What is a pivotal date?


The pivotal date is a really important concept on Senta and you'll see it mentioned from time to time.


So, as you may know already, a Job is a collection of Tasks. Each Task can be configured either with start and end dates, or without. If they don't have start and end dates on them, then Senta will start all of the Tasks the moment the Job is used.


This is okay for some Jobs, but usually you'll want to use start and end dates to make sure that Senta knows exactly when a Task has to be started and finished by.


All of the start and end dates are calculated relative to a date, and we call this the pivotal date. For example, you can tell a Task to start 3 days before the pivotal date, or two weeks after the pivotal date, and so on. You can do this using date offsets.


The pivotal date can be set up in one of two ways:

  • When you kick off an ad hoc job, you set the pivotal date manually
  • When you create a Service, you set the pivotal date around which the jobs will recur. This could be based on a fixed date, or the date filled in on a form, for example:



When Senta comes to use this Service and kick off the Job, it looks for the pivotal date and starts the Job with it. So, then, Senta has everything it needs to set the start and end dates on each Task. 


How do I set the pivotal date for a Job?


You may find that there are various dates you could choose, but mostly there is a date that makes most sense to use. Often, a workflow is a series of tasks that have to be done before some deadline, so it makes sense to use that as the pivotal date.

 

For example, suppose you are having a birthday party. You know when that date is, and you know that everything has to be ready for the party, so it makes sense to use the birthday as the pivotal date. Then, you can start your various tasks however many days before. If everything goes to plan, your party goes ahead on the correct day


  1. Invite your friends: 1 month before

  2. Bake a cake: 4 days before

  3. Buy some food and drink: 3 days before

  4. Choose music: 2 days before

  5. Decorate your house: 1 day before

  6. Have party: on the day

As you can see, with your birthday as the pivotal date, and tasks with their date offsets, Senta knows exactly when everything has to be completed.

 

Date offsets don't have to be before the pivotal date either. Here's an alternative workflow for your birthday party:


  1. Invite your friends: 1 month before

  2. Bake a cake: 4 days before

  3. Buy some food and drink: 3 days before

  4. Choose music: 2 days before

  5. Decorate your house: 1 day before

  6. Pick up glasses: 1 day before

  7. Have party: on the day

  8. Return glasses: 1 day after

  9. Write thank you notes: 3 days after

In this case, some of the tasks are set to take place after the pivotal date.

 

As you can see, there's a lot of flexibility and choosing a logical pivotal date does make things simple to work with.

 

When the deadline isn't the right pivotal date

 

Sometimes, the “deadline” isn't the right choice for a pivotal date. For example, suppose you want to do a Job where there are fixed and variable dates in it, like a partnership tax return. In this case, the partnership's year end can be any date, and yet the tax return needs to be completed by the same date every year.

 

In the UK, that date is 31st Jan following the end of the tax year in which the partnership's year ends.

 

In this case, it might seem that because the deadline is 31st Jan it would make sense to make that the fixed pivotal date. Certainly that would work:


  1. Warn client about upcoming tax return due date: 2 months before 31st Jan

  2. Ask client to upload books: 1 month before 31st Jan

  3. Complete accounts: 2 weeks before 31st Jan

  4. File return: 1 week before 31st Jan

  5. Instruct client that return filed

However, it may be better to set the pivotal date to be the client's year-end date. This gives you the ability to write to them about that and get them to do some immediate tasks:


  1. Tell client that their year end has finished: 0d after year-end

  2. Ask client to get their documents together relating to the year-end: 1m after year-end

  3. Warn client about upcoming tax return due date: 2 months before the 31st Jan following tax year that year-end is in

  4. Ask client to upload books: 1 month before ...

  5. Complete accounts: 2 weeks before...

  6. File return: 1 week before...

  7. Instruct client that return filed

So, you can see that this gives more flexibility. However, this comes at the expensive of slightly more complex date offsets. You can find another article in the knowledge base all about using date offsets.