Sunday night we launched check-in for our 7 community. We launched it at 7 for several reasons:
(1) There are only about 600-1000 adults that attend 7, and most of those are younger resulting in fewer kids going into our program.
(2) The fact that most are younger means they are less likely to be antagonistic towards technology.
(3) It is isolated from the rest of the communities, being the only one meeting on Sunday night. As such, it is a perfect place to deploy first.
Here's what we did wrong:
(1) We ran out of time. This is probably true of almost any deployment, but we got bit by it. Not hugely, but we did get bit. We were so focused on the mobile kiosks that when we went to setup the desktop kiosks for nursery and pre-school, we realized we didn't have enough wiring in place to support two kiosks, so we had to settle for one for the first weekend. Unfortunately, the fact that 7 is a younger crowd meant that the load on these areas was pretty high, and having only one kiosk was a huge problem. When someone wasn't in our system properly, a big line would build while we were entering them in. Although we had never planned for there to be only one, it definitely reinforced this principle: Always have at least two kiosks in every location where people are checking in.
(2) We tested the family registration app, but not with lots of different addresses (or invalid ones). This doesn't seem like a big deal, but by request we had included geocoding on the spot for new addresses. Unfortunately, when an address wouldn't geocode, the record wouldn't save, creating a bit of a panic when you have a huge line of people (see point 1) and the record won't save allowing you to check-in the family. This was a small mistake, but it bit us big time. The reason the record wouldn't save is that the geocoding was timing out on the request, which took a long time. I honestly don't know how we could have known to do this differently.
(3) We didn't educate the kids team enough on how check-in should work. For example, they gave us very precise ranges for kids rooms (0-6 months, 7-12 months, 13-18 months etc.) which seems like a great idea, but doesn't allow the system to "load balance" rooms resulting in a few very full classrooms offset by some rather empty ones. Always provide age overlap so that the system can balance rooms for you.
(4) We didn't hound the parents for good data ahead of launch. We had LOTS of kids with no birth dates in our system. This resulted in a lot of time wasted while we added birth dates with kids in line. Take time on the front end to fill in holes in your data.
The elementary team was extremely happy with the new check-in system. Even though we were dealing with a lot of missing information, check-in went very fast because this system is so much faster than our old processes.
The pre-K team wasn't as happy because of the issues we listed above. But we are fixing those for week two. We will go live in all of our communities once we feel that 7 is working as it should. On Monday we had a debrief meeting in which we laid out a schedule to go live in August for everyone. Prior to that, we are going to ask parents to fill out cards that have information like all of their kids names and birthdays etc. If even half of them do that for us, it should help us immensely.
On the whole we are very pleased with the system so far. Many, many kudos to Nick and Jason at CCCEV for their work on a check-in system that allowed us to go live with an all mac check-in system. To our knowledge we may be the only church in America doing automated check-in without windows client software. Arena let us do that, and that is very cool.