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Insight from a Children's Pastor & Awana Commander

My Thoughts on the Launch of Mozo

mozo-logoOn September 1, 2015, Awana released the long anticipated technology suite called Mozo (formerly known as Club-Tech). While there was great expectation for this new technology suite, it seems that its release was less than stellar.

Before I get into my thoughts, I need to make some disclaimers:

These are my personal thoughts and I am not serving as an apologist for Awana or anyone else. I have not yet had “hands-on” experience with the software/website. I did not pre-order Mozo and I have not, as of this post, been granted rights to evaluate any portion of Mozo. My “experience” includes the videos that Awana has provided as a “demo” for the product and what I have seen and heard from others using the product. While this may be a long post, I encourage you to read it in its entirety. Having clarified these things, here are my thoughts.

In a “nutshell”, I feel bad for Awana and I am surprised that so many clubs pre-ordered the product before it was released.

I think that most will agree that Awana over-promised and under-delivered with the launch of Mozo. When people would ask me personally about whether they should get Mozo or not, I advised them to wait until after it was released to see what it was like and to allow Awana to work some bugs out of the initial release. That is similar advice which I give to anyone seeking record-keeping software. I advise them to use the evaluation period, or demo version, to see if it fits their club. I was surprised at how many clubs pre-ordered the product based off of the marketing without seeing it in action and if it would truly meet their need. The only thing that I personally can conclude is that most of these clubs did not know that other record-keeping products existed and they were eager for a digital option.

In response to the fall-out from the launch, Awana has posted their Thought Process Behind Mozo. They sought to meet an immediate need to assist leaders in recording attendance and handbook progress during the handbook time segment of Awana allowing the leaders to turn those minutes shuffling with papers into moments for ministry to the clubber. A little later they shared that “Every Software Starts Somewhere” acknowledging that Mozo may not have lived up to the high expectation, but that it was a work in progress and would grow as many well-known websites have in the past.

I do take exception to one item in their post “Every Software Starts Somewhere“. Awana shares how some of the well known websites today started in a very basic form and Mozo is no different. In this post, Awana notes that Mozo was launched in a high-expectation environment one of which is the following:

Many have had positive experiences with third-party Awana record-keeping products. These helpful resources have been around (and improving) for a decade or more. To those who use or have used them, these existing products may be a sort of invisible “benchmark” for what an Awana-related software product should be.

I may be mistaken, but it seems that they imply that the other software products are not a benchmark for Mozo. That simply is not the case. Existing products are the benchmark to meet or exceed. There have been other entries into the recordkeeping market in recent years that have provided more recordkeeping capability with their initial launch to the public then Mozo currently provides with their initial launch. A better example for every software starts somewhere is when Google launched Google+ with Facebook as the “invisible benchmark”.  Google tried to match, or beat, Facebook with similar features, as well as some that the other did not have. Even with the “invisible benchmark”, I do not see that ultimately as the reason for the disappointment of Awana’s customer base. The disappointment comes with an over-promised and under-delivered product. Many features slated as being included are no where to be found at this time.

In my post Awana Club-Tech Preview in January 2015, written after I sat in on the breakout led by Michael Scarbrough at CPC East, I shared how the technology suite would be released over a three year period, indicating that all features would not be included this year and even though at that point, it was anticipated that more features would be available, it also showed that the vision was greater than the initial execution would possess.

In April/May of 2014 I was at the Awana Home Office where their “new branding” was introduced in-house and I joined other bloggers in getting a “behind the scenes” look at their vision, what was being planned, worked on, etc. It was then I wrote the post A Bridge to Nowhere where I inquired about how the things being shared differed from another vision that did not come to pass as hoped. I left optimistic, but the concern lingered for me.

Then in November of 2014, after Awana posted on their blog introducing the Club-Tech (now Mozo) initiative, I posted Awana Club Tech and My Disappoinment. I wondered how they could make a specific statement when they had no history, or knowledge, of what goes into developing what they were proposing and meeting the multitude of customer requests.

I have not been shy in my comments in anticipation of Mozo. I shared my concerns, often with optimism that the final product would be an excellent tool for clubs. That is where I am at today. I have concerns. The launch was not as hoped, but I hold on to optimism that Mozo will continue to add features and improve.

Let me begin to conclude by again saying that I feel sorry for the clubs that purchased Mozo pre-release without seeing an actual demo of all of the features. I wish that local clubs who sought a digital tool to help them keep records would have done a simple Google search (or any other search engine) to see if any third party products were available. I wish that Awana would have recognized some third party recordkeeping products before now which could have helped those clubs sooner.

I feel bad for Awana for the grand vision and promotion they had and then released a very bare-bones product that pales in comparison to what was highly expected. I wish they would have released this in late spring so that clubs could see it, and use it to prepare for the upcoming year instead of releasing it after many clubs had started their year, or about to start within the next week or two. It gave no time to set up the database, to learn the product or to teach their leaders how to use it.

Finally, I think that it is important to conclude with this thought….

Awana avoided technology like this for decades. Other ministries have avoided technology and they are beginning to fall by the wayside. We can be very critical of Awana for the way Mozo was released, but let us keep in mind that this is very new territory for Awana. Awana realized the need to embrace technology for their customer base, the local club, the global community, etc. and they took a step into an area that they were unfamiliar. They did not take this task lightly. Let me try to illustrate it this way.

Imagine yourself at a swimming pool. That pool is technology. Awana avoided entering the pool for years, sitting in the pool chairs on the side saying this is nice, but not entering. Finally they realized that they had to enter the pool. Instead of wading in on the shallow end, they jumped into the deep end with grand visions of what they wanted to do. The problem, they didn’t know how to swim. This was all new to them. Awana got people with the needed experience to escort them to where they could stand on their feet and learn, slowly getting closer and closer to the deep end where they are learning to swim and achieve their goals. I give Awana credit for jumping in, totally committed to adding technology to assist the local church. It takes great courage to enter an area where you have little or no experience to be more effective in ministry.

Awana is the proud parent of a child they named Mozo. They have great ambitions for their child and have shared their dreams with many. Their child just took its first steps on September 1, 2015 and though their child may have appeared to fall on its face, it is getting back up, learning and growing. I join Awana in being optimistic that this child will continue to gain balance, continue to take steps, and grow into what they envision it to be and more.

What the future holds for Mozo, I do not know. What I do know is that Awana has realized it needs to embrace technology. Awana has a big learning curve, but they are making progress. We see this as they respond and address issues brought to their attention on the Mozo help page.

Will you give this child, Mozo, encouragement to learn to walk, then to run; or will you “kick it while it is down” and not give it a chance to get up, criticizing the “parents” because their young child is not a marathon runner yet? If you took the time to invest in this “child” before it was “born”, then I encourage you to help it mature and be all that it can be in the future.

As always, I encourage you to try the various recordkeeping products available and use the one that is the best fit for your club setting.

I encourage your comments/discussion, but please be respectful and God-honoring.

If you are interested in seeing the leader resources area that all clubs receive with their annual registration, then have your commander (Awana Ministry Director) visit this link to learn how to give access to the area to the leaders in your club.

The Author

7 Comments

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  1. I was most baffled by the choice of release date. Anyone with a club big enough to merit electronic records has to start prepping way before September 1. I ruled it out before I knew anything else about it. Even if it was free I wasn’t going to adopt new tech a week before club starts.

  2. This is a well thought out response and I whole-heartedly agree. We signed on in advance and will be a part of helping them learn to swim so-to-speak. I was planning on this year as a trial run (we start in August). I’m excited about the potential. This will be a year of learning and growth. We’re a large club that up to this point has been pencil and paper for awards tracking. We have check in through Planning Center. I think Mozo will be a great asset in time.

    1. Sally,

      Thank you for your comments. I appreciate that you entered this year with Mozo seeing it as a trial run. That allows you to see if it meets your need and allows you to help Awana with the development.

  3. Thank you for your review of MOZO. Your thoughts mirror what I was thinking – and also the comment above about the release being 9/1 – far too late for me to start a new electronic product. That being said, I have used for several years the Approved Workman software – and it is second to none! For that alone, I do not plan to change my software. The tech support and the ease of use – as well as the price have me not needing anything else. Again, Commander Bill, thank you for your words and insight!

    1. Thank you for the kind words Shirley

  4. Support Awana and Mozo – give ’em a chance to get it going!

    Look at the screenshots of what we use daily now:

    https://mozohelp.awana.org/customer/portal/articles/2119972-every-software-starts-somewhere

    1. Eddie,

      I do link to that page in the original post. When those websites launched, they were competitive with others similar to them at the time, but they really had nothing to compare. If I release a new product today, I need to compete with the products available today, not how they were a decade ago.

      I also conclude by acknowledging my on-going hope that it will grow into the product they envision with the help, and feedback, from those using it now.

      Thank you for your thoughts and support of Mozo

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