2020 - The Year That Was

2020 - The Year That Was

Every year I write a summary of the year that has been, and this year is no different. However, when detailing this year’s events, several expletives could come to mind, but the acronym WTF will do just nicely.

In January, Parashift’s board approved a new three-year strategic plan, and it ended up being one of the shortest-lived three-year plans in history. For March, and due to COVID-19, a new straightforward plan was enacted: survive. And with many tough decisions and a lot of hard work, Parashift not only survived, we thrived.

In 2020, we grew our customer base, maintained a customer retention rate above 95%, achieved cash flow positivity and look to return a small but respectable profit. Parashift was tested like never before, and we come out of the year battled hardened and can declare with a loud voice: we’re here to stay!

Before the year's chaos, in late January, Desline Simon begun as Parashift’s Technical Lead. All the way from France, Desline was tasked to increase our technical depth, partner with Australian universities and expand our usage of AI. With a Masters in Computing Science and a background in AI-based computational linguistics, Desline brings an international flavour and a set of highly specialised skills.

Along with the rest of Australia, Parashift went into lockdown in March. We quickly adopted a work from home strategy and found the technology side was the easy bit. The larger challenge was managing the human factors with all the uncertainty being faced. During this month, I have never used the word “unprecedented” so many times in my life.

Parashift moved swiftly to support our staff, we extended sick leave entitlements to all employees regardless of tenure should they contract COVID. Thankfully, no one has to date and as a cure begins to be rolled out in the UK and US, it is my hope our luck continues.

In April, we launched the new Parashift website, which can be found here. A beautifully polished website communicating our culture, history and future direction. It showcases our loyal customers and the products we provide.

We launched SchoolBench Mobile™ in June, an easy-to-use app for both Apple and Android devices. The app turns a personal mobile device into a workplace camera. When photos are taken using the mobile app, they are partitioned from the other apps (including the camera roll), and then securely sent to the customer’s SchoolBench system.

In July, and after seven long years, Peter Lesty, Parashift’s Technical Director, and one of the three founders, decided it was time. So, with a mix of sadness, pride and best wishes, we said goodbye. Peter was the original architect of SchoolBench and leaves behind a product that continues to grow and provide value to an increasing number of schools across Australia and New Zealand.

Speaking of SchoolBench, our flagship product, we launched the new SchoolBench website also in July. With integrations to our CRM and Support Portal, and use of elegant imaging and simple to understand language, the website communicates the never-ending journey of SchoolBench. If you have not visited it yet, you can visit the site by simply clicking  here.

In September, we expanded our footprint in Social Media, showcasing quick tips and longer form 'how to manage' the various stages of the media lifecycle. SchoolBench now has a growing presence on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. With new content regularly added, it’s an excellent resource for self-helpers. To follow, click on these links and hit the follow button.  Instagram Facebook YouTube

In November, we launched the second version of the SchoolBench Mobile™  app, with a new user interface based on customer feedback. We also added bulk image management capabilities. And this is only the beginning...

In December, we finalised SchoolBench Portal™, which is now ready for release in early January, and well before the start of the new school year. SchoolBench Portal replaces the current Parent Portal with a fresh new design. Designed to be accessed inside a school's existing LMS, SchoolBench Portal aims to be a seamless experience for users. With eCommerce capabilities, SchoolBench Portal also enables schools to sell their photo library to the parent community if they wish.

So as I sign off, I once again take this opportunity to thank all staff, customers and other stakeholders for their contributions in what has been a very challenging year. With the festive season soon approaching, being surrounded by family and loved ones, it will be a nice end to what has been a trying year. This year has taught us all what truly matters in life, so enjoy your family, friends and that bevy of food and drink that awaits.

Merry Christmas and may 2021 be a much better year for everyone.

Kieren Fitzpatrick