Annual Scheduling Procedure?

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This one isn't really PDS software related, but since I don't have any other forums to get ideas from I thought I would ask here...let me know if there is a better forum for this! ;-)

A little background: I am the church Facility Scheduler for a very large and active parish 4,000+ families and have 15 different facilities that we regularly schedule for, and a whole bunch more facilities that only get scheduled periodically.  We also have an attached school K-8 and there is a 1 facility scheduler for them as well, but we share the Church, Hall and some of the meeting rooms.  We also have 50+ different ministry groups and another 30+ activity groups that need events scheduled each year. 

We schedule everything using the Fiscal Year and I am currently trying to get all this organized for the upcoming year (July 1, 2018 - June 30, 2019). We don't schedule anything past the current upcoming fiscal year save for a few weddings that require more lead time. I have been doing this job for just under a year, so haven't had to actually run a full year on my own yet.

And in April, our church is scheduled to undergo a MAJOR renovation, closing the church entirely, the Parish Hall will become the working church for weekends and for weekday Masses, but can be broken down for other events during the week.  And the Hall Conference Room is also to become a permanent worship space so I am losing almost 3 facilities in the upcoming year, that are usually booked almost every night now.

We typically have an annual scheduling meeting at the end of Jan or beginning of Feb to go over any conflicts with dates and facilities that come up, and my predecessor (having a lot of time on his hands) used to put all these into a large desk calendar of his making, by hand, to identify any major conflicts, and then once the major conflicts were worked out at the Annual Scheduling meeting would then start inputting them into PDS Facility Scheduler.

I was hired as Facility Scheduler, Website Coordinator and Safe Environment Coordinator - so my workload is already quite heavy, and this way of doing things seems like a lot of extra work and a whole extra step having to input all the data twice - so this year I have made a spreadsheet in Excel and all the groups are required to submit their scheduling requests in this format.  My hope is that I am able to compare the data for these spreadsheets fairly easily and find any major conflicts. The first problem I am running into during this scheduling process is that a lot of our most active groups are of the Baby-Boomer generation, and now in their 70's and 80's and quite a few are having a hard time understanding how to use the Excel spreadsheet much less email it back to me...so this is not instilling much confidence in how the rest of this process is going to go! ;-)

Wow! thanks for reading all that!....My main question is, how do other parishes do their annual scheduling?  And how are conflicts identified and worked out?  Does anyone have any suggestions on how to make this process easier on myself?

Thank you for your time!
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Adrienne Coerper

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Posted 2 years ago

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Virg Crawford

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Hi there! Wow, I tho't our Scheduling was a challenge. I've been at our parish for 15 years back when we did it like your predecessor on a large calendar format by hand. I will have to say, conflicts were a lot easier to spot then. Now, I schedule 4-5 years out and am trying to stay 10 years ahead but it is a challenge to get the time for scheduling, as like you, I am Admin for our website and parish app and also the weekly bulletin editor, among other tasks. The conflict thing is definitely a problem. We print a weekly schedule 1-1/2 weeks ahead to edit and try to catch conflicts, cancelling events and adding ones that aren't scheduled. Still, there will be last minute conflicts. The problem for us is that the Scheduler allows for events to double-book in spaces that in Groups. I've often considered doing away with Groups entirely and selecting every space needed for an event singly. But with a busy desk load, that is even a challenge to start a new way of doing things. Right now, I have a major event that I think is in conflict with other major events, so I'll be trying to cleanup and save the day, so to speak. I wish you the best as you try to determine what is the best way to proceed for your parish. I'm not sure there are any other programs out there that will be any better than this one. I think we just have to figure what is the best way to utilize this one for our needs and then go for it.
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Adrienne Coerper

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Thank you for your reply!  Our Parish Manager only allows our ministries and groups to book 1 year in advance,  although it would be so nice to just let some of these regular recurring group events ride every year since nothing changes!  it is a pain to have to re-enter all the data each year! Changing software is definitely not an option, we are committed to staying with PDS - their customer service is fabulous!  The software is just a bit cumbersome, I am hoping some more Schedulers like yourself can give me some tips and suggestions on how to tackle the large annual scheduling issue and conflict issues that arise without having to duplicate work for myself getting it into the Facility Scheduler software itself every year. And we are hoping that PDS is able to correct some of the double booking and conflict issues in the future!
(Edited)
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Virg Crawford

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Hi, Adrienne. I agree with you on every count regarding the software. However, there is no way I could do Scheduling in the timeframe that I do, if I could not book ahead like I've been doing for regular recurring groups/events. When it comes to the annual scheduling, I print out a one-year calendar of events (enlarged to 11X17) for the following year about four months before our Calendar Planning Date in the Fall. This gives the Team/Staff or Ministry heads/leads the time to go over it and evaluate if they need to schedule or cancel any of their ministries or events based upon what appears on it. At Calendar Planning, each day is called out by our Pastor and each Team/Staff member says if they have any Additions or Cancellations. I write as fast as I can, lol, and pray I catch it all! Since I do the Weekly Bulletin and so many other tasks, there is no way I could do the kind of preparation needed for this giant job without every event (or most) already being in the Scheduler. So, I prep before the prompts are printed out by first printing myself a calendar and making sure everything looks correct. I often ask our Business Manager to spot check it for me, as she's been here a lot longer than me and can see things in ways I don't seem to catch. Once I make any corrections/updates, I print out the copies for the Team/Staff and enlarge them. Once Calendar Planning is finished (which usually takes a full day), I then take the several weeks needed to add/cancel the events called out and print new calendars (regular size) for everyone. I make it clear that the Scheduler View is the most accurate; as, once calendars are printed, they become outdated with the next event scheduled. We used to do Calendar Planning twice a year, using the first date to go over the one year coming up. However, last year, we decided to try relying on the weekly prompts for that and just do one Calendar Planning date for the one year out, which is really two-years out at the start and 1-1/2 years out by the time I get their final calendars to them. Doing it this way, seems to alleviate some of the stress of two planning sessions. I wish you the best in trying to find what works for you. It sounds like both our jobs would be easier if the software would not allow for double-booking when there is already a conflict. Or, maybe that's triple-booking? Lol. Regardless, I think it's great that you are reaching out to learn how others do their planning. I've often wondered if there are better ways, but am so busy that all I can manage at times is to just keep delving on.
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Karen Komlos, Official Rep

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Hi.  I love that you are communicating and sharing ideas like this!  And I'm learning some things so I'm excited to see this.  I would like to fish for some information about conflicts.  PDS allows two organizations to be scheduled in the same room at the same time to handle legitimate circumstances like a Boy Scout / Girl Scout combined dinner. But I'm not sure how often that comes up in "real life".  We could put in an option to have the program not allow conflicts at all - you would have to resolve all conflicts at the time of scheduling. Would that be a desirable change to the program?
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Virg Crawford

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Hi, I was hoping Adrienne would reply before me, but in waiting it's given me time to think things out. After talking things over with our Business Manager, it wouldn't be a good idea to not allow conflicts to be scheduled. We schedule our weekend and weekday Masses in the Scheduler to avoid conflicts as there are many other groups that use the Church building for events, ie., music ministry, faith formation, liturgical trainings, Kids Day Out program, Knights of Columbus and so on. However, we also schedule blessings, 2nd collections, guest speakers at Mass times. So, we need the ability to continue to do so.The problem does not lie in the ability or inability to schedule different events in the same space. The problem lies in the Scheduler not giving us the ability to view conflicts in an easy to read format when we, or one of our ministry leads, are checking to see if a space is available. Presently, there is no way to see if an event is already waiting to use the space, for instance, a previously scheduled conflict that is now inactive and then the space freed up. I've had ministries come to me in the past and ask why they couldn't have the space two months ago when they asked, but now a new group gets the date instead. Perhaps if each Church had a "Scheduler" that solely schedules events it would be easier to stay on top of conflict issues. However, the "Scheduler" is often also the bulletin editor, web admin, infant baptism coordinator, etc. And, when you have a Church as big as 1800, 2500 or 4000 families or more, this can be a challenging task. Also, I've found that there is still a hiccup when trying to schedule an event in a multiple space. If I am scheduling an event for several months in a multiple space (with a Group and subgroups) and there is a day that has a conflict and I choose to tell the program to put that one day in a different multiple space, all kinds of things happen...usually the Group space will be the first multiple facility and the sub-groups will be spaces of the second multiple facility - for ALL the dates. It will read, let's say, Parish Hall for the Group name and Room 201 and Room 202 instead of Parish Hall-Right and Parish Hall-Left. So then, I have to go into Processes to correct it or just delete it and start over. This is time-consuming, if anything. I've put in a request for this to be fixed, but this same example happened again just a few weeks ago, so the issue has not been resolved. It's like the Scheduler cannot handle the special request of selecting a different facility for the conflict even though we have the ability to make it. We should either be able to change the one date at the initial time of scheduling OR have to schedule it separately. I hope this helps in understanding what we are going through out here in Scheduling World. And, we do want the option to schedule two or more events in one space, but we also want the program to alert us and be able to view conflicts, or an indicator that there is a conflict or possible pending event, in the different Calendar screens. Thank you for taking your time to reply, Karen, and to read through this.
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Adrienne Coerper

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Hi!  Sorry for the delay!  I do like what Virg has mentioned...i have also run into quite a few challenges trying to schedule things in grouped facilities. But in answer to your question, "Should the program not allow conflicts at all - you would have to resolve all conflicts at the time of scheduling. Would that be a desirable change to the program?" the answer is a big NO!

Most often I CANNOT resolve a conflict right when I am scheduling,  especially when doing the major annual scheduling - I just need to get both events in the system so it can alert me to the conflict. 

Most of the time I can't resolve a conflict right when I am in the middle of a scheduling process - I have to get back to the calendar view to look for another appropriate room for them, and look at the surrounding events for the day/time, contact the group, wait for the group to respond, see if they are willing or able to move, wait for the group to respond again, etc. 

I like the general way conflicts works now -  in fact, we NEED to be able to schedule conflicts on purpose - for instance, our daily schedule in the Church flows from one morning event to another and starts with:

Prayer Group at 6:00am-6:15am
6:30am-7:00am Mass (with 15 min setup and 15 min cleanup, so 6:15am - 7:15am really)
Daily Adoration from 7:15am - 8:30am
Daily Morning Rosary going on during the same time from 7:50am - 8:15am
8:30am-9:00am Mass (with 15 min setup and 15 min cleanup, so 8:15am - 9:15am really)
Divine Mercy Prayer group from 9:15am-9:30am
as well as a Church Cleaning going on from 9:15am - 5pm (she just comes in an cleans all day in-between on going events)

but since all these groups have shared start and end times, we get conflict alerts on all of them, we would have to make some of these events end at 0:14 instead of 0:15, etc.  to avoid this, but that doesn't work on the Masses since they also have setup and cleanup times listed too, so they will always be conflicting with something.  It would actually be nice to mark certain events like these as "non-conflicting" so they wouldn't show up in the LONG list of conflicts on a report, but that is a different issue....;-)

As I said, in general, I like the way conflicts works now -  what I don't like, is that once marked as a conflict, the event is also marked INACTIVE...essentially removing it from the calendar.   And if I mark 2 events to be rescheduled, they are both marked INACTIVE and then don't show up in my daily calendar at all....making the room look as if it is available!  Events that are marked inactive should still show up but just be greyed out or a different color or something - they can't just be gone!  The checkbox features for INACTIVE and  NEEDS TO BE RESCHEDULED need to be independent of each other.

When I schedule something in a room that already has something in it, I get to the screen where I can choose how to resolve the conflict,  I most often just click "Schedule Both Ignoring Conflict" and then write down the conflict to go back and resolve later, that way they both stay active on my calendar and "on my radar", as well as having a backup "reminder" in the system that will pop up 14 days before the event if for some reason I do forget to resolve the conflict. 

I do check for availability before I schedule something - but if the new event is something that is a liturgy or ministry event that takes precedences over a recurring prayer group meeting that is already in the schedule for instance, I want to just get the new event scheduled, and then come back to work out the conflict.   

I need the system to alert me to these conflicts better and more easily.  I can run a Conflict Report daily or weekly, but I find these not very helpful - there are SO MANY conflicts on a report since there are overlapping start and end times, and setup/cleanup times, it is hard to weed out the events that actually need attention this way.  Just running a report on a 7 day period gives me a good 4-5 page report of conflicts to look at, and generally to make this conflict type report most useful I need to be looking about a month out at a time, so I have time to contact groups with events that require change, wait for response, reschedule events, etc., and so that they still have time to notify their attendees of the location or change in location, advertise the event in the bulletin, etc.

Thank you!!
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Karen Komlos, Official Rep

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Wow - you guys are terrific!  This is just the type of information I've been looking for.  Thank you so much!