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Introducing Visual Rostering: Goodbye Clunky Data Tables

28th February, 2022
Blog
7
Stefan Taber

Stefan Taber

Software Developer

You now have a powerful, visual roster to quickly and easily roster multiple staff, without ever leaving the scheduler. Flick a switch and you’re instantly editing your roster periods with event bookings in the background. This provides vital improvements to productivity and ease of use, and we’re excited to bring it to you.

roster-alpha

Hello!

Stefan here, the kiwi on the team. I’m one of Smart’s developers trying my best every day to make Smart useful, enjoyable, and generally the best in the world at flight school management. I don’t want to lean on the emotional side too much, but you must know that our passion for these goals, passion for aviation, and passion for making great software tools, means that when things aren’t what they should be through our own observations or your feedback, we feel it personally. One of the remaining systems we knew was falling short of the mark, was the scheduling and rostering system. It’s the absolute heart of an aviation organisation’s operations and needs to be the heart of Smart too. Since deciding to build our own from the ground up, we haven’t looked back.

With the roster system now seamlessly integrated into the scheduler, you can see event bookings and your roster at the same time. With a flick of a switch you can cycle between editing your roster and event schedule. You can instantly cycle through roster period types; off, on, standby, duty by clicking on the roster period. You can cycle through the available flight and duty rules by clicking on the name of the rule (e.g. Appendix 4) on the roster period. You can delete a roster period by clicking on the cross. You edit in more detail by clicking on the pencil. You can resize and reposition roster periods (and events) with a simple drag and drop - if there are no issues, you won’t be bothered with a pop-up confirmation. Maybe most importantly, you now have a powerful, visual, bulk roster builder to easily and quickly schedule multiple staff for multiple roster periods, for a month or more at a time. This is hot-off-the-press, alpha software. We have tested this internally as much as possible, but there will still be improvements and feedback to integrate. We couldn’t have achieved this with the existing packages out there.

The decision to build our own scheduler wasn’t taken lightly. Almost all software makes use of other pre-built software packages and plug-ins, either open-source or commercial. There are definite advantages to this approach. You get the support of a large team of developers working on the software, reporting issues, and providing feedback and feature requests. But the disadvantages -limited and difficult customisation, ongoing licensing fees for commercial use, and having your feature requests waiting on a pile in favour of others (yes, that happens to us too!) - means we can only move as quickly as the package we’re relying on.

To make Smart V3 a reality and get the engine turning, we needed to lean on a pre-built scheduler solution. There were other off-the-shelf solutions that other aviation management packages use but having tried those, we weren’t sold on their user experience and capabilities either. We don’t want to be followers. We want to lead in this market, to innovate, to make the unquestionably best aviation management software out there. To customise off-the-shelf solutions enough to be acceptable for use in our software would have taken an unjustifiable amount of effort, and we still wouldn’t have ended up with the vision we wanted. In the end, we had no choice but to build our own. This involved late nights, lots of coffee, existential crises, probably some more grey hairs, but it was worth it.

That vision is still in development. We have a new event booking flow underway which will fit the “Smart” name. Less clicks, smarter predictive selection, smarter resource filtering, easier re-booking, a temporary working space “event bin”, recurring events, live updating across the screens of whoever is using the scheduler at the time, and more. What’s great about it being our code, is we’re able to move relatively quickly to integrate feedback, fixes, and changes with the priority THIS industry needs - not the Airbnb, boat charter, or hotel industries. We will have this delivered in April this year. You can probably smell the smoke coming from our keyboards.

Looking Forward

On a more personal note, something I’m very excited about delivering this year are a couple of companion mobile apps for iOS/iPadOS and Android - one for your students/charter pilots and one for instructors. Along with a new notification system we have planned, this will enable us to deliver interactive push notifications straight to mobile devices, bypassing the need for spamming email inboxes with generally ignored emails, or sending expensive SMS messages. More on this in the coming months.

I also want to say a personal thank you to all the flight schools that have put their trust and belief in us. I want you to know that this little team is working as hard as we can (while trying not to burn out) to bring you the best management software out there. There are times we wish we had 30 hours in a day, sleep wasn’t a necessity, and we had four arms and two keyboards where we could code non-stop to solve all your requests yesterday. But that’s not reality. To keep our passion alive, we need to maintain some work-life balance and keep our batteries charged. Whether that’s spending time with my daughter, running Dungeons and Dragons games, Ben working on his new shed, his cars, or Sam renovating his Queenslander. But we hope (I think we know) that you’re now seeing the fruits of all that work and time. If we’ve come this far in 15 months, imagine how far we’ll come in another year. You have bet on the right horse. Please keep reaching out to us. There are real people at the other end of the support tickets - the same people who are writing the code for the system, who want to help you. Like some other established systems, we don’t plan on slowing down or stopping any time soon. Innovation remains at the heart of what drives us, and we’ve got some wild ideas for the future.

Thank you again. Fly safe. Fly smart,

Stefan

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