What to Do When You Can Do Almost Anything in Slate

I don’t need to tell you that we live in a world of immediacy. You know it even more if you’re actively working with today’s students (no matter the generation). Often, the immediacy mindset transfers into our professional goals. And so, we need the solution, the module, the email, the portal, the [insert anything and everything] right now. And that’s a problem. An artificial “need” for immediacy creates unnecessary stress and results in poorly defined requirements (ultimately leading to delays).

An important conversation we have with our client institutions who are kicking off their use of Slate (or even those with whom we’re beginning our work a year or more into their experience), is that as wonderful as Slate is, it simply cannot be everything to everyone. And as flexible as the platform is, just because you can make something doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Further, just because you should doesn’t mean you should right now.

We understand deadlines and sunsets of other systems, and we certainly are familiar with the need to keep moving forward with current processes while new ones are being mapped out to avoid any gaps. That’s normal in our engagements.

However, as mentioned above, it’s easy to get lost in love when migrating to Slate. And in the joy of that moment of discovering what can be done in Slate, it’s easy to convince yourself that everything should happen right away. Our advice: walk (with purpose), don’t run.

Take a deep breath before diving into the bliss of Slate. Here are some of the questions that arise in our dialog as we begin work with clients.

When can we import data?

When you have a place for it to live and defined processes that allow you to do something with it. Who is managing your integration with your SIS? It’s easy to build an export in Slate, but you’ll want a bidirectional feed. What is bandwidth looking like for your IT office? Do you need to outsource this? Here are some resources, if so. 

When can we start doing predictive modeling in Slate?

Do you have a data scientist on staff? Do you work closely with IR? Do you have time to dedicate to a project like this? Do you know what variables are predictive for your campus? Do you (should you) outsource this? Would it be a benefit for us to provide a list of partners who do this really well?

We need to start texting.

(It’s not a question, I know. That’s because it’s almost always a statement).

Great! What’s your strategy? What are you currently doing in this arena? What are your goals in Slate? How will this integrate with your communications flow (and does it need to?)? Do you (or your team) want a true texting experience or will Slate work for your needs? Would you be better served by checking out additional partners in the space?

How can we build an alumni portal?

There are a few different options. But…you should probably have students in your system first. With that said, let’s not jump into communicating with current students before we start communicating with current prospects and applicants. Following on, who will maintain this once in place? What is their technical background?

Can you help us get our YTD report running?

Absolutely. But you don’t even have one year’s worth of data yet. You don’t have rounds built for future terms. You’re missing a lot of components to make this a reality. (This conversation usually trends toward reporting in general. There are many things that Slate can do on this front. To be frank, if you have knowledge of the industry and specific reporting platforms, you also know there are many things it can’t yet do.)

Can we run search through Slate?

Yes. Funny you should ask.

Should we still go to Launchpad?

We won’t work with you (on an implementation) until you have. I co-led the New Haven Launchpad from its start until my departure from Technolutions and I know the value it presents (albeit, an overwhelming experience). A holistic view and understanding of Slate’s foundational (plus some) capabilities is imperative for us to do our best work.

It’s easy to see that when we collaborate with an institution on an implementation or in the strategic use of their existing instance of Slate, we respond to these questions and hundreds more with our own set of questions. We believe in the “why” of an implementation and we want to be certain that our clients are leveraging this opportunity for everything that it is. That often means looking to partners who excel in a specific area of this industry. That’s not a bad thing. You will experience cost savings through process efficiencies, data storage, emails, and the consolidation of some other tools that most definitely should be migrated to Slate.

Knowing RHB is a firm that offers a core service through which we aid institutions in bringing search in-house, it might seem odd that some of our responses above encourage you to think outside of Slate and determine the right time to bring in a consultant. The simple fact is, we recognize our peers in the space who are doing amazing work with many of our clients and our goal is to extend that knowledge to you. Integrations aren’t a bad thing when they’re done really, really well.

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Alex Williams

Alex is the Vice President for Marketing Integration at RHB.