How our customers’ ideas become ofCourse features

Summer is my favorite time of the year. Yes, I'm aware that plenty of folks shares this sentiment, but a few of my reasons for liking it more are unique. Sure, I enjoy all of the apparent summer things like blue skies, travel, and social gatherings. And scheduling-wise I like that the lion-share of work on that front is in the can and most that that remains is about tuning and polishing. So in these relaxed and quieter times here at the ofCourse offices, we take a step back to examine our landscape and see where the last nine months has delivered us because no two years have ever placed us at the same point.

At this mile marker, we force a slower cadence on ourselves. This is an easy ask in that we are all, like yourselves, surely spent and worn from the scheduling season and are enjoying our first deep and free breaths again. But at the same time, we know of things we want to do, improvements we want to implement, and it is sometimes hard to calm these creative wants. But we force ourselves to keep our keyboards at an easy idle.

The goal of this quiet time is to tee up what will get done next. In the tech industry, I have heard them called Best-Of-Breed features. That is, who has the best ideas and approaches out there. When you spot them, you study them and see if and how you might incorporate them into your processes.

The super-good news for all of our clients is that a subtle request made by one dean at one school has the potential to directly and beneficially impact all schools (all of our client schools that is) across the nation. Because that comment might be along the lines of:

"So Anne here has made this great report that everyone loves, but there are two problems. First, it takes Anne several hours to produce the report. Second, every time we make changes, she has to update it, which takes several more hours. And lastly, while your system is great, it doesn't have Anne's report which I mentioned at the start, everyone loves."

In this case, which really happened, we asked if we could see the Anne-Report. They sent a past one to us. We immediately saw why everyone liked it--it was an excellent visual presentation that gave a concise and immediate and unique overview of the schedule. Of all the schedule presentations we have seen from all of our schools, I would argue that the Anne-Report was by a good measure, one of the best to come across our desktops. We told the school that we saw why people liked it and why it took so long to produce (and keep current). Then a note about the Anne-Report is added to our Summer-Contemplation list.

Then at the start of the summer, we collectively review the full list. We touch each item and imagine a world where this feature is part of our service. We believe the oohs and aahs the addition might elicit. Then we queue a number of them up, and after soaking in the various options for a bit, we look for the ideas that keep floating to the top of our mental landscapes. We've learned to listen to our intuition on these matters and give credence to those ideas that keep tickling us.

For the Anne-Report which happened a few years back, here's how it unfolded.

  1. We worked to reproduce Anne's lovely, graphically-accurate version of the schedule. When I say graphically-accurate, it will fuel-gauge the classes showing how they spread out through the day as well as their proximity to other courses.
  2. We worked to figure out how to have this report be immediately available through the simple click of a button.
  3. We had to make sure that this report would respond, dynamically, to any changes that were made to the schedule in Step 5 without requiring any extra labor or effort on our admins part.

For us to make the Anne-Report it does not take us several hours, but instead, it took us several days. But after that multi-day investment, it will never again take someone multiple hours to generate that data. From now on, Anne, and all of our other clients will have this report in seconds, not hours, and they will have it with the click of a link.

For us at ofCourse, when that report is coded, and tested, and promoted, we check that box off and move to the next item on the stack. For our clients, they just unknowingly and without asking (and without even knowing to ask) got access to one of the coolest schedule presentations out there. And this happens every year on all ends and in all corners of the system.

When things happen in small drips like this, you wonder if they are truly adding up to anything. I wonder if they are at least. A few years ago I received some assurance though after I sent our end-of-season debrief. In this mailing, I ask folks for feedback about their recent scheduling season. What was working, what do they wish was there that wasn't. This one fellow concluded his update by saying, "I only had three things this year—your system must be getting better." The prior year his list had more than twelve specific items targeted for improvement.

I'm happy to report that yes, this system is getting better every year. And summertime is the time of year where lots of that bettering happens. And this is a super-large part of the reason summer is my favorite time of the year.

As always, see you on the scheduling pitch.


Troy Dearmitt

Troy is the CTO & Co-founder at ofCourse.

Subscribe to the blog for
university schedule makers