We all know what 'streamlining' means. We all aspire to the principles. So my goal here is not to get on my soapbox and deliver the gospel according to Microsoft. For the purpose of this article I'm going to take it as 'read' that your RTO wants the benefits of an integrated solution with minimal duplication, minimal risk of data entry errors, accurate - fast - and reliable business processing, etc.... As we've come to learn from so many of those famous eat-healthy : drink-lots-of-water : lose-weight : get-fit programs, knowing something intellectually is no guarantee that you will gain the benefits.
You actually have to do something! More often than not that starts with new knowledge, insight and a little inspiration. What I really want to talk about is 3 Microsoft products that can work in concert with your student management system to help you access those 'holistic system' benefits. Before we move on I just want to deal with some Terminology.
Depending on what type of organisation you are, you may refer to your solution as a Student, Learning or Training Management System (SMS / TMS / LMS), or you may Simply call it your RTO Software. In fact, you may be a Training Provider, without being an RTO at all, e.g. the Training Services department of an enterprise delivering internal training and inductions to staff. TMS / LMS / SMS all have some unique features, but between them there is also a lot of functional overlap and similarity. It really doesn't matter what you call it.
These benefits apply equally across all definitions. So for the purpose of this discussion they will all be referred to as an SMS.
Most RTOs have had a compliant SMS in place since 2011 when it was more or less mandated in the AQTF 2010 Guidelines. Since then, the sector has been awash with change. We've seen the introduction of a National VET Regulator (ASQA), Standards for Registered Training Organisations, the release of AVETMISS 7 and 8, Total Vet Activity (TVA), countless RAPT versions, VET FEE Help's transformation to VET Student Loans, eCAFs, the roll out of the Unique Student Identifier (USI) and now the USI CAA all come into play. Couple that with any number of State level changes and the ongoing training package changes. In short we've experienced a tonne of unprecedented change and regulation.
Hopefully your SMS vendor has been successful in helping you to navigate through these changes and you've survived till now without too many battle scars. So what's the next step? In the heat of battle it's not always easy to maintain the vision of tranquil family life, Sunday afternoon picnics and overseas holidays. But let's step back for a moment and take in the scene: what about those business benefits you set out to achieve?
Remember? The ones you included in your last 4 business plans? I can understand why this might seem a low priority right now, given the shifting landscape, but like that home-and-contents-insurance policy, when you need it you really do need it.
3 New Microsoft hosted services that can really bring your vision to life
Quality Management SystemMicrosoft Office 365 with SharePoint Online delivers bags of highly relevant business benefits at a small monthly cost. Since it's hosted you have zero hardware and infrastructure costs and all the the benefits of a state-of-the-art business solution. A brief summarised list of enterprise services includes:
- Full suite of Microsoft Office products that work online, desktop, and on all mobile devices
- Both SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business - allowing you to access your MS Office documents anywhere on any device.
- Collaboration services so multiple people can work on same document at the same time and merge accepted contributions and changes.
- Team sites - enabling you to set-up SharePoint sites for each business unit, customer account, subject or discipline.
- Microsoft Skype for Business for webinars, screen sharing and virtual classrooms
- Microsoft Exchange Server and MS Outlook online / desktop / mobile devices for complete management of your corporate emails.
- Built-in services include: custom workflows, discussion groups, social media, lists, document libraries, blog sites, wikis, alerts, announcements, calendars, and surveys to name just a few.
- Add-Ons: Plus there are literally hundreds of industry specific add-ons, services and templates developed by Microsoft Application Development Partners and Microsoft themselves.
- Integration Services - This is the real benefit for RTOs and commercial training organisations! Because all the above power can be harnessed to your student management system extending it to a full-blown business solution, very cost effectively and with no IT / Hardware / Network costs or concerns. It is secure, reliable and highly relevant to all businesses, and when coupled with a compatible SMS it is especially relevant to your business and in helping you meet your obligations defined in the SRTO 2015. In summary this marriage delivers a state of the art Quality Management System (QMS) fully integrated with your Student Management System (SMS, LMS, TMS)
Your Hosting Platform
You've probably already heard of all the benefits of going for cloud based business solutions to get rid of IT headaches and unnecessary hardware support costs. But your cloud solution starts with a solid reliable hosting platform. The Internet today is a scary place where hackers and cyber criminals lie in wait, always ready to pounce on some poor unsuspecting websites with lots of precious and private student details. Data sovereignty and privacy concerns dictate that you want your data hosted in Australia. Studiocoast in Brisbane is a Microsoft Gold Hosting Solutions Partner with a long and trusted record for reliability, security and excellent customer support. Also in that category are the two new Microsoft AZURE data centres in Melbourne and Sydney.
Reports and Business Analytics
Microsoft Power BI - The world of Business Intelligence and Reporting is changing forever, right before your eyes. Complex data is easier to find, faster to access and better visualised in dashboards and reports than ever before. When I watch Criminal Minds (the criminal behaviourist TV drama), I have nothing but admiration for Penelope Garcia. While chatting away absentmindedly on the phone, with one hand twirling a toy and the other flying across her keyboard she manages to collate and relay vital data presented on multiple screens. In no time at all she comes up with a set of case-breaking detailed results. Well believe it or not, that is exactly what is now available to mere mortals like you and me. When asked simple plain-English questions like "Get me all the students who achieved competencies in advanced hair-dressing 308 in 2018", Power BI delivers the most detailed and comprehensive results in seconds. If you don't believe me have a look at this video. It describes how to get business intelligence and reports from your sales data. In this case, the example uses the well known CRM system Salesforce, but imagine this is data captured in your SMS. How powerful would that be? and the fact is - yes - it is entirely possible right now. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtKdE0ykU-Y
There are lots more services and products we will discuss throughout this series, but these are definitely worth consideration. I am really interested to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to leave a comment or complete our contact enquiry form.
Bruno Cozzi is the Managing Director and Systems Architect at Bluegem Software, based in Perth Western Australia. The company developed, markets and supports Bluegem TMS | LMS, a holistic solution designed for training organisations. Bluegem is a Microsoft Applications Development Partner, providing services in all the technologies discussed in this article.