President's Blog


The Great Spirit Systems team will be in Denver on September 20, 21 and 22nd, following the annual meeting of UMITA*. This is the same time that the Brick River group will be hosting a customer conference. Paul and I both thought this would be helpful as we have several customers in common. We will both be set up at the Renaissance Denver Stapleton hotel.

We are not planning an extensive agenda of sessions for this meeting. Rather, on Wednesday evening and all day Thursday we want to be available to talk with current and prospective customers about whatever you want to talk about. We will also offer couple of short “showcase” presentations about our products during that time, at a couple of different time slots each.

On Friday, Lori, Jacob and I will be having a planning session of our own, setting the direction for our software for the next year and more.

If you or anyone on your staff is planning to attend the UMITA meeting in Denver, or the Brick River conference, I hope you will stop by to visit with us at Great Spirit Systems and share any needs, thoughts, and ideas you have for the future of our software. Let me know ahead of time and I will make sure to let you know where to find us.

And if you won’t be coming to Denver but would like to chat about our software for a few minutes, let me know and we’ll pick a time to talk by phone.

In Partnership,
Al Fifhause
President, Great Spirit Systems

*UMITA is the United Methodist Information Technology Association. More information about the UMITA meeting may be found here.

Carousel or Turnstile?

It’s fun to ride the carousel, even as an adult, especially if you have a child with you.

Late June and early July always feels to me like a carousel coming to a stop to drop off and pick up riders; the end the ride, and the beginning of other. Most of our customers’ annual conferences are over, and we’re helping them with Journal reports and other “wrap up” type of database activities for the previous church program year. I also receive a number of calls from customers who are moving into a planning process for a the new program year, and have a new ministry emphasis, or an existing program that is undergoing a few changes, and they want to know what our software can do to help them manage this new ministry.

This year, though, the carousel doesn’t feel like the right metaphor. It feels like many of our customers are striving to move forward rather than to ride that carousel around again. The metaphor that has come to mind a few times during this past month has been that of a turnstile rather than a carousel. When I go through a turnstile it is because I am going somewhere. Whether it’s to board the “L” to Wrigley field to see the Cubs, or to go through teh security checkpoint to board a plane, the turnstile is a passageway to someplace else.

It feels like many of our customers, perhaps most, or even all, are walking through that turnstile this year, rather than getting back on the carousel. There are new ministries, and plans to improve upon current ministries. The United Methodist Church is moving forward. I invite you to contact me to chat about what we can do from the software side of the table to support you as you begin a new journey.

In Partnership,
Al Fifhause
President, Great Spirit Systems

MissionConnect™ Conversion

This past month marks a significant turning point for our software. We have launched the new MissionConnect: PAL application, which is our management and billing program for Property And Liability insurance (hence the acronym “PAL”). What is significant about this is that it’s the last major module of MissionBase to be converted into a MissionConnect app.

It has been a long road. We first began discussing the need to replace MissionBase back in 2007. We spent two years evaluating platforms, identifying possible ways to rewrite MissionBase, determining roles, and looking at hundreds of details. We began the actual writing of the software in 2009, and launched the first implementation of MissionConnect in March of 2011. It was a pretty “bare bones” product, and we had to push certain data back into MissionBase for those modules that were not yet developed in MissionConnect (which was everything except the core system). The past three years have been spent writing the MissionConnect apps for each add-on module that was in MissionBase, converting customers into MissionConnect, and doing our best to keep up with the many daily needs of our customers as we went. So converting final app into MissionConnect is very significant for us.

We do have many loose ends to tie up, and several reports that need to be added before MissionConnect will truly be complete. We will continue to work on that list until it is completed.

However, software is never really complete. There are always more ideas on the table, more changes that are required due to new data needs, and new technologies that afford new opportunities for the usefulness of the software. But for the moment, and for just a moment, we are pausing to take a deep breath and enjoy the feeling of reaching this important milestone.

We are already working to identify a process for receiving, organizing, prioritizing and developing existing and new needs, requests, and ideas for taking MissionConnect beyond what it is today. We need your input, and we’ll be creating a better method for receiving it. I’ll talk more about that next month.

In partnership,

Al Fifhause

Two Resolutions and a Soup Pot

I’ve never been one to make New Year’s resolutions. But this year I need to make a couple.

2011 brought about major change for Great Spirit Systems as we launched our long announced MissionConnect software with 13 of our customers. This brought major change to these customers as well.

We still have six more customers to convert over to MissionConnect. We also have some MissionBase modules yet to convert with the accompanying customer conversions, and many loose ends to tie up related to MissionConnect. Beyond that, we have accumulated many new ideas and projects that were held off these past three years, while we waited on getting our software into a current development platform from which we can develop “anywhere access” to the data that you, our customers, need in order to enhance your ministries.

We know that in some cases we have left you with inconvenient work arounds and less than optimal solutions. Quite frankly, I had not fully realized how refined a product MissionBase had become until we began hearing from those of you on MissionConnect about little but important things like data entry “flow”, report options, multiple access points to some parts of the data, and other refinements that had been added to MissionBase over the years and then forgotten about by us, because stuff that works doesn’t get much attention. You have let us know clearly about many of these items that are missing in MissionConnect, and we are now working to add them into our new software.

So my first resolution for 2012 is to focus our efforts hard during the first half of the year on completing these software conversions, completing the incomplete modules, and adding all of those “missing pieces” that we’ve heard about from our MissionConnect customers.

We’re anxious to get on to the exciting, new, ministry enhancing applications that have been asked for and dreamed about. However, we must first get the foundational parts of MissionConnect complete, lest we build a “house upon the sand.”

My second resolution is to communicate better as we move forward. I want to keep you better informed of our progress, and we at GSS need to create a better mechanism for two-way communication with you, our customers. The only way we can develop our software in the direction our customers need, especially in those new, ministry enhancing applications for better access to data and information, is to become better at gathering your ideas and allowing you to help develop us the raw ideas and dreams into solid specifications for new software applications. Some people would call this process the “incubation of ideas.” I prefer to think of it as gathering the fresh ingredients into a large soup pot where they can simmer, exchange flavors, and cook up into some truly great software to nourish your ministries in ways not previously possible.

Let us know what you think.