Ultranet gone…so what now for Victorian schools?

Information and communication technology is rapidly changing in design, development methods, accessibility, mobility; and with all this, the expectations of our end users and customers are being redefined. The grand and ambitious desires of pumping money into one development basket (e.g. $180M Vic School Ultranet), specifying requirements, putting out a tender and building a software solution is becoming a thing of the past for businesses and schools. The option to ‘adopt’ existing cloud services and solutions is ever appealing, as services continue to pop up providing flexibility, portability and connectedness near impossible to achieve through any custom-built service.

In the past we were reliant on technical experts to custom build and implement solutions to resolve our everyday business problems, but this approach is largely problematic due to the time, cost and effort involved in identifying and specifying requirements and the often insular, non-scalable and business-centric enterprise solutions that evolve from such a process. The Victorian School Ultranet, coming in at $180M, is a very good example of the failed process, highlighting the problem with the traditional specify/tender/build process. The ambition of this project undermined the outcome, resulting in a complex system which ultimately failed to meet the needs of the end users and was subsequently decommissioned before taking off.

Thankfully, technology has come a long way since the Ultranet was first conceived. Schools now have the opportunity to adopt existing Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions, to solve existing pain problems that the Ultranet was attempting to solve. The solutions in the marketplace today offer the flexibility, portability and connectedness that the original Ultranet stakeholders were dreaming of.

The ‘adoption’ rather than ‘build’ method enables schools and business to rapidly (and often drastically) change existing processes to remove existing pain points from both the business and customer. Adoption of a new SaaS service is relatively simple, require minimal training and cost relative to an in-house build, with mobility outcomes that would be difficult to achieve with any custom enterprise solution.

So what is out there for schools to adopt now that the Ultranet is gone?

A lot of hype exists around social platforms and social intranets.  These platforms provide some options for schools, but in terms of communication workflow, they do not provide schools and parents with the control necessary for effective two-way home/school communications. This is particularly apparent when considering the need to collect consent and responses to personal information such as medical details.

We only need to look a little further to begin to identify other services that provide the framework of a social network, with the workflow of a school management system.  This combination presents the school and parent with a very enticing proposition.

Beyond the social intranet and network

A new service on the SaaS market, Signmee (www.signmee.com), provides schools (and business) with a ‘single endpoint’ for all users including teachers, administrators, committee members, parents, carers, community and students.  Signmee achieves the ‘single personalised portal’ effect that the Ultranet was trying to achieve, connecting any parent with any school using the same platform.

The signmee network

A school creates a Signmee business account, used for creating and sending communications to Signmee contacts (parents, teachers, community).

Parents are invited to connect to schools using Signmee. They create a personal Signmee account to manage and store any Signmee communications.

Importantly, when a parent receives a communication from a school, the parents sign in to Signmee, not the school. From Signmee, parents have access to all the communications via a single Inbox (similar to an email inbox). From this single Inbox, parents can receive/respond/sign/pay for items related to multiple children, associated with multiple schools.

Signmee service

From the schools perspective, they are linked to a parent’s Signmee account, and have the ability to send and monitor all responses between home and school. The only customisation a school needs to worry about is the letterhead, which can be created in minutes, stored and reused.

Signmee schools using Signmee:

  • Know who is planning to send a communication
  • Know when the communication was sent and by who
  • Know who the communication was sent to
  • Know when it was opened and by who
  • Know what the response was
  • Know they can contact a parent in an emergency using the Signmee channel
  • Alert parents via SMS and email
  • Monitor, view, store, archive and dispose of responses
  • Generate automated reports

Signmee parents using Signmee:

  • Access communications from a single Signmee Inbox (rather than multiple log ins for different students and different schools)
  • Retain a copy of ‘all’ communications and transactions (responses, payments, signatures) for future reference
  • Know what is going on at school
  • Know that the school knows what is going on at home

The adoption of services such as Signmee present a new customer focused workflow for schools, addressing the pain points of existing paper based and traditional communication channels. Signmee offers parents a flexible, personalised channel to access communications from various parties, addressing the often neglected needs of one of the most important stakeholders for all schools.

Before embarking on a new custom-build, it would pay to look very closely at the accessible SaaS services available, ready to use and game-changing for the way schools/business engage with parents/customers/staff.

Leave a Reply