Slate Cycle Prep: Strategies for Success

As commencements are, well, commencing, you may be heading into year 2 or beyond with Slate, which means that you’re about to undertake a big change yourself…Cycle Prep. While your team should focus on enhancing your instance of Slate with perpetual refinements as the tool continues to grow, Cycle Prep affords you a time to shift specific focus to Slate. So update your periods and rounds, archive your emails and events, and as you’re walking through your very own status page, think about updating to the custom portal option for your students. The possibilities are limitless.

While you will have several items that you’ll want to check off your list to ensure your system is up-and-running for the next cycle, this time of year also offers the opportunity to rethink and revamp. For instance, when you first built Slate you told your team that you didn’t have to build your Read process a certain way just because “that was the way it had already been done.” As you enter Cycle Prep, you can reassess how you built things initially because there’s no point in keeping processes that no longer best fit how you wish to operate.

There’s never a good time in an admissions office to make big changes to your systems, but summer is definitely a better time than most. Setting a project schedule for yourself will allow you to pace something like implementing Inbox or building drip campaigns out over a few months. Think about all of those opportunities that exist in your instance and the cool features you just haven’t had time to build.

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Over the last few years I’ve recommended a fairly consistent approach to tackling Cycle Prep (and making your summer a Slate Summer), and in recent years, Technolutions has made the process even easier by providing you with your own status page and checklists. Here’s my suggested timeline:

  • May-June: Review your Cycle Prep status page when released and check those items off thoughtfully and quickly. Know that, if you didn’t do anything else in Slate for the rest of the summer, you’d be ready for business when things need to go live.
  • Second week in June: Have a meeting in the beginning of June with all of your stakeholders. Encourage everyone to bring their Slate wish lists and to be prepared with a case of why their wants should take the leading spot for revision or implementation.
  • Third week in June: Pull together a much smaller team; perhaps just your implementation squad. Put all of the wish list items out on the table and rank them. It’ll be hard, but try to remove your bias for your own projects by thinking about what suggestions will have the largest impact for the most people. That’s not a perfect strategy, but it’s a pretty good one. Make sure you’ve registered for the Slate Summit.
  • Fourth week in June: Make a plan of attack for the Summit and figure out how your team will divide and conquer. With the variety of tracks and levels of sessions, there’s something for everyone. Let your wish list guide your session selection. Learn from other schools. Celebrate.
  • First week in July: Detox and think about everything you’ve learned and how that applies to your list. Revise if necessary. Technically, you could do this on your flight home. Go to the beach.
  • The rest of July and early August: Come back refreshed and begin building out those projects. By this point, you should have a defined list and a general idea on timelines and scope after everything you’ve learned from other schools.

You’ll notice what this summer timeline doesn’t have: immediately implement new features from Summit. Why? Those features didn’t exist when you had your initial meeting two months ago. Two months ago, colleagues expressed their ideas about things that would help to improve their processes based on features that already existed. Tend to the fires (or melting daiquiris) you already have before bringing in something entirely new.

I know how exciting it can be to think about new features and the possibilities they hold. I know how exciting the announcements can be. And I’ve seen firsthand how effective even the smallest changes in Slate can be for institutions, let alone entirely new modules. By forcing yourself to implement tools that already exist this year, you’re not getting lost in the weeds and you’ll have a more enjoyable summer.

That’s what we’re all after anyway, isn’t it?

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Alex Williams

Alex is the Vice President for Marketing Integration at RHB.