Since arriving at Ivy College (now part of Scentia) in July 2014, Roger Burgess led a team that built a 100 per cent cloud environment from the ground up.
“We built it to scale infinitely,” says Burgess, who is now executive director, operations and technology at Scentia.
“I’ve chosen a whole lot of aggregation partners who are aggregating cloud solutions for me – whether it’s Office 365, Amazon Web Services, Interactive Intelligence telephony systems – there’s nothing that sits on-premise for our environment, it all sits out in the cloud,” he says.
In October last year, Ivy College merged with the Australian Institute of Management (AIM) and Training to form ‘Scentia’, a private education group of corporate and open training programs, vocational education and post-graduate higher education.
When the new Scentia group was formed, a wholesale review of the technology environment was undertaken. AIM historically operated under a distributed business model with each state a separate entity trading under one brand.
In 2014, these entities were federated to become a national organisation with a leadership team based in Sydney. As a result, AIM was left with legacy technology that was developed in each state. This included datacentres, four public and private networks, several Active Directory domains, unmanaged cloud solutions, and legacy on-premise apps that were not fit to support more than 220 full time staff across Australia.
Scentia was attracted to Ivy College because it was a technology business delivering education, says Burgess.
“Their vision was that they wanted to digitise a 75-year-old brand and take the digital platform that Ivy was using,” he says.
Burgess put together a model for the board on how the business would be integrated, and with his team, they migrated AIM to the Ivy College platform. This has united the Scentia group with common processes and functionality for customers and internal staff.
As a result, the technology team was reduced from 28 to 12 staff and Scentia now employs an ‘IT success manager’ who purely manages partners. The remaining 11 technology staff focus on providing a better customer experience.
A single Active Directory is managed and monitoring with defined service levels, and one contact centre is fully integrated with Salesforce using ‘click to talk’, voice recording, screen pops and management reporting.
Burgess has also cut the number of vendors the organisation deals with from more than 80 vendors to less than 25, and deployed a private network that is fully managed with strict service level agreements.
Strong business outcomes
There’s now a Scentia technology platform supporting more than 300 users, and managers are using with confidence, says Burgess.
The group is progressively moving towards one way of operating in centralised functional teams; staff now operate anywhere and at any time using activity-based working across the country. This initiative alone has enabled the organisation to release 1500sqm of property in Brisbane this year.
Scientia is also leveraging a ‘pay as you scale’ approach across all technology assets due to the scalability of cloud and contracts that have been initiated by strategic partners across the board.
“The business is now able to guarantee a level of service to our internal and external customers that was never once possible,” says Burgess.
“Integration across all platforms is now complete, reducing several systems to access to any one time to retrieve information on our customers. We now have a single view of a student within our Salesforce instance, aggregating information from our student management, learning management, and NetSuite systems.”
Scientia has developed a three-year business strategy that is renewed on a 12-month rolling basis. The underlying technology strategy is embedded inside this.
The business strategy has four key themes: diversification; people and technology as key drivers of success; flexibility and support as key drivers of graduate and employment outcomes; and disruption and innovation.
Each of these themes have tactical technology imperatives that are defined in a 12-month plan. The technology team is held accountable for delivering these imperatives, which forms the team’s key performance indicators.
Prior to the transformation, adding new students to the learning management system (LMS) and student management systems (SMS) was a manual process that would take anywhere from one day to one week with more than five staff processing enrolments. This is now an automated process that enables students to access learning material with 60 seconds.
Staff are also able to view the history of the student in one location, rather than needing to access multiple systems across the country to develop a profile. This has enabled the student support team to increase their support levels and progress monitoring without increasing headcounts.
“The average service level for the marking of assessments within AIM was 21 days from submission; the process was developed and integrated with the learning management system, bringing this time frame down to 72 hours,” says Burgess.
“Automation between the LMS and SMS also means that the risk of data errors through duplication of data entry has been removed. The assessment marking team has been restructured to deliver on these much improved turnaround times,” he says.
Education innovation at the highest level
In August, Ivy College achieved 2nd place in the 2016 AFR Most Innovative Companies list and is the top ranked education provider for the second consecutive year.
According to the AFR, the national completion rate for government-funded vocational education and training programs ranges from seven to 34 per cent and is declining year-on-year.
Ivy College developed a proprietary algorithm to predict students’ progression and graduation rates. The organisation uses this data to customise academic support provided to individual students.
As of a result of the predictive data generated and analysed from Ivy, the organisation was able to identify 33 support initiatives. Examples include online webinars, face-to-face progression boot camps and workshops, a call scheduling and reminder system for consultations, a notifications app for assessment deadlines and workshop dates, and an analytics dashboard to visualise progress.
There are other initiatives aimed at increasing student engagement and progression. A social engagement platform for online students to build peer to peer networks is being piloted; and targeted ‘at risk student’ support processes and services are being developed.
“We designed all of our platform and infrastructure to be customer-focused from day one,” says Burgess. “As an online learning business, the amount of data points we have is just phenomenal, including demographic information. If you look at what students have to submit in terms of personal information to be admitted to the course, you almost know down to their hair and eye colour.
“This is pretty exciting for us; if helps us build out a whole lot of information that helps support them better, which is what we do.”