This week I started to re-kindle the discussion that was started last year regarding Planning Center Online (PCO) and ACS.
The idea is to evaluate the possibilities and cost of synchronizing data between ACS and PCO.
We are going down this road with ACS to ask about custom development work, but I believe this is a need, beyond NWCC, that other ministries have. Do you use PCO and ACS and see value in syncing the data between the two? I am interested in your thoughts for two reasons….
One: It might not be a custom development project if others express interest (saving us NWCC dev $$)
Two: More importantly the more collaboration we have in the development the better product we could have in the end for everyone!
You interested…. Leave a comment or send me an email jasonlee [at] jasonmlee [dot] net
Why is a Sync Tool Important:
If you aren’t familiar with PCO, you should venture on over to the site and watch the demo/training videos to get an idea of what all this great tool can do to help your teams. The site says: “Planning Center Online is a centralized website where leaders can plan their service and easily communicate with their staff and volunteers.”
Our creative teams have been using PCO for service scheduling and planning for a little over a year and it has really changed that process for the better. Since this is a tool created by “Creative Types” for “Creative Types”, the design team really understood the needs and has provided really good tool to help with those needs.
PCO It does a great job of helping to schedule & communicate with volunteers, give a space for collaborative future planning as well a historical data to look back at past planning. PCO has a great interface to schedule volunteers and then let them know when they are scheduled and let them communicate back to the planning team. PCO Live is a great feature that allows you to give visual cues to your tech people live in the service.
There are some things though that PCO doesn’t do well, the primary flaw is PCO is it quickly becomes another data silo for your ministry. Because of the great communication and collaboration that happens “people” info is stored in PCOs database that isn’t easily used by or available to your Church Management Software (ChMS).
So why is this a problem? Your creative arts team is frequently in contact with their volunteers because of PCO does that well, but any changes or updates to demographic information has to manually keyed into the ChMS so so others in the organization can use that updated postal or email address. This is ok if you have one or two changes but think of trying to keep up with 200 volunteers and the volume of telephone number and email address changes in a month alone could be overwhelming. Not to mention, your children’s ministry and student ministry teams may be using PCO for their planning too… Suddenly you have over 500 volunteers being “tracked” in PCO and there is no way to be sure that information is correlating to your data in your ChMS.
Beyond contact information, PCO has great historical information of who is involved when/where and in what capacity. Wouldn’t it be great if you could harness that information in your ChMS? If you could push that historical info into your member’s activity information in the ChMS wouldn’t that improve internal communications between departments? Example: If you were able to have your ChMS consume volunteering history data from PCO dynamically, you might not have the ‘unknown’ the person on the hospital list… but you would have them in the database and it would note he/she is newest jr high teach team member and you could contact the Jr. High Director to follow up with that new team member.
Ok, its a good idea, How can we do this?
Both ACS and PCO have documented APIs and are willing to improve the APIs to give us access to the data we need… we just need a development team to help make those two talk… We don’t have the skill set to make this happen on our own so that is why we have asked the costs and feasibility questions of ACS. The more ACS clients interested the lower the “cost” and better the product. PCO doesn’t have record of ACS customers who use PCO, so we have to ‘find’ that list on our own… ACS is willing to help make this happen, we just need to know you are interested!