Digital transformation stewardship in the education sector at Only About Children

Digital transformation stewardship in the education sector at Only About Children

Only About Children (Oac) CIO Andy Luiskandl details Oac’s digital-powered transformation benefitting children, families and team members and highligh...

The work of digital transformation is often said to be capable of rejuvenating a business, taking it from stuck-in-its-ways adulthood to the dynamism of youth. Embodying the youthful side of this equation, Only About Children (Oac) is an early learning and childcare provider with more than 70 campuses across Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane catering for 0-6 year olds. Andy Luiskandl is Chief Information Officer (CIO) at the business, guiding Oac’s transformation journey at a time of rapid growth.

“The business has grown substantially over the last 12 months, virtually doubling in size,” says Luiskandl. “When I arrived last year, we were halfway through onboarding 25 campuses, and since then another six have joined the group. At each campus we have a Campus Director, educators and team members who educate and care for the children. Oac has more than 11,000 children in its care. With parents and extended family as well, we have close to 100,000 people, give or take, who are engaging with Oac digitally.”

In line with the breadth of change in the ever growing organisation, two major transformational initiatives went into full gear shortly after Luiskandl joined: the transition of Oac’s ERP system (QikKids) to the Cloud – including the rollout of new customer-facing apps – and the implementation of a Cloud-based workforce management system (Ento), as well as several smaller projects.

From the outset it was clear that Oac’s digital transformation – or ‘digital-powered transformation’ as Luiskandl prefers to call it – would touch on everything Oac does, and that success would depend on several critical success factors including:

  1. Ensuring organisational ownership and leadership across all levels, from the CEO down and from the educators caring for the children up;
  2. A robust approach to project and change management, supported with good governance and assurance, and the timely acquisition of skills critical to successful execution;
  3. IT stepping-up to take a broader role partnering with senior stakeholders and teams to navigate Oac through the inevitable challenges, something that Luiskandl terms ‘transformation stewardship’;
  4. Balancing the many demands of digital-powered transformation with the realities of ensuring quality day-to-day operations and service delivery in parallel.

The transformation had to be delivered efficiently, quickly and smoothly, expectations that Luiskandl also had to deal with in previous roles working on tight budgets. Overarching all the above was to make sure that the many changes were ultimately delivering on the promise to better scale and transform the ‘Oac Way’ – a set of core beliefs and a structured model to deliver inspired, high quality early education.

Anna Learmonth, Oac’s CEO, explains: “Everything Oac does is to empower every child to reach their full potential through a passion for learning. This also goes beyond education and encompasses the health and total wellbeing of every child in our care. Our transformation had to deliver on that promise. I am pleased to say that the team has achieved this and the benefits of our transformation are already measurable, and frankly impressive. Our people, programs and partnerships were all key to that.”

As Oac’s transformation unfolded, existing and new technology vendor relationships had to scale-up, and fast. For example, to ensure a robust approach to transformation execution and assurance, Oac engaged Quay Consulting to provide project and change management support. “Quay has in many ways been the ‘first amongst equals’ vendor relationship,” says Luiskandl. “The way they engaged with us proved successful.”

Internal business improvements gained through transformation are only one side of the coin, and Oac has seized the opportunity to implement measures that improve the experience of children and their families. According to Kathryn Hutchins, Oac’s Customer GM: “An important part of Oac’s transformation was to upgrade our ERP system, QikKids. Whilst the platform didn’t change too much, without downplaying the complexity transitioning a heavily-customised and internally-hosted ERP system to a more vanilla Cloud one, we used the opportunity to roll-out new family apps to improve the customer experience, namely Enrol, Family Lounge and Storypark.” With Enrol, the process to enrol a child at an Oac campus is facilitated digitally, streamlining the process. With Family Lounge, parents can easily book children in for unscheduled care. “Families are able to book what we call ‘casual days’,” Kathryn explains. “For example, as a parent you may need to enrol your child for an extra day. With Family Lounge, if a place is available you can book it digitally using the app. And with Storypark, our educators can engage in two-way communications with families, sharing children’s learning experiences and more. The uptake of all these new capabilities has exceeded expectations, our educators now have the tools they need, and we are raising the bar.”

Then there are Microsoft, Telstra and Genysis which supported Oac to scale-up workforce productivity tools, as well as enhancing the network that connects Oac’s more than 70 campuses including VoIP-based telecommunications. “From 150 users we scaled to 2,500 users who now have access to Microsoft Office 365, with faster Internet speeds and more robust networking and telecommunications.” Luiskandl says. “There is more to do, but we now have a good foundation to use these tools across the whole business. We are now using SharePoint to collaborate digitally, and we also pushed the envelope when it comes to data analysis and visualisation using Microsoft PowerBI.”

Finally, there is Ento, a new vendor relationship for Oac. Craig Talberg, Oac’s Operations GM explains: “Our Ento workforce management initiative touches pretty much everything workforce-wise. Rostering and scheduling, time and attendance, team member on-boarding and so forth is now supported with a mobile app on iPads and smartphones at all campuses. Ento also supports facial recognition to make things easier and faster for people, also considering how busy work can be at a campus. As well, the use of AI capability is enabling our business to align and operate more closely with the children, so we are better able to provide outstanding education and care.”

This sense of a journey informs the culture Luiskandl strived to nurture as the transformation unfolded. “Oac has historically been innovative when it comes to technology, and the business will continue to innovate to better deliver on its customer promise and meet stakeholder expectations. As CIOs we are temporary stewards who support people as the digital-powered transformation journey unfolds. Our responsibility is ultimately to those that will take over from us, making sure the business is in the best possible condition – certainly when it comes to technology.”

Another plank of the transformation was cybersecurity and the development of the IT Team. “From low cybersecurity scores including FICO and Microsoft Secure Score, we are now in much better shape.” says Luiskandl. “We know that 100% security is unachievable, but we are pushing onwards and upwards.” As for the IT team, Scott Bennett, Oac’s longest-serving IT team member, reflects: “We have never been in a better position than now. The last 12 months were quite a ride, and we have landed in a good place.”

In his role as CIO, Luiskandl sees the opportunity to leverage transformation to guide wider improvements across an enterprise, and to raise the bar for people coming together to achieve results. “When I was on-boarded there was an opportunity to better align the IT Team with the rest of the business, and vice versa. The conversation became: ‘let's work together and support each other to make this a success.” Ultimately, Luiskandl sees a successful transformation as requiring the collaboration of every part of a business. “Everybody has to work together to succeed. IT can and should play a stewardship role provided the whole organisation walks the journey together. It's not good enough for just IT or another team to walk that journey or answer for it, everybody needs to.”

Oac’s digital transformation journey gives Luiskandl’s sentiments credence. Two major initiatives succeeded in positively touching the experiences of many, capability advanced all around and measurable results were delivered smoothly, all within a short timeframe and on a tight budget

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