Schools and universities generally have more complex IT environments than standard offices, with multiple overlapping applications, on and off-premise infrastructure, and platforms needed to support a wide range of overlapping objectives. These include digital learning delivery models, student apps, information portals, BYOD management, and specialist course support tools, which can be anything from 3D printing to robotics training or mathematical modeling.
How can effective cloud-based communications help you streamline operations and cut costs, while also supporting advanced learning agendas?
Balancing innovation and cost priorities through effective communications.
Cloud-based technologies have emerged as a key tool for educators in streamlining operations to support academic outcomes.
SaaS based communications suites can be implemented quickly and affordably, allowing schools to digitize and move messaging processes away from high-cost, inefficient channels. Examples include connecting to collections software and contacting parents regarding fee balances via automated SMS, rather than manual calls, or mailing paper statements.
Best-in-breed communications suites can be used to manually create messages or can be connected to an organisation’s existing IT platforms and databases to trigger automated messaging flows. These can be sent to multiple devices (laptops, mobiles, tablets, etc) and on multiple channels, such as SMS, email, social media, Rich Messaging, RSS Feeds, and voice calls.
Message receipt can be tracked, and recipients are able to respond appropriately to the situation. For example, an SMS-based workflow can be created which sends an automated message to all parents to request volunteer assistance for an upcoming school event, with a Rich Message containing all relevant details, and the option to directly respond yes or no. If insufficient volunteers are received by a certain point, the next stage in the workflow would be to automatically notify organizers to start manual contact, as needed.
This allows institutions to move from mass notifications which struggle to generate cut-through, to tailored information, targeted appropriately to the audience, designed to inspire action, and avoid messaging fatigue.
Modern communication suites can help fuel an innovation agenda by streamlining a range of operational communications, and programmatically transforming the underlying business processes.
Strategic IT Service Management communications
Modern communication systems, connected to IT monitoring platforms, can deliver information targeted to the needs of the audience, at the appropriate time, and the device of choice, whether this is tablet-accessible dashboards or interactive mobile messages for ITSM responders. Well-structured ITSM communications should include:
Executive dashboards for easily viewed system-wide information;
SMS or interactive Rich Messaging for urgent action to responders
Automated advisory notices for system users of planned outages and maintenance downtime
Self-service capabilities for staff to change their levels of notifications
Automating these messaging processes lowers the risk of people making mistakes when communicating under pressure, and also frees up IT staff to work on higher value-added services.
Institution-wide operational communications
The widespread adoption of mobile phones – there are more than 7.5 billion devices on the planet, and over 3.65 billion unique global mobile users – makes these a logical centerpiece for streamlined communications, including:
- Internal Communications:
Mobiles provide workforce management for a range of functional areas, such as IT and Human Resources departments. Options include delivering school announcements, providing IT system updates, sending account authentication and password reset information, timesheet processing, and critical notifications. Common examples include:
Rapid dissemination of critical OH&S updates;
Scheduling & rostering;
Substitute teachers - quickly contacting replacement teaching staff based on skills, curriculum specialization, location, and availability;
Event notifications and reminders; and
Proactively communicating planned or unplanned IT outages to students, faculty and staff
- Parent Communications:
Leveraging mobiles also allows academic institutions to cut costs associated with ongoing communications to parents, such as:
Event notifications and reminders;
Term start dates;
Notification of PT meetings;
School fee payment reminders;
Library fines; and
Childcare payment reminders
- Parent/Student Information Portals:
RSS feeds can be connected to other internal databases or IT systems, and external information sources, to provide an automatically updated central campus news service. This could include exam schedule updates, weather alerts, upcoming social or sporting events, or any other news the institution wants the community to stay alerted to.
With these building blocks in place, the next step in extracting maximum value from communications platforms is planning and automating the underlying processes.
Check back next week as we tackle messaging process improvement, and outline a series of practical steps you can take to move to communications automation.