What is a Software Platform?

What is a Software Platform?

(This post is part of a series that began with Is It Time to Rethink Church Software?)

Technology is constantly changing. It’s hard to keep up with sometimes, or maybe all the time! But as I have said before, progress requires change.

The Communitas Platform is built using a newer form of architecture referred to as a software platform.

In this post, I’ll provide a layperson’s definition of what makes a platform different from other types of software systems.

For further research, you’ll find links to a few books at the bottom of this post that provides more detail if you want to understand it more in-depth. Of course, I am also available for a call to discuss.

Where Things Started

Early software systems tended to be basic and automated manual processes that were performed. This was often conducted in a linear fashion, referred to as a pipeline approach, with a central database at the heart of the system.

Designing these systems started with the defined desired output available, and then the processing system was positioned between the two.

Along Came the Internet

The Internet changed all of this because of the ability to connect different organizations and individuals across a public network, allowing for the desired output to be beyond one organization.

With this public network and the proper collaboration, the desired outcome, not just output, can be something beyond one organization’s walls.

New Business Models Are Now Possible

With the Internet's technical architecture, a new business model that uses technology to connect people, organizations, and resources in an interactive ecosystem in which outstanding amounts of value can be created and exchanged.

Using the Internet as a network across entities, the Platform Model system architecture has evolved to support capabilities barely conceived of just a few short years ago.

This relatively new approach to building software underlies the success of many of today’s most innovative software companies, from Apple, Facebook, and YouTube to Amazon, Uber, and Airbnb.

Platforms are Changing the Game

What’s exciting is that platforms are beginning to transform entire industries ranging from health care and education to energy and even government.

How is the Communitas Platform different than the traditional church management software model?

The pastors and congregants are captive to one organization’s database in the traditional church management system. In other words, the data associated with each congregant is an object within the church’s database.

In Communitas:

  • A person’s profile has been abstracted out of the church’s database and stands independently. It is logically tied to the church.
  • The pastors’ records are also abstracted out of the church database and logically tied to the organization.

Think of the platform as a digital ecosystem where all entities are separate yet can connect and interact as they deem appropriate over time.

This architecture gives the congregant more control over their sensitive personal information. They can determine who has access to any sensitive prayer requests, detailed demographics such as preferred pronoun, etc.

With the various personal information protection law being passed by the different governing bodies, such as GDPR in Europe and CCPA in California, we think it’s a matter of time before every organization will be subjected to digital protection laws around personal information.

As the network of organizations using the Communitas Platform expands, a person may be digitally tied to three or more faith-based organizations.

This approach gives the congregant more control:

  • Over their own information,
  • Who gets to see what and can take it with them if they decide to move to another church for whatever reason.

If a person requests their information to be deleted from a church’s database, their information will be anonymized. Although the detailed information will be scrubbed, an anonymized shadow of the data will remain for analytical and reporting purposes.

On the flip side, if someone moves to a new city, they can take their “spiritual records” with them and plug them into the new church they begin to attend. This gives them more physical and emotional ownership of their data, and thus, we believe, will make it more current.

By not being isolated within the database of one organization, over time, it will become a more complete representation of who they are emotionally, relationally, and spiritually.

With this approach, a person can participate in a study group with people outside their own church. Yet, if the person chooses to share such information, their church can see how they might be spiritually growing, which is what they should be entirely in favor of.

Our Journey is Just Beginning

This is just the beginning of what can be done using this platform approach.

The most important thing, which is great for the Kingdom of God because the body of Christ is one, is it becomes about the quality of the person’s journey, their spiritual formation, not so much about any given event.

Currently, people tend to be objects within a church’s database, with the most concern being about wherever they attended last week’s service or how much they gave.

If we can help churches grow people spiritually, emotionally, and relationally, they will mature as Christians. The attendance and offering will be taken care of as a by-product of helping people live more functional Christian lives.

Next in this series, we will discuss another aspect of software selection: looking into how the software addresses a problem is as important to examine as the issue of what the software does. I hope you’ll join us for this important topic.

Books About Platforms 

(Both software and business models)

Platform Revolution: How Networked Markets Are Transforming the Economy―and How to Make Them Work for You, by Geoffrey G. Parker

The Business of Platforms: Strategy in the Age of Digital Competition, Innovation, and Power, by Michael A. Cusumano

The Economics of Platforms: Concepts and Strategy, by Paul Belleflamme and Martin Peitz

Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing Our Digital Future, by Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson

(Any purchases resulting from clicking the book links above will help support a Nonprofit helping to free slaves in Ghana.)

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