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Applying innovation to teacher registration
"The cost per application is 66% less than the old system, and the efficiency levels significantly higher."Janiece Meagher, Director - Business Services, Victorian Institute of Teaching
Under Victorian law, teachers who want to work in a school or early childhood education and care service in the state of Victoria, need to register with the Victorian Institute of Teaching (VIT).
This independent statutory authority was set up in 2002 and its primary function is to regulate members of the teaching profession. VIT registers around 5,000 new teachers a year, and new or renewing registrants need to meet a range of criteria on an annual basis including professional learning, practice and undertake a National Police History Check every 5 years.
Too slow to register
In theory, the teacher registration process is straightforward. Unfortunately, VIT’s aging background technology and time-intensive manual workflows left frustrated applicants waiting for up to three months for the paperwork required to take up a teaching position.
VIT had used a Microsoft CRM 4 .NET environment to support their registrations management for nearly a decade. In that time, the amount of development work done to improve how it supported VIT’s workflows had been minimal. It ran on outdated hardware and desperately needed a major injection of time to bring it up to date.
“VIT’s functions and processes had evolved over a period of time and were very hands-on and slow,” says Bruce Lawrence, Technical Project Manager for VIT. “CRM 4 supported those manual processes, including how we undertook identity checking and fraud detection. We had no transparency of where an application was up to in the pipeline, and lots of concerned calls from graduates about the time it was taking to process their registrations. We had a call centre dedicated to managing their expectations.”
The Institute was in a technology rut, and the delays in registration were putting a dent in their reputation.
The TERI evolution
Then in 2016, an innovative team within VIT came up with an idea for a new online portal to replace the old .NET solution - TERI (Teacher Electronic Records Information).
“TERI was an opportunity to immediately revolutionise the way we managed some of the registration processes,” says Lawrence. “It would allow us to use the digital verification service (DVS) from the Australian Attorney-General's Department and have integration points with literacy and numeracy test results, as well as accept graduates’ My eQuals information. We’d use the web to access lots of different functions that we had traditionally handled manually.
“We adopted the principle of - if there is already a solution in place for finding the information that we need to process an application, then we will use it.”
We really appreciated Fusion5’s responsiveness and their commitment to us and our vision.Janiece Meagher, Director - Business Services, Victorian Institute of Teaching
A responsive partner
While the VIT team joke that they pulled names out of a hat, they made the choice to partner with Fusion5 at the end of a rigorous evaluation and selection process.
Janiece Meagher, Director - Business Services for VIT led the project team of three aided by VIT staff, Bruce Lawrence and David Taylor, Manager Business Architecture and Service Management, and Fusion5’s Microsoft Dynamics team.
Fusion5 (formerly known as Myriad IT) had collaborated with VIT previously to develop a case management solution based on the Microsoft Dynamics CRM cloud platform. VIT saw the result as the perfect low-risk base to overlay with the TERI proof-of-concept portal.
“This proved to be a viable decision,” says Lawrence. “Fusion5 extended the platform to include the next generation portal functions we wanted to manage the complete teacher life cycle.”
VIT were keen to continue the relationship. “We really appreciated their responsiveness and their commitment to us and our vision,” says Meagher.
Taking an agile approach to innovation
Meagher’s team and Fusion5 worked exceptionally hard to get the proof-of-concept up and running in just 16-weeks. Fusion5’s solution turned the VIT team’s business vision into a workable application for an October 2016 go-live.
“It was a Herculean effort all round,” says Meagher, “and Fusion5 pulled out all the stops to meet our deadline."
“For the first time in VIT’s history, we took an agile approach to an SDLC (systems development life cycle). The whole build and test cycle was absolutely brand new to us. A significant by-product of the process has been the skill and people development within the organisation.”
Just as the proof-of-concept was nearing completion, there was a significant change in government legislation. Using an agile approach paid off again and the teams made the necessary changes before the legislation rolled out.
“To mitigate the risks the old solution presented, we decided to pilot and trial an innovative approach to the whole registration process, with a view to making efficiency gains within the VIT broader context,” says Lawrence. “As it was a very ambitious project, we limited it to a proof-of-concept approach and selected Deakin University, University of Melbourne and Monash University for as our test group.”
The TERI trial was not only highly efficient, but resource-effective. It took just three people to manage application queries coming in through TERI, while the business-as-usual team needed 20 staff to manage the registrations from the five universities using the old CRM. And those same three people were able to roll out the entire solution delivery – conducting UAT, documentation, release management and internal project meetings during the busy Christmas period.
Ironically, the TERI team also handled calls from applicants who were worried because, as their registration had been approved so rapidly, their notification email was probably a hoax.
Getting to know you
Under the old system, identity checking involved a lengthy process where applicants’ certified documents, such as their passport, had to be posted to VIT. The documentation was manually reviewed, verified as accurate and appropriately certified, scanned and uploaded to the records management system before the approval process could begin. This manual checking could take anything up to 6 weeks.
But because TERI is directly integrated to DVS, applicants only need to submit details of proof of identity documents through the portal. The whole verification part of the registration process is now completed in a matter of hours.
Secure, seamless and transparent
Meagher has conducted 3 surveys to date and says results give TERI an unequivocal ‘thumbs up’ from their applicants. “100% of the survey recipients said that their information was secure. The online form requires them to submit sensitive information like name, address, credit cards, drivers licence, passports - yet through the user experience, they all felt that their information was safe.
“62% of those we surveyed said that they didn’t need to have any personal contact with VIT, and the online application process was completely seamless and transparent. Given the ‘before’ picture, that’s a really significant metric.
“We’ve moved from a system where you touch everything, to a system where now we only touch the exceptions.”
The ease of use and transparency reduced the overall number of calls made to VIT’s call centre in January 2018 by 24% compared with the same period in 2017, and the number of graduate enquiries approximately halved.
A transparent view
VIT can now produce real-time metrics to demonstrate how well TERI is performing, validating the vision of the innovative team behind it. And they have a 360-degree view of the registration pipeline, so can see where all and any applications are at a glance.
By eliminating the paper-based processes, the risk of losing documentation, and incorrectly transcribing applicants’ personal data into the CRM, has disappeared. Graduates enter their own details into the self-service portal, so there’s no double handling of information. Multi-contact points for the same application (for example a graduate making contact, communication about a DVS record, an email back to the applicant asking for more detail) are now centrally recorded and outstanding tasks allocated, tracked and managed.
“Our history tells us that using a case management application view causes bottlenecks,” says Lawrence, “so with TERI we’ve moved to a task view. We’ve broken the process into constituent tasks, so each of the team members can work on a series of ‘like’ tasks and it’s easy to see their progress though those jobs. This is the new TERI system. Before, the team manager could only see a pile of paper waiting to be processed without any idea of what was outstanding, or why.”
The level of transparency TERI provides means applicants can monitor the status of their registration request via the online portal. It’s envisaged that, in time, a general enquiries line will eventually be the only thing needed to handle direct phone calls from graduates.
To ‘sell’ the cost and efficiency value of the project to staff and management who were hesitant to adopt a new registration solution, Meagher commissioned an independent audit of TERI’s outcomes. The audit of the proof-of-concept was carried out by RSM Australia Pty, a network of independent accounting and consulting firms and published in April 2017.
RSM reported a cost of $108.53 to process a single application using the old CRM, and just $37.38 using TERI. *
*The cost was calculated using the Activity Based Costing methodology which considers the direct cost of activities performed by staff in relation to processing graduate applications for the period between 4 October 2016 and 31 January 2017.
RSM also assessed the efficiency of the two systems to measure the start-to-finish processing time based on working days. Even at the test stage, TERI averaged 33 days and an optimum time of 3 days. The average time achieved by the old system was 57 days, and the optimum - 7 days.**
**Based on a sample testing of 12 applications processed by each system between 4 October 2016 to 31 March 2017.
“An independent audit was the most conclusive way to back up how effective the solution was,” Meagher says, “and the results deemed the proof-of-concept a success. The cost per application using TERI is 66% less than the old system, and the efficiency levels significantly higher.”
And to top it off, a focus group run as part of the audit noted that the participants enjoyed a better experience with TERI than the old system.
Designer for fast learners
TERI alleviates resourcing woes by simplifying the training given to registration processing officers. The old paper-based system was so complex that a new staff member could take up three months to learn all the ins and outs.
The TERI team’s vision was for a CRM function placed in the background of the solution, so staff wouldn’t need any CRM experience to use it. “From the outset we wanted TERI to present all users with a portal view which was intuitive and simple to use. This approach let us bring in new resources and have their work 100% error free within four days,” says Meagher. “This alone has been a resounding success.”
TERI is designed to be multi-tenanted, which means other teacher training organisations can share the platform. Or VIT can offer to fully manage the entire process on their behalf.
Future innovation plans include developing a registration e-card to replace the current printed ones. Being electronic, the e-cards can be updated online, saving the need to reprint and reissue them.
Meagher says that VIT is the only state running a cloud-based registration platform and is proud that VIT is leading in this space. “We can now register teachers within 48 hours. And best of all, this is the new ‘normal’, not an exception.”
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