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Budgeting: When Is The Right Time to Upgrade?

Tech people typically like the latest, greatest things. This stereotype, right or wrong, can cause the leadership to question the motives behind an upgrade request. This is where a solid foundation of trust comes in.

Technology is ever-changing.

There are several companies that each are providing similar solutions, whether it is with speakers, amplifiers, microphones, LED walls, or mixing consoles. If experience tells me anything, it is that you can’t wait for the promise of a manufacturer to upgrade.

You have to make the best decision, based on the product you have available to you.

A Q3 release can easily turn into a Q4 release, that turns into a Q1 release for the following year. Sometimes, three months after an upgrade, a product you were not expecting gets released, one that would have made a huge difference in your equipment selections had you instead opted to wait the three months.

As the tech world is always changing, how do you choose what to upgrade, and when to upgrade your system?

Every situation is different, but I have found a few key steps that need to be developed before you upgrade.

You need to develop a high level of trust within your organization. Trust is a currency that can carry more weight than gold. You need to actually understand the pieces of your system. Study your system and know it the best you can.

Finally, plan for failure. You know that at some point, gear is going to break, so be ready.

Tech people typically like the latest, greatest things. This stereotype, right or wrong, can cause the leadership to question the motives behind an upgrade request. This is where a solid foundation of trust comes in.  

How do you create trust, though? Understand that it doesn't happen overnight. For example, Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn said in a recent interview, that “Trust is consistency over time.” I don’t believe this means that you will always make the right decisions, and are always perfect. But this does mean that you have to really own your space, and take responsibility for the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Owning your space is one thing, but if you own it in the wrong direction, that will do more damage when looking to build your trust relationships, versus just keeping the status quo.

Take time to learn what your organization really wants. What is the vision, what is the strategic direction they want to take? Is there a problem that needs to be solved that you don’t know about? Taking time to understand this goes a long way to proving a desire to better your organization.

You also might find in these conversations, that the pain points people are feeling, are actually a symptom of something else. This is where I always say, take the quick win.

In every case, there are small very public things that will take you a short time to fix, but will have a massive impact on the organization. It can be things that are as small, but necessary, as organizing a storage room or minimizing cables on your stage. Maybe it is finally adding in a digital signage screen in the main lobby that your pastor has been hinting at for some time. These items are going to vary, based on your organization, but a small but calculated act, can really help in building trust for much larger tasks.

Building trust doesn’t mean perfection every day. You are going to have bad days, but it’s not the bad day that fosters or destroys trust; it’s the reaction to the bad day.

How do you recover?

In the heat of the bad day, how did you react? In these moments, keep a cool, level head, and act with a sense of urgency, and you will build more trust in that moment, than your last several good days combined. Everyone messes up, but it's how you respond that makes the difference.

While you are building trust, you need to take the time and really understand your system. Some tech managers are DIY people, and others are not.

Whether you or a Pro AV firm installed your system, you should still know what components you have. Understanding a basic signal flow is crucial, or knowing what speakers you have, or the model of projector is a great starting point. If a Pro AV firm installed your system, you should still have a set of line drawings that you can refer back to when necessary.

I also like to create a spreadsheet of all the gear in my system that includes all information about each device. This includes model, manufacturer, IP/MAC address, firmware version, etc. This goes a long way to understand and even keep track of your gear and gives a great overview, when it comes time to replace specific pieces of equipment in your system.

I also like to plan for failure.

That seems wrong to type, but how many times have you tested everything out the night before, only to show up the next morning, and the projector won't turn on. Or an amp won’t power up.

By keeping some money set aside for items that quickly need replacement, you can feel safe in knowing that if something does happen, you don't have to ask for additional funds. This also goes a long way to help build trust within your organization.

In a technology manager’s line of work, oftentimes the tech skills are not the ones we need help with.

We need work in the soft skills department.

By developing these skills and listening to others in our organization, we will develop a line of trust through consistency over time.

When our trust relationship is built, we need to have a solid foundational understanding of our systems, along with being prepared to offer a simple solution to what can oftentimes be a complicated problem, especially in advance of a failure that may happen.

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