The Intersection of IT, Facility Management and the Internet of Things (IoT)

I have been involved in church for over 56 years (born into a pastor’s home) and have served the church facility “market” for about 32 of those years. I can tell you first hand that for the majority of my association and work with churches, the church tends to be laggards when it comes to adopting new trends, means, methods…and technology. This is not a slam on the “church” as an organization, but just a reality.

It is true that many churches are now keeping up with trends and in many cases leading the charge (especially with sound systems, video production, etc). Think about the YouVersion Bible app (Happy 10th anniversary!). They are actually leading the way. Also, think how online giving and text-to-give is almost as common place as the offering plate.

There is a technology that is trending that I believe will impact all aspects of your world…including church…so let’s get familiar with it – Internet of Things (IoT). According to a Forbes article, it can be described as:

Simply put this is the concept of basically connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other). This includes everything from cell phones, coffee makers, washing machines, headphones, lamps, wearable devices and almost anything else you can think of. This also applies to components of machines, for example a jet engine of an airplane or the drill of an oil rig. As I mentioned, if it has an on and off switch then chances are it can be a part of the IoT. The analyst firm Gartner says that by 2020 there will be over 26 billion connected devices…that’s a lot of connections (some even estimate this number to be much higher, over 100 billion). The IoT is a giant network of connected “things” (which also includes people). The relationship will be between people-people, people-things, and things-things.

So what does this all mean for churches…YOUR church?

Here is what I see happening and where we are heading:

  1. Major facility systems will be more integrated with themselves and with their management tools (i.e Church Management Software and Event Scheduling Software).
  2. Given the incorporation of API’s (Application Programming Interface – a software intermediary that allows two applications to talk to each other), more and more of this integration is going to interact via API’s and not through proprietary protocols.
  3. So…seeing that API’s are an IT world widget and not an everyday Facility Management tool, the IT department at your church will play a much larger role in the selection, implementation, training and maintaining of these systems (via IoT).
  4. Most of these IoT integrations will require Ethernet or WiFi connectivity which may require the incorporation of Firewalls, networks, servers, static IP’s, cloud connectivity and storage, etc, etc, etc.
  5. These applications will likely have cost and budget implications. Some will have significant reductions in cost as we become more effective and efficient…but some of the savings may be offset by subscriptions, hardware, software and the maintaining of the same.
  6. That leads to to the real crux…IT and Facilities must collaborate.
    • They must communicate.
    • They must seek information from each other before decisions are made.
    • They must determine the WHY they need an application before they decide on the WHAT and HOW.
    • It may also require budget discussions. As stated above, there may be cost savings and offsets. Whose budgets do these savings and costs impact? Same for staffing.

As you can see…this is not to be taken lightly…and unless you plan to continue to live in a cave rubbing 2 sticks together to make fire, this is coming to us all. Remember, the iPhone is only 11 years old…and yet if feels like we have always had one (or similar).

Is this on your radar?  If not, if needs to be!

eSPACE Now Unlocks Doors

That’s right…you heard us. Not only is eSPACE the industry leading Facility Management Software…it is also the leader in Facility System Integrations.

Nearly 9 years ago we developed the first COOLSPACE integration with the Niagara Framework for HVAC Building Automation Systems. Since then, we have developed even more (see HERE for a more information on this).

Well…we have taken facility system integration to the next level…and that is to allow eSPACE or your Event Scheduler (remember eSPACE integrates with 14 other Church Management Systems) but to also unlock and lock doors. BOOM!!!!

  • No more late night trips back to the church to make sure the doors are locked.
  • No more double entry of schedules in the event scheduler and your door system (or HVAC system).
  • Enter events one time and be DONE!

You can now create and approve your event in eSPACE (or one of our ChMS integration partners) and simultaneously communicate with your HVAC systems when to come on and off…AND…determine which door(s) you want unlocked/locked for that event. This is FREAKING AWESOME!

There are, however, some requirements from you…such as:
  1. You need to have an access control system
  2. That system needs to have an API that we can communicate with
See…that wasn’t so bad.

Do we have your attention?  If so, reach out and let us know how we can help you increase operational efficiency as well as what your facility uses. We are more than happy to investigate and make this a reality for YOUR team!

PS:  Lighting and  security cameras are next on the integration train to efficiency!


Facility Stewardship – What Is It?

For over 10 years, you have seen me refer to facility stewardship. For some of you this may be still be a new concept. You know what a facility is and you are familiar with stewardship…but how do the 2 go together? I am glad you asked…

Let’s first look at the definition of each:

FACILITY (ies) – something designed, built, installed, etc., to serve a specific function affording a convenience or service.

STEWARDSHIP – (act of being a STEWARD) – a person who manages another’s property or financial affairs; one who administers anything as the agent of another or others.

If you have grown up in the church or been involved in church for any period of time, you have heard the term “stewardship”…and I am sure that in almost every case, it revolved around money or raising money. In these cases, we are generally talking about financial stewardship which is critical to our spiritual life as well as the life of our ministries.

The word “money” is used over 140 times and if you add terms such as “gold” and “silver” the number is huge. For example, financial matters are mentioned more often in the Bible than prayer, healing, and mercy.

But stewardship is not just about money and finances…but refers to (as its definition above indicates) the caring for or oversight of something of someone else’s. The EPA has a section on their website that explains “Environmental Stewardship”. They define it as:

Environmental stewardship is the responsibility for environmental quality shared by all those whose actions affect the environment.

So, how do we apply this to our ministry facilities? Do we really believe that God has entrusted these to us, thus making us stewards of their care and oversight? As I have shared before, I have witnessed churches and ministries spending millions of dollars in the construction and renovation of their facilities…but then fail to maintain them (i.e. steward them). They wave the banner of “stewardship” when raising money to build them…but then neglect their care, management and maintenance. So, the following is a list of attributes that I believe are part of “Facility Stewardship”:

  • Proper cleaning
  • Systematic and proactive Preventive Maintenance
  • Proactive Capital Reserve Account planning
  • Life Cycle analysis and planning
  • Development of a systematic painting plan
  • Proper facility scheduling – this is a key element of stewarding the facility…they were meant to be used
  • Sustainability implementation
  • Vigilant monitoring of operational costs
  • Implementation of energy saving processes (i.e. HVAC interface with a Building Automation System or WiFi thermostats of better yet)
  • Proactive cataloging of facility components and tracking of work orders and service requests

With the above as a backdrop, how are you doing with your Facility Stewardship? What can you implement immediately that would make you a better steward?


WOW – You Offer THAT?!

The other day I was contacted by a man from a church who was working with a committee he had established to help his church understand the importance of taking care of and planning for the inevitable future costs related to their church facilities. He had downloaded one of our eBooks (Church Facility Stewardship) and was interested in other resources to make his case.

As I started to compile a response, I paused and stared at the screen…WOW – THAT IS INCREDIBLE! As the email developed and the list grew, I was frankly humbled and blown away with the resources that we have been able to make available to churches across the country.

If you have not checked out what we have developed (many resources are free) and what services we provide…just take a look at the list below.

  1. 5 Intentional Steps to Establish a Capital Reserve Account –  Free eBook – This was written as a primer for churches that are starting from Square 1 with a capital reserve.
  2. Church Facility Evaluator – Free tool to evaluate some of the key operational metrics/costs of a church related to national averages.
  3. Church Facility Stewardship Manual – Almost 300 pages of information for any church to use to establish and further their facility management initiatives.
  4. Other Resources – We have written a number of books and other material.
  5. Assessments/Training – We also provide a number of assessments and training.
  6. Life Cycle Calculator – This is a free software that will help ANY organization establish their capital reserve plan and project funds needs and when.
  7. eSPACE – Facility Management Software – We originally developed this software suite for churches, but since 2008,  we now have private and public schools, colleges, YMCAs, municipalities and other facility/property managers. In addition to the free Life Cycle Calculator from above, we have subscription offerings for:
    1. Event Management 
    2. Work Order Management
    3. HVAC Integration 
  8. Church Facility Management  Solutions – This is a new membership website that we recently released…VERY excited about this!

If your church has a facility…you need to familiarize yourself with the above items and take advantage of the best set of tools to help you be a GREAT steward!


Why Use Facility Management Software For Your Church: Part 5

This is it…the 5th and final segment in our discussion about the positive attributes of utilizing a facility management software solution for your church or ministry. The other segments can be viewed on our blog page.

Today, as we wrap this up, I want to give you some features that you should consider as you are looking for the right system for your use. As I have mentioned prior, there are several good products on the market…so do the due diligence and find the right solutions for you.

So….what are the features you should consider?

Minimum Features:

  1. Produce and evaluate Work Order Requests: We believe that as a minimum, your system should allow your staff/personnel to notify you of the need for a work order. The process should provide enough information to the recipient to make an assessment of the issue before they physically explore it further.
  2. Prioritize the Work Orders: As part the work order process, the sender should be able to establish a “priority” of the work…at least in their minds. This will give the recipient a heads-up as to how the sender perceives this issue.
  3. Track work orders: The better products on the market allow you to track each work order that is generated…through its entire life cycle.
  4. Historical data: This is very important…what is the historical data associated with your equipment? When was the last time it was serviced and what were the issues then? If the system does not track this, then you will have to do it manually…which seems redundant.

Upgraded features:

  1. Track vendors and assign work orders directly to them (even if they are in-house or volunteers): The better systems on the market will provide for the tracking of the subcontractors, suppliers and vendors associated with the care of your facilities. Who are they? What service categories do they work in?How do I reach them? Who is my primary contact? Are they a volunteer group in the church? In addition, the ability to have an automated process for sending work orders can save you valuable time and money…not to mention a reduction in misunderstandings.
  2. Notification process for all work: The best systems on the market have automated notification processes. These should include notification for when a work order is requested, when an ETA is established by the Vendor, when the work is completed and if the work is going to exceed the agreed-to projected cost. As it is said…time is money…and these systems are meant to save time.
  3. Asset tracking and assigning of work orders to specific equipment: As we explored in a previous segment, it is ideal to be able to track all of the equipment in your facility. It is best if you can catalog all of your equipment and then be able to tie a work order to a specific piece of equipment. If you cannot catalog the equipment and track it…then it may not be the right product for you.
  4. Capital Reserve and Life Cycle Planning: How are you currently projecting the life cycle cost of your equipment? Do you have an ongoing list of capital improvements that need to be made? Do you know how much money it will take every year to replace items that have come to the end of their useful life? Having the ability to track these items in one centralized place will make the long term management of your facilities much better.

There is more that we could discuss…but let’s leave it at that for now…if you have any specific questions, please feel free to contact us direct.


Efficiency On Steroids – Church Management (ChMS) + eSPACE

For years, the eSPACE Team has been asked “Does eSPACE integrate with our Church Management Software?”

Great question!

If you have been asking that question and want to utilize the eSPACE Event Management module or HVAC Integration, then we have good news.  For many of you, the answer is YES!

eSPACE has developed an integration of our COOLSPACE HVAC Integration (either via a Building Automation System* or WiFi Thermostats) for the following Church Management Software (ChMS) applications:

  1. Church Community Builder (CCB)
  2. ShelbyNEXT
  3. Rock RMS
  4. Ministry Platform
  5. Elexio
  6. Elexio Community
  7. FellowshipOne GO
  8. Simple Church
  9. FellowshipOne Premier/Event U (there are some specific requirements for this to function…call for details)
  10. Servant Keeper
  11. ACS (HVAC only)

*Some hardware may be required

What is even better…you don’t have to abandon your ChMS calendar as this integration can either work in the background or in the forefront…your choice.

eSPACE has developed an HVAC Integration called COOLSPACE that can integrate with many Building Automation Systems and some WiFi Thermostats.

Welcome to the future of software integration and the world of the “Internet of Things.”

With COOLSPACE/eSPACE integration, you can easily schedule all the events in your facility and know that the HVAC systems will respond to each event as they occur. Not only can you realize energy savings with improved HVAC run-times, your facility staff is able to devote more time to other needs.

For continued efficiency, integration with eSPACE allows your ChMS scheduler to still be the front end interface for your general users and staff while the Facility and Event Management Teams can utilize the robust features of eSPACE as their daily management tool. You do not have to train the majority on new systems, and your facility team can really drill down into the more detailed information and planning tools needed to intentionally manage and maintain facilities.

Do we have your attention?

You are going to want to contact us so we can share how this can help your church be more Efficient, Effective, and INTENTIONAL with the ministry tools God has entrusted to you.

Sound too good to be true?

Welcome to the future of software integration and the world of the “Internet of Things.”

Contact us for more details! 

JUST RELEASED: Event Registration, Ticketing and Payment Processing

BIG ANNOUNCEMENT!

Cool Solutions Group and eSPACE has just released a new “product” as part of our suite of Facility Management Software. This new offering continues to be driven by our passion to “assist organizations to be EFFECTIVE, EFFICIENT and INTENTIONAL with the facilities they have been entrusted to steward.” 

One of the key factors of Facility Stewardship is the utilization of a facility. 

Our facilities are of little merit if they are not used to further the vision and mission of our churches and organizations.”

Our facilities are of little merit if they are not used to further the vision and mission of our churches and organizations. Buildings are designed and built to fulfill a purpose…which must be to accommodate effective and intentional ministry. If that is not so, then why have a facility? That is the primary reason we developed eSPACE

A component of effective facility usage is scheduling and managing events…and allowing people to register for events.  To that end, we are so excited to announce the release of the eSPACE Event Registration tool as part of the Event Management component of eSPACE.  Some of the features include:

  1. Event Registration
  2. Website Integration with Full Customization of Event Forms/Templates
  3. Multiple Venue Process and Workflow
  4. “Wait List” Capability
  5. Multiple Tiers of Ticketing, including FREE and Paid
  6. Check-in using Tickets
  7. Payment Processing of Event Registration Fees
  8. Ability to Sell Products as Part of a Event Registration (i.e. Books, T-shirts, CD’s, etc.)

In addition, we have a bonus that is included…ONLINE GIVING.  We have researched and learned that many organizations prefer to offer their event registration payments with the same online giving component.  Now you can…all within eSPACE.

To learn more, check out this introductory video and contact us to see how our full suite of Facility Management services and products can help you be more efficient, effective and intentional!


Almost every component of your facilities will have to be replaced at some point. Do you have an action plan? INTENTIONAL organizations plan today for tomorrow’s costs. That’s why it’s critical you establish a capital reserve account now. Download our FREE guide to learn more. 

CAPITAL RESERVE PLANNING

Is Your Technology Actually Helping You Minister Better?

By: Neil Miller of KiSSFLOW

On the Monday Morning Church podcast, I speak to Executive Pastors and Church Administrators about the monumental changes in technology over the last 15 years.

It is amazing to hear how churches are using tools that few could have dreamed of earlier. Technology, like church management software, has allowed churches to scale their impact like never before.

But the same church leaders are also worried that technology is eating too much time from their staff.

Think about your own setting. How many hours a day do ministers at your church spend in front of a screen? How much of that time do they spend manually updating information, editing volunteer profiles, and transferring data from spreadsheets? How long does it take them to respond to all the emails piling up in their inbox?

When it comes to facilities, how much time is spent updating logs, checking HVAC schedules, and sorting through work orders?

Technology has given us amazing benefits, but it also demands a lot of our attention.

What if there was a way to retain all the benefits of technology, while at the same time freeing up ministers to actually have more time to spend with people?

“There’s a sweeping trend that has taken the business world by storm, and churches are smart to open their sails to it.”

Automation.

While it may sound like an imposing word that your church isn’t ready for, it’s likely exactly what you need.

With automation, a church can take a deep look at the workflows of their regular processes – both those that involve the whole congregation (e.g. communication approval, facility requests, and volunteer registration) and those focused on how the facilities run (e.g. work orders, purchase requests, and event scheduling).

By automating a workflow, you not only set up a standard way to handle the process every time, you can also eliminate manual tasks such as sending notifications, updating calendars, and transferring data.

In addition to giving pastors and ministers more time back in their schedules, automation can also:

  • Standardize your core processes to ensure consistency across campuses
  • Reduce the number of errors that happen because of manual transfers
  • Give an audit trail of every request
  • Track the current status of any item instantly

Take a standard Facility Usage Request. A manual workflow can have lots of holes in it. There could be missing critical information, the request could miss an important approval, and it could take hours to figure out the last person who acted on the request.

When you use automation tools like eSPACE and KiSSFLOW, you can set up a standard process to run with consistency and efficiency. You can even set up conditional workflow paths, requiring additional approvals for larger spaces or additional steps if the requester needs to pay for the usage.

Automation is a way to keep the massive scaling benefits of technology without having to dedicate so much time to it.

Companies around the world have already embraced automation and use it to improve their processes. Churches can do the same to reduce the administrative burden on pastors and free them up to connect with people more.

For a full overview of automation and some tips on your first steps, download the free Beginner’s Guide to Church Automation. You’ll learn how other churches are using automation and why it’s more accessible than ever before.

Neil Miller is the host of the Monday Morning Church Podcast, presented by KiSSFLOW, the church automation solution. To learn more about KiSSFLOW and see how churches are using automation, visit http://church.kissflow.com.

Why Digital Signage?

eSPACE has recently started an exciting partnership with REACH Media Network to offer an easy-to-use digital signage solution to integrate directly with the eSPACE Event Scheduler.

Why Digital Signage?  Here are some of the benefits that your church and/or school can realize by utilizing and integrating digital signage on your campus:

  1. Engage Your Audience with Festive Announcements On-the-Fly

The traditional method of designing, printing, and sticking up new posters in time for your events drains the resources of your creative team who are busy enough. Instead, using digital signage will allow you to deliver intentional communications with significantly less effort – and of course, you can continue to update the content, appearance and messaging effortlessly.

  1. Promote Services with Live-streaming 

Your services and events should be an inclusive time, but for many volunteers in the lobby, or the mothers sitting outside the service with their babies, the story can be quite different. REACH has a solution: live-streaming your services in other areas of your church.

Live-streaming your service across your campus will ensure as many people get to hear and be impacted by the teaching as possible, all at the same time. This functionality is also incredibly useful if you hit capacity and need to use an overflow room. By having a streaming solution setup through your digital signage, you can be confident that every person who walks through your doors will have an opportunity to hear your message.

  1. Provide Wayfinding and Welcome First-time Guests

Many first time guests to your church can be intimidated with navigating your facilities and as such, their anxiety goes UP!  Digital signage is a great option to ensure that every guest (and regular attender) feels at home straight away, even if they manage to dodge your enthusiastic welcome team. Wayfinding is a critical component that helps elevate the experience for all guests to your facility.

  1. Encourage Online and Social Media Interactivity

As one of your key methods of communicating your message, your social media campaigns need to be front and center for all to see. A great way of boosting visibility and encouraging interactivity is to showcase your social media posts around your church campus using REACH’s digital signage. This will expand your reach, create excitement, and encourage the congregation to engage with the church through social media.

  1. Keep your Congregation Safe

A disaster is the last thing you want to think about – but in the event of an emergency, such as a fire, you will want to provide your congregation with the best guidance possible.

REACH’s digital signage solution can help you in the event of a problem using their alert system. Digital signage will direct your congregation and guests to the nearest exit and prevent anyone from making the dash to the front door which can create bottlenecks and accidents. Having clear signage will also reassure everyone that the situation is under control, helping them to remain calm.

How does this integrate with eSPACE?

It’s simple! Our Team, alongside the REACH team, will work with you through a seamless process to utilize the API provided by eSPACE to auto-populate your scheduling information into the digital signage system. REACH will also work with you on any special filtering needed, saving you time!

For more information, contact our Customer Engagement Team and also check out REACH to see how they can be a partner with you.

 

Outsourcing: Do You Need a System, a Professional, Or Both?

By Bryan Miles, CEO and Co-Founder of BELAY

If there’s one constant in the world of church management, it’s that budgets are tight. In all my years of working with churches, I’ve never met a pastor who said they had all the resources they needed to fulfill their mission.

And still, congregations find a way. In fact, I don’t think there’s a field of professionals more resourceful than the ministry. Doing more with less is a minor miracle that church leaders work every single day. And although volunteers are the backbone of that miracle-working, much of a church’s heavy lifting still requires paid help.

Thankfully, the digital age is providing some new solutions for organizations that don’t have the resources to take on full-time help. And while “outsourcing” might sound like a dirty word to many people, it doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

Nowadays, outsourcing can include enlisting the help of a management system, like eSPACE. Applications like eSPACE aren’t meant to replace ministry members. They’re tools to help your existing staff work more effectively. By leveraging these solutions, church stewards can simply make better use of the (limited) resources they currently have.

These types of platforms can be the saving grace of churches who only need to streamline and optimize their existing processes. When your team’s primary hurdle is staying organized and managing tasks, these systems can be the difference between the red and the black.

Are you losing track of routine maintenance schedules? Are you missing bill payments, or tax deadlines? Did you mistakenly double-book a conference room for an important event?

Those types of complications can be easily overcome by equipping your existing team with better tools. Some situations, however, call for more hands on deck.

It’s important to keep in mind that those systems still require oversight to make sure information is being entered in frequently and accurately. So, if your current team is too swamped to even stay on top of the systems, you’ll need to bring in outside help.

Here, too, technology is helping congregations overcome financial barriers. Businesses like BELAY are offering, contracted, virtual services that are done remotely, and can be scaled to a church’s unique budget and needs. Services like virtual personal assistants and virtual bookkeepers can help a ministry stay ahead of challenges and better serve its congregation; all without having to commit large portions of a tight budget.

These two solutions aren’t mutually exclusive, either. Online management systems, combined with live virtual support is often an ideal solution for churches with the resources (and headaches) necessary. Online platforms like eSPACE actually help remote professionals better serve their clients by organizing processes and streamlining communications.

One last thing to keep in mind is that these solutions don’t require dire straits to be worthwhile. In reality, your ministry will be better served by adopting these measures during periods of growth and plenty, rather than periods of crisis.

By doing so, you can help maintain your church’s upward trajectory, and also safeguard against future hardships. As they say, make hay while the sun is shining…

You didn’t join the ministry to worry about cash reserves and HVAC repair. But, unfortunately, those things are part of your church’s service to God and its community.

You can’t make them disappear, but you can at least make them easier.

Let me know how you outsource. You can find me on Twitter or FaceBook.

Bryan Miles is the CEO & Co-Founder of BELAY Solutions, a company whose mission is to glorify God by providing solutions that equip our clients with the confidence to climb higher. In 2010, he and his wife, Shannon Miles, formed Miles Advisory Group (MAG) to provide virtual support to busy leaders. They eventually expanded their virtual assistant model to include bookkeeping, copywriting, and web support services. In January 2017, they combined all their services under one name – BELAY. This name is significant to their leaders because of its meaning: To belay is to provide the support a climber needs to ascend…And that is precisely what they do for their clients. Bryan has a passion for coaching leaders on how to grow their business by trusting in virtual teams and enhancing company culture. 

Download our FREE Life Cycle Calculator.  Streamline your day-to-day event organization and maintenance scheduling. This great tool will take your predictive ability to the next level.