Enabling Innovation With an Inside Out Digital Transformation

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Explore Learning are a leading private tutoring provider with 145 centres across the UK. Talk Think Do helped Explore Learning embrace digital transformation with an inside out approach replacing key line of business applications. The pandemic however forced a tactical change that required new thinking.

The Beginning

Explore Learning don't have an in-house software development capability and were dependent on software as a service (SaaS) providers for key business systems. Their SaaS membership solution, managing billing, customer data and access control, was not an exact fit for their unique requirements and was causing a number of time consuming workarounds.

Talk Think Do architected a Microsoft Azure cloud native solution that would be designed around Explore Learning’s unique requirements, would give them full access to their data and would give them the option to own the intellectual property rights. Importantly it would support the elastic nature of huge activity spikes (after school hours) using Azure Kubernetes Services.

Suddenly the pandemic lockdown threatened the closure of over 140 locations and the potential furloughing of over 4000 staff. How could this newly architected solution meet this new challenge?

The Solution

Online conferencing tools to enable remote learning were evaluated but the most popular and obvious choices such as Teams and Zoom were quickly discounted. They required client downloads, and despite screen sharing capabilities couldn't be embedded into the teaching environment effectively. Vonage was the answer.

Vonage was trialed and the excellent API tools made integration into the teaching system straightforward. Video quality is impressive across all common browsers and even low bandwidths supported, scaling down elegantly to audio only if necessary. This rapid integration into the existing system allowed the tutoring ratio's to be maintained online while mimicking the dynamic classroom environment.

Once the pilot was running, we provided PowerBI to the finance team which gave them significantly more insight into centre operations than had been possible before and, with very little training, immediately enabled them to develop their own analysis and reporting. We then worked with an agile delivery process to develop the solution with new features and optimise the existing features based on real world feedback. We worked with the finance team to build automated billing and payment systems that replaced the previous semi-manual processes.

 

The Results

Explore Learning are delighted that staff could be retained during lockdown and the 'fearless learning' programme could continue to support families during the lockdown. The new online offering has proven so popular that, despite the reopening of the classrooms, a third of clients use the online offering exclusively while the remainder use a mix of both in-class and online learning.

Now fully rolled-out across both ecosystems the system is actively managed and supported by us. With Explore really feeling the benefit, we have an ongoing agile delivery process developing the membership system and are actively engaged in evolving more key systems to enhance customer engagement.

The flexibility and quality of the solutions, built on a strategic Azure cloud native approach, mean that Explore Learning are unbound by physical learning centres and can offer more flexible solutions to a whole new client base. Since Explore Learning own the online learning code they have business resilience and a unique solution in the marketplace.

Industry Recognition

In October 2021 Talk Think Do and Explore Learning won the UK Business Tech Transformation Through Technology award for Compass at Home against strong competition.

The judges recognised the huge transformational effect the technology had enabled and the level of technical expertise and innovative design that supported it.

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