Now I cant say 100 percent that these SMS Vendors are incapable of supplying SMS solutions that fully comply with the VET sector reporting requirements, and I must preface this discussion by stating that it is an opinion based on theories and suppositions. At this point, there is no real evidence to support them.
However, given the size, difficulty and potential returns of the Australian VET Sector I would doubt that any serious multinational would pursue this market with the same vigor and tenacity that the existing Australian vendors do.
But I can tell you first hand, that in order for a software vendor operating in the Australian VET Sector to provide and maintain a compliant solution requires a lot of connections with industry bodies, registrars, face-to-face discussions with real RTOs, a willingness to customise and release regulatory changes without any expectation of funding, and a great deal of agility to respond to the frequently changing landscape.
AVETMISS has become the buzz-word for RTOs in the Australian VET landscape. While it is a very important aspect of reporting we all know that it is not the only requirement. So let's step in the shoes of a multi-functional or foreign software vendor for a few seconds and look out to the global market.
What data we have available to us:
- Australia - rich country, relatively unscathed by the global financial crisis
- Human Resource Management, Enterprise Business Systems - these are the international markets we serve - Australia needs these too.
- Training is really part of HR - and yes, we provide a training module too! (fallacy No 1 - but we'll come to that later)
- So wouldn't it be good if we could push our products in Australia
- Only one problem - most Australian companies who are serious about training are Registered Training Organisation (RTOs) and they have a huge reporting obligation
- The reporting obligation we have to overcome is "AVETMISS by NCVER" (fallacy No 2 - the industry knows that only too well)
- Its a small market, but if we can build in this AVETMISS thing we should be able to market in Australia
- Let's look at the NCVER website - fantastic I can download a very comprehensive copy of the reporting standard and they even provide on online test service
- This really doesn't look so bad after all - OK so I can invest in 2 developers for 4 to 6 months and build in AVETMISS reporting to the National standard without ever having to visit Australia. After 6 months we'll have a HR Solution that is compliant with the Australian VET Sector. And we can use this independent NCVER test tool to verify it. Great, that's a wrap!
Well this hypothetical chain of product development activities is not that far fetched. If the foreign software development house is keen to get into the Australian market that would be a very realistic approach.
However there are some roadblocks: For a foreign vendor of any reasonable size the market is just too small to get excited about. There are under 4000 active RTOs in Australia. Healthy and well-established local competition already provide excellent products, the cost of having to develop and support a complex reporting technology and the cost of having to do business in another country.
A smaller multi-national might be willing to push through the pain and overcome these barriers, at least initially, in order to capture the holy grail "that lucrative Australian training market". But those limitations are the ones the company knows about. Now let's talk about what it really takes to be a compliant vendor servicing the Australian VET sector.
- Attending multiple professional development seminars, workshops and conventions across the country.
- Talking to real RTOs in their daily operating environment.
- Uniquely identifying students in a new and teething national implementation.
- Being in constant communication with the regulators and industry bodies to ensure your SMS / LMS is ready for the inevitable round of changes.
- Recognising that not all RTOs report to the National regulator - many don't.
- So not only does a vendor have to comply with national standards, but also with State reporting standards. They're all different.
- Recognising and complying with the complex funding landscape across the country.
- Providing reports and planning documents that determine eligibility to obtain and maintain state and federal funding.
- Staying close to the constantly changing standards for RTOs and ensuring the product has the right tools, features, and workflow processes.
- Keeping tabs on nationally accredited training components and managing transition from superseded components.
- Meeting the genuine quality objectives of continuous improvement.
- Providing a framework that facilitates start up and continuing self audit programs.
- Treating training and learning as genuine human development processes in their own right and not just a sub feature of Human Resource management.
- Making a commitment to work with the sector's regulators, industry bodies and all participants towards ever improving outcomes.
- Understanding and complying with audit processes.
In summary, a vendor who is looking for a new market without being genuinely passionate about achieving profound and lasting outcomes for the Australian VET sector is unlikely to be around when their local markets improve or the going gets harder. If your goal as a profitable and viable RTO providing excellent training services for the long term you will no doubt want to partner with a vendor who shares that vision and those principles.