Monday, May 26, 2008

CMS Providers-- Take Note! Familiarity Rules!

Last week I had the privilege of leading a church through the final stages of selecting a CMS (Church Management Software). This was a megachurch with multi-site needs, and the process went well. At the end of two days of meetings they had selected a finalist and identified the due-process steps they'd take this week to prove the selection before entering into a contract with them.

I observed something as we watched in-person demos from the four finalists:

User Familiarity. I think I first heard this term from my colleague, Steve Bauserman, as he was describing to the CITRT in Houston last year what they hoped to achieve in the solution they were developing. It stuck with me because it made sense.
User familiarity, in contrast to user friendliness, means the software interface is something the user feels is familiar right out of the gate. The advantages are that it's less intimidating, and more likely to be used by the entire staff.

One of the demos this week, ACS, showed a resource/facility scheduling program that had an Outlook-like interface. The church staff was especially excited about this product that seemed full-featured and was familiar. I encourage all CMS solution providers to look at their products and see how they can adopt a familiar interface. I wrote an article last year saying that Outlook has become the killer app... maybe this is the interface of choice since users all over the globe use it so regularly.
In this highly competitive niche where we're all trying to empower CMS users to build The kingdom, familiarity can help!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Basher

I guess I'm gaining a reputation among Mac users as a basher. I really don't hate the Mac... I just don't love it any more than I love the PC! To some that's sacrilege, but it's my job. And I can't imagine doing my job well if I was different.

Here's How I See It
We've been working with churches and ministries nationwide for more than twenty years. We've rarely seen a hardware or software product that we haven't felt needed to improve in some way. Our standards are high because we're consulting for organizations who have the most important mission on Earth, and we want to empower them to do their work better and more effectively.

So when we look at IT solutions, we applaud any improvement in helping church and ministry users accomplish their mission without distraction. At the same time, though, we challenge solution providers to improve any way they can. Those improvements are typically in one of two flavors:
  1. Enhancements that improve the abilities of their product, and
  2. Fixes that correct inherent problems in their product.
We have not hesitated in years past to throw tomatoes at IBM, Dell, HP, Compaq, Novell, Microsoft, Corel, Adobe, Symantec, and many others-- including church management software solutions. That's our job! We objectively evaluate and recommend. We have never profited from any hardware or software solutions we recommended because that would diminish our objectivity. And we enjoy relationships with the leadership of many of these companies.

So, I don't hate the Mac any more than I hate any other IT solution. To me these are all tools to accomplish a job. I am disappointed that so much of the Mac reputation is proving to be hype rather than fact... but then we've been dealing with that from some other solution providers for years.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Office: mac 2008 SP1 Fix

I installed SP1, and afterwards nothing worked except Word (still as 12.0.1). I tried many things, but what finally worked was:
1. Remove Office 2008
2. Install Office 2008
3. Repair the Office database
4. Install SP1

Believe it or not, all of my preferences, etc were still there!

Office: mac 2008

Okay, so I'm new to the world of Macs. I've only been using them since the early Fall of 2007, and all of my experience was previously on a PC. Admittedly, I was both curious and skeptical as I approached this new platform. But like all IT professionals, I am doing my best to evaluate it objectively.

I wrote a couple of articles in which I told it like it was— objectively. The Mac evangelists came out of the woodwork and challenged me— which I loved! It's always great interacting with others in this and other forums. So I wrote a follow-up article addressing the areas in which they challenged my statements and conclusions. Not a peep. I didn't hear from even one!

Macs are nice computers! But so are Dells! And, to be honest, Dell exceeds my expectations and— so far— the Mac doesn't even meet my expectations. But that may be because of all the Mac hype and their great commercials. Anyway, I digress... on to Office: mac 2008.

Office: mac 2008 vs Office 2007
I purchased a Mac, and am doing my best to use as many programs written for it as possible rather than constantly running my Fusion PC and working there. Since we're a Microsoft shop running a MS network and Exchange, etc, I installed the new version of Office for the Mac. Not surprisingly, there were things I liked, and things I didn't.

Word: mac 2008
In Word the features are almost equivalent. Because the Mac is a nicer feeling environment to work in, I like working in Word: mac 2008 more than Word 2007.

PowerPoint: mac 2008
I like PowerPoint: mac 2008! A few things are different, but it’s at least equivalent to PowerPoint 2007, and nice to work in.

Excel: mac 2008
Here’s where the two platform programs begin to diverge. There aren’t a lot of differences, but one feature I find myself missing is the context-sensitive menu that allows formatting cells, etc. Excel 2007 seems to be much more powerful in this way. I also miss being able to easily insert symbols into cells. Though as easy to do in either version of Word, Excel: mac 2008 doesn’t include this feature, forcing one to use many more keystrokes and mouse movements to accomplish the same thing. Finally, cutting or copying and pasting entire rows of spreadsheets requires a few extra keystrokes

Entourage: mac 2008
Okay, here’s where I really don’t get it. Both versions of Office come from the same company, and that company is also the same one that produces Exchange Server. Rather than including Outlook in Office: mac 2008, Microsoft includes Entourage. It’s very different, which isn’t necessarily bad. But what is bad is that Entourage: mac 2008 doesn’t come close to Outlook 2007’s capabilities! And it doesn’t fully synchronize with Exchange!

Tasks and categories— which I rely on heavily— don’t synchronize at all! So when I noticed that some of my calendar events were no longer synchronizing, the fix was to clean out that part of the Entourage database. Before doing that I had to go through hundreds of events, or appointments, and make certain they were identically represented in Outlook to ensure that Exchange had the latest data. It then re-synchronized with Exchange, but nothing was categorized! I had to go through all of those events in Entourage and categorize each one. This happened twice!

Office: mac 2008 Service Pak 1
This week Microsoft released the first service pak for Office: mac 2008. I haven’t gotten to see what they’ve improved yet because it trashed itself while installing, and it trashed the previous version too! So, in addition to getting to go through the rebuilding of all my preferences and templates, I’ll lose all my tasks since they never made it to the Exchange Server. And Time Machine (the Mac’s automated backup system) can’t help me here.

I know the Mac is supposed to be the simplest computer to use. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like I’ve left the standards and reliability of the corporate world and have entered the less reliable, more vulnerable and chaotic consumer world. I’m just telling it like it is, and my wife is taking out more life insurance on me!