you look through a high level strategic plan for an organisation you should be able to identify the systems needed to support the plan.
OM also has a strategic plan for Information Technology, which we refer to as out IT Blueprint. This sets out standards within which any IT projects will be developed. We looked at Hardware and Operating Systems, Communications, Database Technology, User Interfaces, Networking and Security.
Getting high level support for a project is critical. Technical expertise is not enough for a project. You need financial and other resources, and political support. You need to have as much representation as possible across our organisation when you are gathering requirements. Any system that it implemented will be used in a great variety of situations. In OMs case we range from our US home office with 40 users, down to many single user field offices. You cannot skimp on this stage, otherwise you will get a system no one will want.
It is important to keep the representatives informed of how things are going during development as well. Ask for help on screen design, report design. Above all, keep them involved as they will help to gain acceptance for the new system across the organisation. If all this sounds rather commercial, that is deliberate. In order to be good stewards of our resources we need to be better than the commercial world, and set them an example.
Ready made & tested Need a development team Expensive for multi-site More sites increases cost benefit Match only 70% of needs Meet all your requirements Separate packages Fully integratedThis list contains both positives and negatives on each side. The OM decision on PETRA was determined by an analysis based on the ideas shown, but by previous experience where we had built our current system. This decision has been questioned during the project, but whenever we consider the possibility of buying in packages we come up with telephone numbers for the cost.
Even when buying in packages you must never forget that you are likely to need some customisation to suit the needs of your organisation, and then you will also need to integrate the various packages which are bought. One UK organisation used to buy packages with a 70% fit, but found that they got burnt in getting the other 30% to work properly, so they spent far more on getting the right system.
Units will also enter information about the "jobs" they have. When these need filling, then the vacancy can be communicated quickly around the world, and when it is filled then this information can also be distributed. There is a feeling in OM that we frequently lose people at the end of their commitment because we cannot match them up with a new challenge to fulfill their vision. A discussion about a recent leaver will often reveal that there had been an ideal vacancy for them, but the information was not available to match them up.
In a similar way we will build up profiles of our staff so we will be able to take the above process one step further and start to match people with vacancies even before their existing commitment has come to an end so that when they talk about their future there are already some ideas for them to consider. These profiles can also be communicated between fields - OMers often complain that they fill in the application forms to join up, and then when they get to the field, they have to fill in another set of forms giving the same information.
As people develop within OM, especially if they work on a number of different fields, then we will have a comprehensive history of their service. Currently even the home offices frequently do not know the full extent of someones service in OM !
Last year had a good presentation on DD reports. These need
There is also a need for the development staff in the major offices to share contact information about contacts with Trusts and other major donors. We know that we lose out on donations because often only one aspect of OMs work is presented to donor.
One idea we have is for other missions to second a member of their development team to us for a year to help with the on going development and support of PETRA. In return we would give a license to the software, including the source code, and from the secondment there would be expertise within the mission to support and customise the software.
Getting commitment from the top level of an organisation can be very difficult. A project must often be marketed within the organisation to get this commitment.
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