How efficient technology can transform your work with Ted Daniels
On this episode of our productivity podcast, Get More Done, we chat with one of YouCanBook.me’s first customers about how to truly make your software work for your customers, your employees, and your future.
The YouCanBookMe team
Many years ago, a Web and Technology Support Specialist, Ted Daniels, spoke to a tech guy about a solution he needed for students at the College of Western Idaho.
That tech guy was Keith Harris, who ended up building Ted a tool for his use case. A little while later, Keith and his wife Brigdet launched YouCanBook.me.
One thing led to another and Ted became one of YouCanBook.me’s earliest and longest users.
Tune in (or read below) to hear what problems led Ted to YCBM’s online scheduling tool, how he future-proofs his software decisions, and why you constantly need to adapt your tech solutions for both your customers and staff.
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Listen to episode 23
In the episode “How Efficient Technology Can Transform Your Work,” we discuss
- Ted’s role at the College of Western Idaho: helping everyone get the software and technology they need to best serve students
- How employee burnout and student frustration led CWI to Keith Harris and YouCanBook.me
- How appointment scheduling software for higher education simplified the back and forth chaos of scheduling appointments and boosted student engagement
- Why CWI has stayed with YCBM: changes that are on target with community needs
- The key to keeping customers and employees happy: using your software and technology in the most efficient way possible
- How YouCanBook.me analytics have helped CWI alter other products
- How the pandemic changed how things operate at CWI and what technology was needed to adapt
- The three most important factors at play when choosing new software: security, accessibility, and how it will fit in with future plans
- What’s next for Ted and the team at CWI: working on a new student application and keeping student costs down
“Just for the fact of the time savings that they had, they were able to get more individuals through and meet with them, scheduling at a time that worked for them. Advisors didn't have to look at their calendars. ‘Well, I'm sorry I had another appointment here, my next available is here.’ And meanwhile, waiting back for the student and then the student comes back, ‘Oh, I'm sorry, now the time slot has been filled up.’ And so this allowed them to go, ‘Here's my availability, you choose it at your convenience,’ and open it up. And they were able to see how many of our individuals within that slot they needed for that time and the timeframe. They were able to set that timeframe up. It was a night and day difference in what they had.” - Ted Daniels
“With our super huge growth, it comes down to consistently looking at the products that we have, how can we use those products more efficiently within our environment? And even when looking at new products, how can we use this? Not just now, but also in the future. If it really doesn't have a point in the future, then we really don't need that. And so really fine-tuning the products we have really makes a key difference in serving our students and also employees at that point.” - Ted Daniels
“Oh, that's what I should say is that YouCanBook.me has done a great job on sending over analytics. So if you don't have those analytics yet or haven't received analytics back from YouCanBook.me, ask for them, because those analytics gave such insight on how students or how your clients are working with the product and also how you can adjust for the needs there. So if you're seeing some influx or whatever and you can adapt for that, the analytics are just so crucial for that.” - Ted Daniels
“I would say the big thing is don't jump into something just because it's the easy way out. It's those times then that you really need to take points from every department. Take individuals, unique individuals, different background individuals for products that you are using, just because it's that perspective of how are you going to use this product? Is it just for you or do we want to use it for the whole? And to me, a lot of our products that we have are for the whole, and we want to be able to do that because why spend the extra money out there and waste it?” - Ted Daniels
Meet today’s guest, Ted Daniels
Before working in the education sector, Ted worked in the computer industry as an engineer for 13 years.
In 2009, he brought his extensive tech expertise to the team at the College of Western Idaho, where he currently works as the Web and Technology Support Specialist.
For fun, Ted coaches competitive soccer. He loves seeing the players grow and the opportunity to encourage them to continue their education and dreams.
Ted loves getting outdoors and doing all the fun activities Idaho has to offer with his wife and three kids.
Productivity resources to explore
- College of Western Idaho
- Microsoft Power BI
- Ellucian Colleague
- Ted’s LinkedIn
- Get More Done podcast
“How Efficient Technology Can Transform Your Work” full transcript
This transcript has been slightly edited for clarity and readability.
From YouCanBook.me, this is Get More Done, the blueprint for managers to lead happy and productive teams. I'm Ben Dlugiewicz and my mission is to help you stomp out inefficiencies so you can focus on work that will grow your business. How can new technology impact your team's workflow?
In this episode, I talk with one of the earliest customers of YouCanBook.me, Ted Daniels. Ted works for the fastest-growing college in America, the College of Western Idaho. For the last five years as the Web and Technology Support Specialist, he has helped students and faculty save time with everything from admissions, orientations, meeting with advisors, and more. Ted talks about how he future-proofs the decisions that they make and the early days of using YouCanBook.me, even how our CTO, Keith Harris built a tool just for his use case. All of that on Get More Done starting now.
Excellent. Welcome back to the Get More Done podcast, where we talk about all things productivity, giving you the keys to help your team level up and get more done. And on today's episode, I'm sitting down with the legendary Ted Daniels, the Web and Technology Support Specialist at the College of Western Idaho. Ted, it's great to have you here. Thanks for coming on the podcast.
Yeah, thank you for having me.
Yeah. And we'll get into all of the good stuff and the history and why you are a legend around the YouCanBook.me parts in a moment. But before we do that, we start these conversations with an icebreaker question, just to break up the nerves a little bit. And for you, because you are in the technology space, which piece of technology do you own that you think you couldn't live without?
I would definitely say a computer. Phones are nice, but computers you can adapt them and modify them as much as you want. And so that would be it. And then probably everybody who knows me would say, "Yeah, I don't think you could live without it."
Yeah. And how many computers do you have in your home right now?
I think I have about six or seven.
That's when you know.
So anywhere from streaming devices to, you name it, kids, you play around, you got to have a little bit of everything.
A little bit of everything. Yes, exactly. Awesome. Yeah, as I mentioned, you are a legend among our customers, but I want to talk about your role at the College of Western Idaho or CWI and what your day is like. How does your day look?
Oh yeah. So my role's an interesting role for the fact that I'm not officially in IT, I'm under Enrollment and Student Services. And so my role is to find or help them out with a task or things that they need to help optimize their roles in their business and their jobs, and that also includes updating web content and helping out our web department with that. And so anything that comes up technology-related or systems-related, they'll come to me and ask me, it's like, "Hey, I'm having this issue," or "Hey, I'd like to do this. Is there a way we can do it?" And I'll look at that to see: is it a problem? Is it something we can develop with the tools and resources that we currently have? If not, then I will find those resources and build some out for them to be able to work and help support the role that they provide for the students.
Yeah. And you're helping multiple departments, practically the whole university there.
Yeah. So anywhere from faculty, from everybody with Enrollment and Student Services, which there's a hundred in our department, from the business office, from marketing, from the web group, IT and testing out there, new hardware, software, but stuff that comes in down that they need testing with. So yeah, it's a variety. And I like it just because it's not the same routine, it's constantly changing every day and adapting. And so you never know when you wake up if you're going to get something new.
Yeah. And there's always a problem to solve, and there's always some new way to approach things. So that's really cool. And it's right in my alley too, of just finding efficiencies and being like, how can this problem be solved in the most efficient way? For sure. So with your legendary status, as I mentioned around here, it started because you've been with us since the beginning. You've been a YouCanBook.me customer since the beginning. And even before that, you had a conversation with our CTO, Keith Harris, where he basically built you a tool to help you with your use case. So I want to know a little bit more about that and how that came to be.
Yeah. So when I came to Keith, I think it was only about two years in existence. And so we had just got all the paperwork, everything up and running. So that meant a lot of our tools and resources, we didn't have that in there just because we were so new and everything that was coming at us was like a fire hose. So one of the big issues that we had was multiple students in lines for anything from registering, from actually getting orientation courses, et cetera, like that and we can't have this. It's getting frustrating both for the employee causing burnout and also for the student who doesn't want to be a student anymore because they've had to wait in this line for two hours or whatever it is. And so that's really what it stemmed from.
So we were looking to see, is there a way we can create a list? We tried Excel and that only works so much. We tried all these other different types of things. I looked at some different tools, and tried some of those, it just wasn't working. And so I was trying one of Keith's early projects, and that wasn't working either. And so I was like, "Okay, let me just send an email just to see if he is able to modify this existing program." And just give them a little idea of what we're doing and what we want to do to be able to create the list, be able to check them off, come in without multiple issues of just trying to navigate this.
And so we went back and forth and Keith answered. I didn't know at that time who he was, what he is. I just knew he was answering the questions, the tech part's great. And it's responsive. I like this, this is great. And so eventually, he's like, "Hey, can I give you a call?" I'm like, "Yeah, sure. Go ahead." So he gave me a call and I started explaining what I wanted to do and what our issue was that we were trying to solve and go through. And Keith's like, "Well, let me look at this. Let me think about this and do some tinkering around and I'll give you a call back in a couple of weeks." So I'm like, "Okay, that works." Sometimes when you get tech contacts, sometimes they won't call you back or do whatever and do what they said, Keith didn't. It's like right on the dot, boom, yesterday is a little bit earlier.
Gave me a call back, he's like, "I think I have something for you. Give this a try." And so I was in there working around, setting it up, we got it going. And I was having a couple of individuals just try it out also to see in there like, "Yeah, I love this. Let's tweak this a little bit and we can do it." And ran through, gave Keith the feedback, he said okay. And so then that's how signupsheet.com came up.
And we continued on using that and more and more departments started using that. And then I get a call and find out that Bridget gave me a call back and she said, "Hey, I'm working with Keith here." And I didn't know who she was either at that time. And Bridget said, "Yeah, I just want to give you a heads up before we stop the development of this." And, "Hey, we are actually transitioning to an own product when you want to focus on this and we'd like you to be able to see if you can work with this, YouCanBook.me, and go through and see if that will work with you and solve the problems that you have."
And so I went through and started tinkering around with it. I was like, "This is actually pretty nice." It didn't have some of the features later on that signupsheet did, but we are able to look at this. So I was going through and I was like, "Okay, let's start with advisors." So at that time advisors, oh my gosh, about 10 advisors, 8,000 students and they didn't have the time or resources. How they were managing those students, we couldn't get to every one of them no matter what they were trying. So our management at that time was using Outlook, putting it in there, they would get calls, they would get emails, and they had so much coming in and they couldn't handle it.
And so that meant students were getting lost and that's not good customer service and that's not our service to our students. We always have the philosophy of one student at a time, keeping it going, working with them to help them move on to that next stage. And so I brought this up to the manager of the department there and said, "Hey, I'd like to try this out on a couple of your people, and let's see what we can do with it." That first day, and once we got an understanding of how it went and we tried it out there, we did a couple of weeks testing the worth of that and they gave me back some feedback, sent them back to Keith, made some tweaks and adjustments and they loved it.
Just for the fact of the time savings that they had, they were able to get more individuals through and meet with them, scheduling at a time that worked for them. Advisors didn't have to look at their calendars. "Well, I'm sorry I had another appointment here, my next available is here." And meanwhile, waiting back for the student and then the student comes back, "Oh, I'm sorry, now the time slot has been filled up." And so this allowed them to go, "Here's my availability, you choose it at your convenience," and open it up. And they were able to see how many of our individuals within that slot they needed for that time and the timeframe. They were able to set that timeframe up. It was a night and day difference in what they had.
Everybody noticed it from all the other departments and also with the students themselves. So once we were able to validate that, I put it in for everybody else and they all got in there. So we upgraded our calendars, got more calendars for everybody, and were able to work with them and develop it. They also liked the fact that we were able to send reminder notices through emails and also a conclusion notice. And if we wanted to, we could put it in their survey. So it really helped with that engagement with students on there as advisors and faculty. Now we have both of the faculties using it. Basically, a lot of different departments are using this now just to make their lives easier.
Wow. It's a miraculous story of needing something and then getting it custom made for you and then pivoting to a new product and rolling with the punches each time. And all with that understanding of just making things easier for everybody, your students and your coworkers, and building onto that. And we hear that quite a lot where one department will start using it and then they just see this massive increase in their productivity and everybody else is like, "Wait, I want to sign up for that too. I need some of that action as well." Now, with the rapid growth that you saw with CWI, what other processes or what other things have you done, or how have things evolved to help your students more efficiently?
Yeah. So that rapid growth, that was the one thing. The one thing I have to say about our employees is they don't mind change. That change needs to happen if it's going to benefit and have a good root cause that's going to benefit those individuals down the line. And you have to look at that end goal and that future goal because if you're looking here and there, you're never going to do it. To me, that's a quick fix. Quick fixes don't work. They never do. In all the stuff I've ever done, a quick fix tends to break. So it might be a patch and you're looking for a long-term goal to make that into a helpful process. But yeah, as we developed that we started in with Zoom and Zoom came in as well. And that was a great benefit just for the fact that we could communicate visually with the students, especially since the pandemic was around. We were actually using that prior to the pandemic.
And so then I saw the notification through email and on the website. I was like, "Hey, yeah, we have this new API in here to be able to integrate Zoom into YouCanBook.me and it'll generate your unique code and you can send that to your people that are signing up." And I was like, "Yes, this is what we needed." And it's so much on target for the needs that are out there in the community, not just education but everywhere. That is the one thing I've really enjoyed about the company, is to be able to look for that future growth and what's going on with that.
With our super huge growth, it comes down to consistently looking at the products that we have, how can we use those products more efficiently within our environment? And even when looking at new products, how can we use this? Not just now, but also in the future. If it really doesn't have a point in the future, then we really don't need that. And so really fine-tuning the products we have really makes a key difference in serving our students and also employees at that point.
Yeah. And apart from leveraging YouCanBook.me, do you have any other tools that you're seeing that are saving a ton of time?
We are a colleague school, so we have been going through optimizing our products. And so right now we're right in the process of developing out or really fine-tuning colleague and really seeing how we can use it more efficiently. And so sometimes when you're in a product so long that you tend to do it the same way over and over and over, and then you need to have these new eyes on it, or even take that step back to say, "Is this really the most efficient way? And is there a different way we could do it that actually provides this benefit?" And so we're in the process of doing that. We always try to look at optimizing it and we can finally do that because we can take a breath. We have a process. We've been around long enough, finally, that we're not from the fire hose as much and it's allowed us to take that step back.
And the other thing we're using is integrating a Power BI. And so for our analytics, that helps so much. Oh, that's what I should say is that YouCanBook.me has done a great job on sending over analytics. So if you don't have those analytics yet or haven't received analytics back from YouCanBook.me, ask for them, because those analytics gave such insight on how students or how your clients are working with the product and also how you can adjust for the needs there. So if you're seeing some influx or whatever and you can adapt for that, the analytics are just so crucial for that.
Yeah. Just having a pulse of how things are working, being able to modify it. And you made a good point with just existing or legacy software of approaching it from a new lens to say, can we expand into this? Or can it be adjusted for a different use case rather than just not resting on your laurels, but almost just going with the flow and just doing the same thing over. That's really impactful. Now, with that growth, what lessons did you learn the hard way with that rapid expansion?
Yeah, there were always those lessons. That's life, right? I would say the big thing is don't jump into something just because it's the easy way out. It's those times then that you really need to take points from every department. Take individuals, unique individuals, different background individuals for products that you are using, just because it's that perspective of how are you going to use this product? Is it just for you or do we want to use it for the whole? And to me, a lot of our products that we have are for the whole, and we want to be able to do that because why spend the extra money out there and waste it? To me, it's wasting money or funds that could be reducing costs for tuition and stuff like this.
And how can we benefit our clients, our students, and create an environment for them to be successful? Is this product doing this? And it's not just students, it's also employees. So is it a way to help employees be more efficient? Help them to engage and do their job better? Are they complaining about a product? If there's something in there, are we able to adjust that? Make that on the fly and do those little tweaks that make our life easier? If you do that, then you're going to have a happier business. You're going to have a happier both client and also internals, they stay around.
Yeah, absolutely. So essentially, just to your point before of not going for that quick fix or that patch, but thinking more long term, having a method to just understanding what you need and what services or software to get set up essentially. Now, how did things shift for you during the pandemic? Was it moved to a hybrid model or all remote? And how did you, you mentioned Zoom a little bit, but how else did you navigate that from a technology perspective?
Yeah, fortunately prior to the pandemic, we were already starting to do these hybrid classes. So that was great for us because it allowed us to get some of the infrastructure that was already there. IT was able to get the VPNs that needed to happen. And the technology, also the cameras that needed to be in the classrooms and vice versa, all that, the logistics there. So we had that set up. The only thing that we didn't have at that time was being able to have our employees because we had a limited amount of VPN access. So in order to access our systems, we needed that VPN, especially with the world of we're going to be all from home, remote, working on it just to keep it going.
And so IT was able to get our VPNs up there so everybody now has a VPN. So we're able to have that flexibility to come in and work or work from home just depending on what the circumstances are. And so with that being said, Zoom was there, and hybrid classes were already being done. We were able to really make a relatively "easy transition" into a remote system, a remote classroom, a remote everything. And so there were some growing pains and there were some, not everybody liked doing a hybrid or remote classroom. I prefer seeing a person, an individual, keep talking with them, seeing how they would react, those types of things. Zoom is great, but it's just not always there. You're always missing something, but at least it allows you to get communication with an individual or a group of individuals without any issues.
And so even with rolling that out, we had very minor issues relatively and we're able to overcome those issues. And so this I think in general, has really changed the world and how we will work as a business or an entity. And I think it's a great thing because it allows the individual and business to find individuals that have that talent pool, that class, whatever they need from further than in their backyard. It's across the world. It allows you to be able to work with those individuals a lot more efficiently and just the tools that you need. And you got your office, you got whatever program that you're working with that allows you to interact easily with each other. But yeah, it's been good. There were growing pains, but with anything, it's worth it.
Yeah. And it sounds like you already had a precursor with testing out hybrid before that, and as you mentioned, the really powerful thing with this pandemic is that it brought the world together or got everything online expedited, because of the need to do it, but it was there and that's really cool. So now are things getting a little bit back to normal or are you still in that same pandemic mindset?
Yeah, no, we're just getting back to normal. In fact, in an email that came today, it says masks are optional on the campus, and so that's a great thing. Students want to be able to interact, and so we want to get it back into the office. We want to be able to get back into the classroom. Get that community built up again, and the support that's needed, not just for financial but just getting in to see a person. Physically shake a hand. Wow, what a concept. It's like, "I'd like to see that again." And so just because that engagement is so needed and it just helps.
And I notice sometimes when that doesn't happen, grades will tend to drop and stuff just because of not being able to engage efficiently with a person. So it is so nice to be able to be on campus. We have three different campuses, so now if I called one in Boise and depending on where your classes are, you're going back and forth. And so this allows that and students now have that option. It's like, "I'll just do this online. I don't feel like going into the classroom today." They got the cameras in there, they're able to do that. And so it's been so nice.
Yeah. That's really great to hear. And I totally understand what you mean of that in-person thing is just a different vibe. There's just a different energy about it. Because we're a fully remote company, we try to get together at least once a year. Obviously, with the travel restrictions, we haven't been able to, and it just changes everything because everyone gets together and it's just a good atmosphere, a lot of energy. Just some excitement. So that's really cool, that's starting to get ramped back up for you.
So I had a question about how you go about getting new software vendors set up because I imagine that can be a difficult process from vetting, security reviews, all of that just to implement new software. So tell me a little bit about how that process works for CWI.
Yeah. What CWI does is we actually have a team or a committee that goes through and reviews this process and that team is composed of the different departments and IT security, multiple areas within there just to view it. So when we're looking at products, we'll look at something that will function for Enrollment and Student Services. We'll look at this and say, "Okay, we'd like to have something like this," put a paper together saying, "Hey, here are the reasons why we would like to have this software." That's submitted over to this team. They'll look at it, review it, and then depending on cost, then it may have to go out to bid. If it's not, then it'll just go through the security review. It's like, okay: is this product secure? Is it going to open us up? And especially now, everybody's affected by security and even more so I think right now colleges and universities, that security has to be there before.
Personally, I don't feel like that was as much of a priority because it's like, "Oh, they're just going to hit big businesses." But now it's even more so just because of the student data that we house and we are constantly updating our security just for that peace of mind, both for the student and for us because we are responsible for their data and making sure that does not get anywhere else outside of that. And so they'll go through that audit, review it, go through the budgeting process, look at that to see how that functions, what type of, is it a one-time type use or is it a reoccurring type situation? Go through the lawyers within that, making sure that's all functioning, and if it's all good to go, get the sign-off, and then we're able to purchase that software.
And sometimes it doesn't happen, sometimes we need to say, "Okay, we're so focused on this software, here are a couple of other ones." Just look at that and just to see if it's still meeting your needs. And sometimes yeah, we have to switch to that and move to the different ones just because it does have these additional features we need to think about because they weren't thinking about the future, they were thinking near. And so yeah, that's basically what our process is in a nutshell.
Yeah. And I don't think the importance of data security can be overstated, because like you said, that's a lot of information that you're holding, sensitive information and whatever vendor you're working with has to uphold that security and make sure that everything's above board there too. Makes total sense. So what advice do you have for other IT groups in the university space? How would you advise them to think about the future?
Yeah. Future wise, I would definitely say really look at what your long-term goals are. If you don't have a set of long-term goals you're working towards, then it's not going to work out well because then you're always behind the ball. You're not preparing for what could happen or could be preparing for this stuff that's coming down the line. You're only looking at the short-term view. It's imperative that you have that long-term viewer, and have someone on your team that has that view. Everybody has certain strengths.
One of the things we do at CWI Enrollment and Student Services is we run through a strengths thing to see, really, what is your personality type? What is your strength and what is it that you can help with individuals? It gives you both an understanding of yourself, but also what could be happening down the line of how you can work with each other. That'd probably be my biggest thing is to really look at the future, how we can adapt to that, and move forward.
Yeah, totally. So what's next for you and the team?
So right now we are working on a new application, to get that through. The current application that we have has been many years old and had many revisions and the code looks like spaghetti. So it's time to redo this application. And so we are looking at that, developing out using a Drupal base backend web form, but we want it to be adaptive. So not just one form, we want it to be able to go multiple forms, be adaptive to base office selections and be able to work with other departments that have an application or admissions or some sort of form, be able to integrate that in. So the student, when they're at that first screen, they can say, "Hey, this is me. This is what I want to do," and I'm able to push that other form to them.
First is going from page to page to page to page. It's just frustrating for individuals when you have to track down and try to find where to find the form that someone said you needed to fill out is. And so that's our next big little project.
Yeah. That sounds like a very efficient setup to make it easier for everybody. That's really cool. So where can folks go to learn a little bit more about CWI?
Yeah, they can go to cwi.edu, and from there they'll see everything that we have to offer. We've been at $139 a credit and we have not raised that for, what? Six years? Something like that. And so that's the one thing where we pride ourselves is trying to keep that cost of tuition down for those students because we don't want students to come out of our college with a big old debt and they shouldn't have to. And that's just more burden on them as they do go onto that next portion of their life, and that's why we're there, to help prepare them for their next step to hit their end goals.
And so yeah, we try the best we can and work with them and encourage them, and a lot of times that's what you need. We have everybody from every socioeconomic status coming in, you just don't know what that student is going through. And so we're there to help guide them through that process.
Yeah, that's really awesome to hear. And I think you're well on your way of thinking about it with long term vision with all the technology stuff and just trying to make efficient processes and all that good stuff is only going to add to just that cost savings, and then you can put that onto the students as well.
Ted, it's been a pleasure talking with you. I want to thank you for taking the time to come on Get More Done and share the awesome story of how you got started with YouCanBook.me and everything that you're doing there for your students at CWI. It's really great to hear. So thank you so much for coming on today.
Yeah, thank you very much, Ben. This has been great and it's been a fun thing. Love the product, the product that's just been working so well, and looking forward to the new stuff you have coming down the pipe here.
Yeah. We're super excited too, Ted. Thanks for being on the show.
Thanks for listening. We hope you enjoyed this episode of Get More Done. Be sure to subscribe on your favorite platform to get updates of future episodes. Want to be a guest? Reach out to email@example.com or visit getmoredone.youcanbook.me. If you or your team want to automate your scheduling, sign up for a free two-week trial at YouCanBook.me. What will you do with all the time that you save?
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