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Podcast Episode 57 - Looking Beyond the Hour Hand

Welcome to another episode of the RockCast, where we take you behind the scenes with the Core Team and talk about what we've been up to, and whatʼs coming up.

Updates

It seems like we've been taking a lot of small steps on a lot of big projects lately – speaking of that, version 8.6 is available as of when you hear this. Itʼs a bugfix release, so itʼs very safe and itʼs a good idea for everyone to move to 8.6. There are a few extra things in it as well- you can find those in the release notes at www.rockrms.com/releasenotes . It was a smooth release- almost no issues were reported during Alpha and Beta testing.

In the meantime, we're also making progress on Version 9. As always, as we move forward it seems like the finish line moves as well, but Grace has been doing a great job of helping us get our processes in place to bring it across the finish line. We've got some ambitious goals to finish up some features, but we're also dialing in on what some of the features should be – like the assessments and how they're implemented in Rock. These features are going to be much better for the time we're spending here, so itʼs worth it.

How Rock Works

This is a good example of how Rock works and why itʼs difficult to develop for sometimes- itʼs so flexible that everything in it is abstracted, rather than being concrete. In this case, we want to provide the assessments, but if a church doesn't want to utilize an assessment, they'll be able to turn it off. Usually when you're developing an app, the process would be to create a new page, write the logic on the page that the feature needs, and itʼs done. But in Rock, we have blocks that can be on any page, within an abstract framework, with security and content injected properly onto those pages from the blocks. Some of these new projects like the mobile app are kind of starting from scratch with this again- we have to develop the framework for it to work within, and this is something thatʼs totally unlike most of development so we have to get a feel for it and implement it as we go.

There are a lot of experts who want to speak into how features should work in Rock, but they often are coming from a more typical development world where you can shape the product in one way and itʼs always accessed that way – and thatʼs just not how Rock works. And sometimes we get code from the community that they want to share to show how they solved a specific problem. It works really well for them and we love getting that code to look at and help us understand what they're solving, but often we find that itʼs really specific for their use case and needs a lot of work to be abstracted to the level that will work for the entire Rock community.

There are so many moving pieces in our team, what we take in and work on and what we release, itʼs kind of like a watch. When you look at the face, it looks like the hour hand is barely moving but the wheels inside are really flying! We feel like thatʼs very much what our team is like- we know that from the outside it looks like not much is happening, but on the inside we're performing this elaborate dance to keep everything together and in sync. But itʼs a great team we have, with a lot of talented people on it. And we love working with churches on these suggestions and submissions- even if itʼs not always clear to them why it wouldn't necessarily work for all churches. That open chain of communication between the Core Team and the churches in the Community is a big part of what makes Rock different than anything else.

This is kind of a window into our brains and why things get done a certain way around here- we hope itʼs valuable to you to hear it! And we haven't said it in awhile, but if you have questions for the core team, send them in and we'll try to cover them as we record podcasts.

Another thought: this is why pull requests can be so tricky; sometimes those pull requests are just micro features that solve one specific problem that maybe a vendor has. When you look at it, it doesn't seem like thereʼs any harm in pulling it in, but as soon as we do, we own it and any issues that arise from it down the road. And it takes time to review and accept even the best pull requests – and thatʼs not important because it wastes an hour of Jonʼs time or Nickʼs time, but because thatʼs an hour thatʼs funded from donations from churches – thatʼs incredibly important to us that itʼs spent in the best possible way. We so appreciate people in the community who send in pull requests – and when they come from churches who are supporting us, itʼs easy to forgive them doing things a different way or missing some bugs. But itʼs difficult when it comes from someone whoʼs not supporting us and just wants a change for their own use.

Sometimes it does work out really well though- for example Gloo came to us as a vendor and wanted to talk about an export API so that some of their services could work with Rock. We looked at that and realized that we could build something that worked just for them, but we know that they're Kingdom-minded so we pitched them back a proposal that we could make an export API that met everything they wanted, ran really well, but that anyone who needed it could use. They were on board with that, which was so great. They could have been really protective, but it didn't cost them much more and they knew it would serve more churches this way, so we were able to do that with them.

And by the way- the export API that came from that Gloo request? Thatʼs in 8.6!

Itʼs hard to engage with everyone at the level of "how do we take this and make it good for all of our churches", but itʼs something we choose to do. So if you submit an idea to us, understand that we're probably taking that and considering it one data point in what could be a wider need, how we can design it to be flexible and useful for future features we don't even have in mind yet, and how we can get the most power in front of the most churches as we deliver that idea. And we also think about who we might need to communicate with, to make sure that the intent is understood and that nothingʼs taken the wrong way. Itʼs quite a dance!

One thing that helps Rock work as well as it does (and informs all of these processes) is that there are a lot of "C" personalities when we look at our DISC scores. We care about the details, about getting things done right. Many organizations have a lot of D and I especially in the leadership, so maybe thatʼs why people don't always understand exactly how Rock is delivered and crafted. Itʼs really unique.

Assessments

That leads us back to v9 and the assessments that we're testing for that release. We're working with Healthy Growing Leaders and they're doing a phenomenal job of managing this intricate and really interesting process. But they really need testers as they develop these assessments to make sure that everything is working as intended. What matters in the testing is really that they get a lot of answers back. So you might have seen us put out the call for people to take the tests lately- please help us all out when you see that! Take the assessment yourself, get people on staff with you to take the assessments, and so on. The more peopleʼs hands you can get that into, quickly, the better. They usually have a 3-5 day window in which they need hundreds of responses to really test before their next build. So thanks to everyone who helped out with the EQ test recently, and be on the lookout for the Motivators assessment which will need testing soon.

A reality of these tests is that they're kind of long, and some of the questions seem like repeats of another previous question. This is all intentional as part of the testing, so we encourage you to just go with it. Take the test in the frame of mind that makes sense to you, keep that frame of mind through the whole test, and get other people to take the test also. Remember, you're not doing this for you and what you'll learn about yourself (yet), you're doing it for the whole community and everyone who will take these final assessments. So even though you don't get your results at this point, rest assured that once itʼs available in Rock you'll be able to see the results at the end.

We've told them to not rush these builds – we want to make sure that when they launch they're just right. So even though they haven't said anything like this, we understand are willing to accept that some of the assessments might not even be available right in the initial release of v9.0 – they might come later once they're really ready in a 9.1 or 9.2 release.

With all that being said, now is the time to figure out how you're going to use the information in your ministry. Having the data is great, but itʼs really the use of the data that makes you effective in ministry. Be thinking with your church leadership about how you need to engage with Healthy Growing Leaders to get the training and understanding you need and be able to think about how to use the information you're going to have available. We're a little nervous that people won't get the full value out of these assessments if they don't understand the results. For instance, DISC scores are commonly misunderstood because we only talk about the high scores and ignore the low scores- go back and watch the presentation from Healthy Growing Leaders at RX2018 for some great examples of how to better understand DISC scores. All of these assessment are going to be deeper than just what you see in the results, so itʼs important to be able to get insight and not just results from the assessments. Healthy Growing Leaders will be able to help your staff do that.

New Websites

We've mentioned a few times lately that we're working on some new websites. One of those is rockrms.com itself. We haven't launched it yet, but we're working on it. Itʼs going to have some components that are a little different than the current site, so we want to talk about it briefly.

For one, we need to split the Rock site from the Community site. The needs of these two sites are very different because the audiences are very different. One is going to be for people who want to learn about Rock and what it is, and the other is for people who are already using Rock, to help them understand how to use it better. The community site is very nearly complete, but the new Rock site is probably only about 40% done. We want to roll them out together because that makes more sense, so we're working hard on finishing them up.

The community site is something we're very excited about, but even with that site we know itʼs not the ultimate final version. Itʼs just the next step. We even know what some of the next steps beyond this are, but we need to start with what we've got first and then itʼs going to get better and better.

RX2019

Our next conference is coming up again already! If our attendance growth patterns continue this year, itʼs going to be quite a ride, with perhaps 600-700 people in attendance. If you haven't considered coming to the conference yet, you should consider it. This is where you can develop friendships with other people using Rock, hear from people sharing their best practices and uses of Rock and start making your own ideas. Anyone who is already on Rock has valuable experience that the community needs to hear, so think about sharing what you've done! We're starting to collect names of people who could speak at the conference – we want to provide a lot of really valuable practices. We don't want our team to be the ones with all the ideas- all of the creative stuff comes from our community because we never expect all of the ways that the churches use Rock. Our team can then fill in the gaps and tie everything up into a single message and vision that incorporates everything that you've brought to the table. But we couldn't do justice if we tried to present all of the best practices- this is where we're really looking for you to carry the day!

If you're willing to consider speaking, send Emily a message. You don't even have to know yet what you're going to speak on, we're just collecting names at this point. So even though you, yes YOU, are sitting there thinking "I don't want to do this", we need you to email Emily so that we know we've got the people. This is a great growing opportunity – get out and be uncomfortable! And don't be fooled by people you've seen present several times before- they don't know what they're doing any more than you do. The community really will benefit from hearing about your experience and seeing what creative ways you're using Rock. And don't picture yourself presenting in front of the whole conference- almost all of the sessions are in breakouts with smaller groups of people who want to hear what you have to say and choose to come to your session.

If you aren't registered yet, signups are open! www.rockrms.com/rx2019 is our landing page for the conference this year. Think about who on your staff you want to bring to this event, and bring them along! Our theme this year is "Launch" and we're going to be talking about some big directional things that we're finally being able to really implement. You can find the dates, location, and most everything you need to start planning on that page.

Exciting conversations

We've had a few conversations recently- almost back to back- with some Catholic churches. One was with a church in Phoenix, and another conversation was with an entire diocese, about how Rock can be set up to meet the specific needs of the Catholic churches. We're really excited about these conversations and where we're going with them, and we've been able to have some great conversations with them about our community and why itʼs so integral to the whole Rock experience. What we love about our community is that itʼs such a departure from the past where the helps always used to be big churches helping little churches do something. In our community, itʼs really all churches helping all other churches. There are countless examples of the smallest churches helping some of the countryʼs largest churches do something in Rock. We just love that culture and how it really emphasizes how we're all part of one Body. We see this and wonder whether technology is what can really start reaching out better cross-denominationally.

Fund Raising update

We are excited to see that many churches' 2019 commitments are a step up from what they were doing before. Itʼs encouraging to our team to see that because it means that you're fully engaged and committed in your support for us – itʼs not something you've put on autopilot but you're going back and revisiting it. And we're excited to see that, of the churches who have told us they are actively running live on Rock right now, 56% of them have committed to supporting Rock. This is the highest itʼs ever been, but thatʼs still only barely about half. While itʼs really important to us that small churches can use Rock even if they can't afford it, many of the small churches in the community ARE the ones donating. We look at the lost opportunity of churches getting value out of Rock without contributing back- we can't help but imagine what we could do if more churches contributed to the development of the software. We intended the model to be that the larger churches who could afford the software (and especially those who used to pay for another piece of software) would "fund" the smaller churches that couldn't- itʼs really a kind of a mission outreach to enable small churches to have these tools. What we're seeing is that the smaller churches are funding the larger churches' use of Rock, which wasn't what we imagined happening. We get and respond to emails, issues, and other communications from churches that aren't contributing, which means they're taking but not giving back. We'd never call that out, but itʼs frustrating to see sometimes.

Since we know that many of you who are listening to this podcast are among our supporters, we ask that you join us in our prayer for a change of heart among Rock churches that aren't supporting the development. But we also know that it needs more than our voices. So we also need you to start asking churches whether they're supporting Rock, whether itʼs at the right level, etc, when you have these interactions. Look for ways to bring it up, and just make it something that you talk about regularly so that it just gets heard as part of the culture of the community. We're definitely not asking you to judge churches that can't support us- even big churches can be in that situation sometimes- but itʼs about asking well-intentioned questions and raising awareness.

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