Reflections on FAST 2020
Erika S. Veth, EdD
Millennium Computer Systems, Ltd.
December 21, 2020
It goes without saying that 2020 has been one of the craziest years on record for higher education. We began the year with far-off rumblings of a pandemic and are ending the year with an astounding 75.2 million cases total (and counting). The impact on higher ed., an industry already struggling to keep up with enrollment strategy, increasing demands for data, ever-changing technology, and decreasing government funding, was blindsiding. However, already used to sweeping changes in recent years and a new familiarity with the term pivot, most colleges and universities are finding ways to adapt. While most colleges and universities declined in enrollment last year—likely due directly to Covid-19—many have also had to endure furloughs. And while the majority of budgets have been slashed and/or frozen, higher education leadership, staff, faculty, and yes—even the students—are marching onward.
Here at Millennium, we made some adjustments too. This year we all began working from home in mid-March and are still doing so today. Our monthly social events moved from in-person AI robot-building and takeout around the conference room meeting table to virtual video game playing (we are big fans of Among Us) and home garden tours. Our amazing bosses at Millennium also allowed our team to donate the majority of our earmarked social hour fund to various organizations focused on pandemic relief. In total, we were able to donate over $5000 to non-profits in Canada and the United States.
We didn’t attend any conferences this year, something that we love doing, as we get to meet people from all over the world and make new client connections. We also postponed our IMUC user conference in Banff until 2021 and are in the midst of offering several of our planned sessions virtually.
The silver lining is that our time during stay-at-home orders has been well spent. Our team developed quite a few exciting new FAST features and updates, and we began offering new client engagement opportunities. For example, we now regularly write blog posts and we are offering a new webinar series. We started off with our Spring Webinar Series and the Fall Webinar Series just wrapped up last week. The Winter Webinar Series is under development. Each session is full of tips and training for new and existing features in the applications. We also developed a new client referral program, which we plan to launch at the beginning of 2021. This new program provides significant discounts for both the referring institution as well as the new college or university upon the signing of a new service agreement.
Perhaps our biggest release this year is our brand-new Enrollment Forecasting and Planning (EFP) tool in the FAST Student application. The EFP tool is a huge leap forward for finance executives, enrollment management teams, and academic leadership. Anyone struggling to plan collaboratively and make data-informed decisions regarding enrollment and budget, effective course scheduling, and faculty hiring will find this tool a dream come true.
I think back to my days as the leader of the Strategic Enrollment division at a public university, and this tool provides the answers to all of the questions the Budget and Finance teams used to ask me. It also has the added benefit of helping to plan for an incoming class of students all at different stages of their degrees. Our new Enrollment Planning and Forecasting tool also serves as a stress-reliever for higher education leadership teams and front-of-the-house staff alike as the COVID-19 pandemic has added an additional layer of unpredictability to enrollment in general. While the Millennium team began development of the EFP tool prior to the onset of the pandemic, it has never been more pertinent.
The EFP tool is not the only exciting feature we’ve released during 2020. We’ve also made improvements to several of our reports and developed several new exciting tools, features, and reports as well:
In addition to already being able to enter student grades in FAST Student, it is now possible to submit grade change requests and move them through the appropriate approval process before upload in the ERP System.
We are happy to announce that FAST Budget and Forecasting has a new Position module that allows users to load and manage Position Budgets and coding distribution directly in FAST and directly sync that data to the ERP system. This will allow you to better manage both base and adjusted changes to Positions and your entire Budget.
As with our FAST Student, Budget Forecasting, and Finance applications, FAST HR now allows for regular archiving of data. The archived data is then able to run against dedicated reporting pages to allow for point-in-time, year-over-year, term-over-term, and ongoing relational data comparison.
All our applications now have brand new communication template sharing capabilities and updates to SMS Texting. For example, it is now possible to schedule communication events within any FAST application. Custom PDFs, Emails, and SMS Text Messages can now all be sent at a preferred date and time. Additionally, there are now new reports in each application that show information about upcoming and historic scheduled communication events.
We hope that you—our colleagues, clients, and friends—will join us to close out 2020 with a virtual “cheers” to the knowledge that we are all in this together and that together we can look forward to a brighter, healthier New Year.
Happy Holidays from your team at Millennium!