My New Year's Wish for LDSTech

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sammythesm
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My New Year's Wish for LDSTech

Postby sammythesm » Thu Mar 22, 2012 6:34 am

So it's March already - a little late for a New Year's wish - but since the High Council speaker just spoke on goal setting (January's assignment) a couple weeks ago, I think it still counts... :)

After being a STS for almost a year, and being in ward/stake administration for even longer, here is what I consider the biggest problem facing Technology Specialists in the church: There is a really large disconnect between Church HQ, LDSTech, and Facilities Management on "policy" as it relates to technology.

There seems to be three different sources of "policy":
1. a small library of "official" policies that come out on church letterhead/handbooks through priesthood chains,
2. "accepted" policies that exist on the Tech wiki (which are more dynamic and seem to reflect the changing nature of technologies as we adopt them)
3. the "local" policies of different FM groups. The most inconsistent of them all, many of the local FM groups make up policy as they go along to justify decisions they have to make for budget purposes.

What results from these 3 different sources of "policy" is a very inconsistent approach to anything new that comes out of LDSTech. I've experience FM offering obscure, old church policies (or creating their own local policy) to justify not spending more money, even though it's clearly a technology being made available by LDSTech and is being request by Stake and Area presidents.

Another example: on the basic rollout of Church firewall and broadband access - the church made a "policy" statement that buildings should have broadband and must use the church firewall device, LDSTech provides guidance on what class of broadband would be best and the device choices for a firewall (supporting and offering legacy devices as well as new devices), but FM decides when they get purchased and how much is ultimately spent on broadband connectivity. So - in the implementation - even though LDSTech maybe be enabling awesome new technologies like personal video conferencing, the FM groups have no policy or motivation to provide adequate bandwidth to support these applications. They look at 'minimum' requirements for MLS transfers and think - that should be enough. So there's a real disconnect happening there.

Crazy as it sounds, I see the solution as being a more centralized model for budgeting and procurement. What if equipment were orderable by STS's directly from GSC/CHQ at no cost to the unit (the church rolls up all its equipment expenses centrally). Since the GSC is already supporting the unit, they will know best when a firewall or AP needs replacement or upgrade, rather than (after a lengthy session of troubleshooting) telling you "good luck" as they instruct you to go talk to your FM.

Really, this model would apply to all equipment expenses that are over a few hundred dollars; computers, projectors, network infrastructure. Then, old technology could be sunset quicker rather than waiting for a 'good' budget year from an FM perspective.

Cheaper/expendable items should still be funded by local stake funds (as we do today - I don't want to order a $30 cable through the mail that I can just pick up at my local store).

Frustration with these multiple sources of policy and unevenness of budget application has been exposed over and over in this forum. Any other thoughts/proposals on how we could streamline this?

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aebrown
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Postby aebrown » Thu Mar 22, 2012 7:46 am

I certainly can see how your proposal would streamline purchases. But it eliminates any concept of budgeting. The Church doesn't have unlimited funds, and so it sets budgets at various levels. So an FM group will be given a certain budget and be required to live within that budget. Yes, that sets some constraints on the timing of certain things being delivered. But it provides accountability for how those funds are expended. That is an important concept that I'm guessing the Church won't want to eliminate.

I guess I don't see any real differences in policy. Rather, I see high-level policies coming from Church headquarters in the form of handbooks and official letters. Those policies sometimes make note of budgetary constraints. I view the budget as that: constraints for a particular area on the timing and method of implementing the policy, not a new policy. A budget produces limitations that necessitate the setting of priorities.

But you definitely have a good point that these priorities are set in dramatically different ways by different FM groups, and different Temporal Affairs areas. We've seen reports of some FM groups who carefully evaluate requests from stakes for technology, and other groups that seem to say no almost as a matter of course. Some of that needs to be fixed by the Temporal Affairs directors; in particular cases, a stake president can step in and help communicate the priorities.
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Postby sammythesm » Thu Mar 22, 2012 8:31 am

Certainly, budgeting would still take place. Such a central model wouldn't take away the need to budget, it would bring the budgeting/spend question closer to the technology decision making. Thus new technology could be rolled out with an eye toward total cost of rollout.

Also apples-to-apples trade offs could be managed better if tech was rolled up and budgeted together. As it stands today, if an FM has to choose between paying the power bill and paying the more expensive internet bill, they will always pay the power bill. If the church network group was deciding between upgrading a building's connectivity or enabling a new video technology, it would be a much fairer fight.

As the system stands today, there is no way for the church's field network group to say - we have this critical updated piece of hardware we want deployed this year into all buildings. All they can do is offer it as the only option for those purchasing new equipment or requiring upgrades. Their only other avenue it to issue a new policy. In the federal government, we've come to know these famously as "unfunded mandates" - just ask a FM, these unfunded mandates come from all over in the church and they are very frustrating.

The current approach adds additional support costs because field networks/GSC can not control how long they must support legacy systems/configurations they still have to support years down the road because some stubborn FMs can't see any benefit or haven't had any spare money for upgrading.

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Postby johnshaw » Thu Mar 22, 2012 10:16 am

Sammy.... you've summarized what I've expressed many times on this board. I don't think a change to budgeting is necessary, but maybe official policies -->

Update the Meetinghouse Technology/Internet Policy
Wording to include all that is currently there, plus, (1) each building WILL have hard wired Ethernet runs to chapel podium, each clerk office and the material center, (2), hard-wired Wireless Access Points will be mounted to provide 2-3 bar connectivity for the entire meetinghouse, (3) Internet Costs are budgeted and paid for by FM, but the Stake President through the STS determines the bandwidth requirements based on the technology needs of buildings, PVC usages, webcasts sent/received, etc... (This will combine the best of both worlds, FM must budget, but it defines WHAT they must provide as well)

Just a quick note... needs to be clearly communicated to ecclesiastical as well as FM groups. This will avoid the problems described above.... well, the technology exists for us to use, that must mean that the Church wants us to do this... again, there is no clear policy, just an assumption (a very good one I might add) that because the technology exists we should use it.

Someone on here mentioned in another thread the widows mite.... The church has provided a LARGE, EXPENSIVE, widow-mite provided Technology stack in Streaming, and Video conferencing, VPN firewall mesh connectivity.... In one way, you could say that we are wasting the widows mite every day our FM groups are not providing the technology to the end users it was meant for. And the End Users continue to pour MONEY down the drain filling their cars to drive to meetings, wasting hours of family time away in 1-2 hour drives to meetings, family time and REAL money to those contributing the widows mite.... this is a series issue, it deserves LARGE consideration....

The technology is intended to provide specific help, it was sold-to and agreed with or requested by Priesthood Leadership at the highest levels as a benefit to members, and facility and member cost savings for church, less time away from families, but in MANY areas FM, and their internal organizational design, is keeping it from happening. Why, after nearly 2 years, is this still an issue out there for many of us?

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Postby russellhltn » Thu Mar 22, 2012 11:24 am

sammythesm wrote:There seems to be three different sources of "policy":


That's been a problem for as long as I can remember. It seems like a new method of communication is tried for each policy. Be it the handbook, letters to church leaders, emails sent to the STS, employee comments to the forum, messages sent via MLS, etc. The presence of communication that only the FM Group sees certainly doesn't help.

The forum/wiki has been a big help in trying to gather all the information in a single place, but tends to lack the authority needed to convince some people.

To some extent, I can understand the various means used to communicate change, but what's needed is a central reference for current policy that is authoritative.
Have you searched the Wiki?
Try using a Google search by adding "site:tech.lds.org/wiki" to the search criteria.

sammythesm
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Postby sammythesm » Fri Mar 23, 2012 11:25 am

JohnShaw wrote:The technology is intended to provide specific help, it was sold-to and agreed with or requested by Priesthood Leadership at the highest levels as a benefit to members, and facility and member cost savings for church, less time away from families, but in MANY areas FM, and their internal organizational design, is keeping it from happening. Why, after nearly 2 years, is this still an issue out there for many of us?


I agree, John. Even in places where all the technology is in place and enabled (WiFi and wired connections, PVC, etc) there is still a bit of a drag in terms of thinking/culture that needs to be retrained. Some leaders and members crave the newer technologies while others dread them. I think this is the hardest job of STS - changing the culture and educating members and leaders.


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