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Posts tagged with: Planning Center Online

ACS (ChMS) and PCO integration … Dead for now

As I have discussed in previous posts  [1] , [2] and [3] we would love for synchronization or sharing of data between our ChMS and Planning Center Online.  My recent push has been to get the sync to work for ACS and PCO, obviously because that would impact us most because we use ACS. 

In our conversations with PCO Owner Jeff Berg we found out that PCO had plans to synchronize with multiple ChMS products not just ACS, which was great.  In that conversation multiple staff from ACS talked thru how to make the APIs work and for PCO to integrate. It looked like we finally had progress to an integrated solution not just for ACS but all Church Management systems.

Then turn the page a couple months later, and this week I was disappointed to receive the email below, which I totally can understand but disappointed none the less.

Hey Jason,

I just wanted to let you know that we have decided to kill our "SharpSync" project for now. We have been working on it for over a year and just have not seen any fruit from it. The complexities of working with different schemas & APIs are too big of a hurdle for our small team to attack…


We have had a long discussion this morning about integration and the difficulties in what we were trying to accomplish. We have found this too large of a task for us to accomplish.  This is not just with ACS but with all of the other ChMSs we were talking to. We have spent over a year and a lot of cash doing this and just haven’t found a reliable way to integrate with all of the ChMS systems out there.  Every time we thought we were clear we would run into a hurdle with an API or data consistency issue.

We have discussed this with some other ChMSs and some have decided to integrate from their end…

I’m really sorry for this, I was very excited for this project but it just didn’t work.



So if you who have asked about such a tool, I encourage you to contact your ChMS and see if there is a way to make this project work.  If you are an ACS customer contact Sally Grantham and let her know your needs and interests.

I will stay to the PCO crew, thanks for the effort, and I still hope that we can see this product work.

ACS and PCO integration, Do you need it?

PCOThis 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!