Our daughter lives in Zurich and we have just returned from a week-long visit. This was our first visit to Switzerland and as with all holidays to new places I did my usual pre-holiday prep: buying, reading and sticking post-its in a Travel Guide (this time it was Lonely Planet’s Discover Switzerland) and googling stuff on the interweb. Once all this painstaking research had been carried out my usual next step would have been to draw up a detailed itinerary of things to do and places to visit on each day of the holiday. I still get gently mocked for the incredibly detailed itinerary I produced for our three week holiday of a lifetime to Orlando in 2006 (to the extent of noting the rides we would go on and the order we would do them in!). As it turns out we had a brilliant holiday and the only time the itinerary became a problem was on the day we decided to have a lie-in, ignore the timetable and just wing it. With the result that we hit Epcot with all the worst of the crowds and missed out on most of the fun stuff due to the lengths of the queues. AND it turned out that I could have saved myself some time and trouble producing an all-encompassing timetable of events as we had such a good time that we repeated our ‘holiday of a lifetime’ in 2007 and 2010.
So back to 2015 and Zurich (hang in there, there’s a point coming up any time now). This time, for some reason, I just didn’t have my usual enthusiasm for drawing up our holiday itinerary. Perhaps it was the confusion of not being able to decide which travel/rail/transport tickets were best value for 4 adults for a week when we wanted to travel within Switzerland but also to a couple of the neighbouring countries (country bingo being a thing with us). Then I had a light bulb moment, what the hell am I doing trying to put this together on my own? My daughter is living in Zurich and has a whole load of first-hand, on the ground knowledge which I should be tapping into. Cue a conversation in which I tentatively suggest she could perhaps help with researching and deciding what transport options we should use and what we should do while we were there. To my delight and relief she offered to take the whole thing off my hands and produce an itinerary for our week with prices and options included. Fast forward a few weeks and I receive an incredibly detailed list of suggested outings, journey, visits and fun stuff all beautifully and clearly laid out. There was the odd thing we objected to: we asked that ‘Hannah may provide snacks on your arrival’ be changed to ‘Hannah will provide snacks on your arrival’ but 99.9% of her itinerary remained unchanged and was embraced with enthusiasm by all. We trusted her because she had experienced some of the things on the list herself and she included all the stuff we told her we wanted to do (day trips to Liechtenstein and Germany – 3 countries in one holiday being a real novelty!) and were excited to experience new stuff together, like swimming in Lake Zurich (will it be really cold the husband wanted to know?? Answer: Not as bad as we expected but it still took a long time for him to gingerly make his way in).
Ok and now you have arrived at ‘the point’ (thank you for your patience). My whole analogy of ‘please produce an itinerary for me so I don’t have to think too much or do anything myself’ i.e. you need us to do everything for you, is not the way Flexi-Grant® has been designed. Sure we will hold your hand as much as you need through implementation and initial training and give you some excellent advice from our personal experience but once that’s over we want you to be able to manage and use Flexi-Grant® with as little help and support from us as possible. It has been designed that way. We have produced an incredibly detailed Knowledge Base for Flexi-Grant® (I should know, I’m in the process of proof reading the whole bloody, I mean fantastic, thing!) to help with each and every question you might have and show you how to use all the Flexi-Grant® features and get the most from them. It’s there for you and for any new staff you might take on. And if it’s not as helpful or as clear as it could be then let us know right away and we’ll improve it (I’m deadly serious about that; feedback from our clients using it will be invaluable for making the Knowledge Base a truly useful tool). Our aim is also to save you money. If down the line you want to set up new schemes and forms then we want you to be able to do it all yourself, not charge money doing it for you.
But we also have ‘Flexi’ in our name for a reason. It applies not just to the product itself but to the help and support we are prepared and happy to give. Some of you will need more ‘hand-holding’ than others, especially in the early stages of becoming familiar with your new GMS. You will appreciate our ‘local knowledge’ of the product and our help and guidance in making the right decisions on how you use it to maximum advantage. Others will require the minimum of input from us and we will rarely hear from you once you are up and running. Our goal is to help everyone to fall into the latter category (it’s our responsibility to make Flexi-Grant® user friendly enough to accomplish this regardless of the technical or other skills of those managing it). You won’t have to waste time calling us for support; we can get on with improving our product to give you even better features and functionality.
One of our Flex-Pert’s, Bob (a familiar voice on the end of the line for many clients), has guided people through their training and implementations and has this perspective on the way clients feel:
“Towards the end of an implementation some grant managers convey a sense of nervousness before publishing a grant, maybe the rest are just better at hiding it. All those weeks of discussion, planning, designing, building, configuring, training, and working so closely with members of our Implementation Team over meetings, visits, shared screens, phone calls, sometimes video calls, and always copious amounts of coffee. Maybe they are concerned that once all is said and done something will go wrong, that they might forget everything about Flexi-Grant® like a well-prepared student losing their s**t before an exam, and that the warm embrace of the Implementation Team will now become the cold shoulder of the ‘Go Away’ Team. This nervousness is always short lived. Grants go live, grant mangers kick away their stabilizers and cycle off to do a few laps of their Flexi-Grant® system, and if things get a bit shaky or unforeseen obstacles get in the way our comprehensive Knowledge Base and fantastic support team are always available to help get you back on track”.
Flexi-Grant® is designed to be used with the minimum of support but we know there are still improvements to be made (we think our GMS is great but as our goal is to produce the best online grant management software in the world, we readily acknowledge that we are not there yet). So, should you encounter difficulties in using Flexi-Grant®, should you wish to tap into some ‘on the ground, local knowledge’ and a little bit of hand holding then rest assured that we are very good at that too! To paraphrase, our trained operatives are ready and waiting for your call. Well, to be honest, they might be away from their desks getting a coffee and they might prefer that you use our dedicated support email so that all requests can be logged and tracked with ease but let’s not quibble over small details. We pride ourselves on being very responsive to our support requests. I guess in a perfect world with a perfect product (possibly operated by automatons because there is such a thing as…whisper it…user error) there would be no problems at all. We need to keep improving Flexi-Grant® to cut down on the ‘hand-holding’ post-implementation but absolutely be there when it’s needed. Which I firmly believe we are, on both counts.
And back to holidays, you might be interested to know (even if you’re not I will tell you anyway) that the itinerary worked out very well apart from moving around a few things to allow for local weather conditions (no-one wanted to jump in the lake once the temps dipped below 25 degrees!) and the semi-disaster of our daughter forgetting her passport for our day trip to Konstanz in Germany and not being able to come in case she got turned back at border control (turned out it was unmanned!). So, with holiday plans and implementations, flexibility and coping with the unexpected are part of the process.
I have now started my research for the next holiday, a 7 day one to Iceland (I could really just spend my time talking about holidays and nothing else but figured I might have trouble getting that past the ‘blog police’!). I’ve already drawn up a rough outline of activities and routes. Last night I wateched Born Survivors with Bear Grylls and Jack Gyllenhaal ‘surviving’ a couple of days in the Icelandic interior and it looked pretty grim (even Bear baulked at eating a rotting sheep corpse) so I need to make sure I don’t recreate that! In the extremely unlikely event that someone living in Iceland reads this, feel free to get in touch with some local knowledge. I’m worrying about how likely it is to fall down a crack on a glacier walk? Maybe even hand holding won’t be enough…