If there was one thing I could improve about Scouting…

The last question on the recent Voice of the Scout survey from BSA stated:
If there was one thing I could suggest to improve Scouting, it would be…

Several areas come to mind as I think about what should be improved. If I were to make a list, it would include things like 1) find ways to get more leaders trained without lowering the bar, 2) improve camp conditions to prevent leaders from wanting to go out of council, and maybe even 3) solve the communication problem across BSA from top to bottom.  However, since I’m a computer guy and technology is my industry, I’d like to focus on software.  I see so many ways software can be leveraged to help manage the process of doing what we do.  Here are a few of those ideas:


Let’s start with managing members and their associated records.  I know there are solutions out there such as TroopMaster, eTrailToEagle and TroopTrack to name a few.  My feedback isn’t about which is better than the other; my issue is that most of them don’t integrate with a central data source to maintain a boy’s master record over time.  In other words, it doesn’t matter whether you like Troopmaster and I use eTrailToEagle.  The problem is that when a boy moves from your unit to mine, an electronic record does not transfer with him.  I have to cross my fingers that he has kept good records and then re-key everything into my system-of-choice.

Likewise, when a boy leaves my troop, the new Scoutmaster gets nothing to see where that scout is in the program unless he digs for the details himself as I described above.  I’m not saying a conversation doesn’t take place here – what I’m saying is, wouldn’t it be nice if you could say: “Welcome to the troop Johnny. I see you’re 1 merit badge away from being a Life Scout. What can I do to help you with those last three Personal Management requirements?  Oh, and by the way, glad to see you attended NYLT last summer – maybe you can help us encourage our Troop to attend next summer.”

So my question is, why can’t this data be stored and retrieved in a central location and serve as the authoritative source for each member of BSA?  It seems like a logical scenario for a National organization that has served so many members for such a long time, don’t you think?  As a boy moves, so does his membership record with him…throughout his entire life!  I believe many of us Scouters in the western region have experience with this through another very large non-profit organization that has already worked out a similar situation… you know, the LDS Church!  Can’t we use that as a model for how to accomplish this with BSA? Do we have to reinvent our own BSA wheel here?


This member data should obviously bubble up too.  My home unit leaders could see our progress on advancement and monthly outings.  My Unit Commissioners would track trends across their zone regarding adult training status and progress against adult square knot requirements.  District people should have more statistics at their fingertips to proactively give guidance where needed.  Heck, even council folks could see who has accomplished what in order to target recruitment as they fill various responsibilities and open positions.


Along the lines of records management, why can’t the master list of requirements for all these BSA programs be managed at a national level?  If that were the case, a local unit could automatically see their progress as they worked through accomplishing the specified requirements.  Wouldn’t it be cool to see your unit’s progress on a DASHBOARD upon logging in to MyScouting.org?  Having the scout data we interact with more connected could mean features like:

– Showing progress against our JTE goals based upon service hours we log
– Mapping our progress against the National Outdoors Award from camp and activity participation we track
– Giving Unit Commissioners a view into a scout leader’s status on completing Adult Square Knot requirements
– Providing District-level reporting to track overall training, advancement and health of the units within our boundaries

In another scenario, the FAQ on the National OA website has this to say about changing membership to a new Lodge: “There are no Order of the Arrow membership records maintained at the national level. Each local lodge maintains its own records.”  What?  Why is that??  Aren’t we talking about just another data point on an individual’s BSA member record?  Com’on folks, let’s get it connected!


I’m glad to see SSO (single sign-on) through a BSA Passport Account.  We should only have one password for everything BSA.  I think it’s great progress to have the same username and password for MyScouting.org, BSAjamboree.org, MyBSA Tools, and eventually a centralized national member management system that is mentioned above. :)


I’m sorry but I think the solution provided by Doubleknot for summer camp registration is THEE WORST software I have ever used!  It is an awful user experience that is highly frustrating and so easy to make mistakes (specifically in the merit badge enrollment process)!  I’m a techie and have to be very careful not to mess anything up.  I can only imagine how non-technical users must struggle, or even worse, what the back-end management must be like for the system administrators. I have to wonder what, if any, usability testing was done with real users! As of this writing, I see they have released some modifications to improve the process since the last time I logged in.  However in my opinion, it still has issues and remains a primary reason for me wanting to start a company of my own to tackle this problem.  I know summer camp registration can be 1,000 times better.


Interestingly related to this topic, I submitted a resume for a job along these lines at BSA’s National Office last summer.  It was a “Team Lead/ Manager Web Marketing” position that stayed open for months.  I inquired several times during that time and really wanted to talk to someone about the opportunity.  Unfortunately, I never got any kind of response and wonder if this could have been the reason: at the bottom of the job description was a line that read: “Resumes sent without Salary History detail will NOT be considered.”  I remember thinking, why does salary need to be a determining factor to gather more information?  I really don’t like that question in an interview!  Why should it matter what I made in the past?  What if I’m ok with a pay cut in order to do something I’m passionate about, have lots of experience with and is personally meaningful to me in the big picture.  Or what if the problem is big enough to pay a lot to get the right guy (or gal) in to solve it?  Initial job qualification should have nothing to do with previous compensation!  With that in mind, here’s what I submitted in hopes to satisfy the “required” salary history condition:

“I make ‘X’ amount of money at my current place of employment.  In the 16 years of working with my previous employer, I made ‘Y’ per year with ‘Z’ in company stock and other benefits.

For purposes of this inquiry, I wish to avoid making salary a discriminatory condition that prevents an informational conversation about this job.  I would like the opportunity to learn more about the Team Leader/Web Manager Marketing position as a way to determine if my skills are even a match for what you are looking for.  My hope is that your intent would likewise be the same before any kind of compensation decision comes into play.”

It’s too bad they wouldn’t accept applications without a salary history.  All I wanted was to explore the opportunity while they got to know a little more about me – an initial screening on both sides to see if it’s even worth continuing the discussion.  I believe this screening criteria applied so early incorrectly filters out qualified candidates for the wrong reason.  But hey, I’m not in HR, so maybe that’s another issue.

So here we are.  A program needing better software and the room for improvement gapingly open!  Can’t wait to see what they come up with…

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One Response to If there was one thing I could improve about Scouting…

  1. Paul R. Murphy Jr. says:

    Try to obtain a more friendly system than Doubleknot…….

    It is the worst software I have ever used !!!!!!!!!

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