Our Ministry Partnership with ACS has had their scheduling application locked its sights for almost a year now. Working on a weekly basis their team developing and going live with the product last fall. Well finally we are live on campus with Facility Scheduler. While we did have some heart burn rolling out the application the overall consensus is that Facility Scheduler is proving to a great reliable tool. The start of the new calendar year was our date that we selected to migrate away from multiple calendars.
For years our ministry has struggled with global ministry calendaring and FS has been a great help to remove heart burn for our staff when trying to schedule ministry events. Briefly here is a list of what we combined into on location when Facility Scheduler went online:
- Master Calendar
- We had an outlook calendar that was basically a glorified 10000 ft overview of what was happening in our ministry without many details and often not updated after things changed in our global planning meetings.
- The Ministry Scheduler
- This was the predecessor to Facility Scheduler and was used by our Campus Services team to schedule equipment, rooms and other resources. (yes TMS Could have done more i know.)
- Personnel Rotation Calendars
- We had multiple calendars in crazy places (those specific calendars will remain nameless to protect the innocent individuals who inherited those calendars in crazy places); one in Publisher, one in excel and one in a hybrid of Excel and Outlook.
Now all that data has been entered/migrated into Facility Scheduler (iIoften remind the team at ACS that their new product does far more than schedule the facility and it needs a tune up on a better name… I know they needed to differentiate the new product from the OLD TMS but it was really a better name….maybe we’ll have a naming contest later.) Anyway… Now our staff can go to one application and view when their events, or personnel are scheduled.
One feature I like about FS is the granular security, we can grant the appropriate permissions to user groups for scheduling specific resources. In our case each administrative assistant can schedule their own conference room and other area specific resources or personnel without submitting an event request form. So ministries who "own" a resource can schedule that resource without the hassle of "requesting" to use it. This is really helpful since now these ministry "owned" resources can be viewed globally when planning large scale events as well as individual ministry needs.
While I am thrilled with the progress we have been able to make I am patiently anticipating some of the development that is on the horizon for Facility Scheduler including:
- Scheduling Requests via workflow that will get the approval of multiple departments for an event to take place
- Viewing the Calendar (read only) from a view in Outlook
- Management of event registrations that are being processed in Access ACS (or Our branding Northwoods.me)
- When you are setting up all the information for the event you can click on a button and configure the online event registrations for that event’s participants.
- Making Requests via an Outlook Meeting Request plug-in
- Displaying the events in Facility Scheduler on our close circuit TV monitor facilitated by a Facility Scheduler ‘Add-On" (development project name "BroadCast")
- If you haven’t heard anything about this product leave me a note and we’ll get you connected with the appropriate people this is proving to to be a really really sweet tool! For those of you using FS and also for those of you who aren’t ACS customers!!!!
- I am super exited about this one, it has been one of my soap box items since day one…. The data is already in our scheduling applications why isn’t there a tool to display it. This tool looks like it will support multiple data sources not just ACS facility scheduler.
- Auto-magically generating pages on the fly for each event so that events and registration links can be published via the web without manually setting up those pages (all available to the public without the need for knowing any credentials)
- Alerts telling the FS admin that Online Registrations are nearing capacity or are full to aid in selecting a location for a specific event.
- Alerts Reminding the event planner that their event is scheduled and what resources are included a few days before the event.
I know others of you are also diving into Facility Scheduler and I would be interested in hearing your success so far as well as your heart burn. Anyone interested in an online roundtable discussion about FS?
I know several are in the process of moving to Facility Scheduler you might check out their blogs for more information too:
Shawn Ross’s blog
Jeff Suever ‘s blog
Jeff has been posting a bit about his experience with Facility Scheduler too. I would also weigh in to our friends at ACS that Jeff is absolutely on the right track FS needs to be able to accommodate Links to an event page outside the ACS generated pages and would push a little more than Jeff to say the event description editor needs to be able to natively accommodate hyper links rather than dropping code into the description (one because this might do wonky things to "BroadCast"). Also Jeff has noted that the individual event page links expire after 24 hours… and while I understand the security that is in play, we need to be able to have a link for each event that doesn’t expire after 24 hours. Additionally I’ll add it would be nice to be able to configure what displays on these pages…. some may want some data to appear others won’t (example you might want to toggle on or off the "confirmed" line to the general public.
Overall Facility Scheduler is a great product and it is moving forward a great speed. If you are an ACS customer and haven’t looked into Facility Scheduler don’t miss out…. and if you are looking for a Scheduling application And AREN"T an ACS customer this should be one of the applications on the top of your list.