Independent Schools Funding System

  • Public Sector
  • Web
  • MS Dynamics

FreshWorks implemented a solution which allows the Ministry of Education to more easily administer funding, manage payments and perform audits for independent schools in B.C.

Developed for

Project Summary

The Independent Schools Funding System is a modern grant management and disbursement solution that enables the Ministry of Education to administer funding, manage payments and perform audits for eligible independent schools in B.C. FreshWorks developed the Microsoft Dynamics solution after receiving the contract award through the B.C. Digital Marketplace using the Sprint With Us procurement process. 

  • The software boosts internal efficiency by removing manual processes and automating workflows with PowerAutomate 
  • The model-driven Microsoft Dynamics solution uses PowerApps to provide a responsive interface for the back end data. 
  • Despite COVID-19, the system launched in time for the 2020 school year.

The Challenges

In British Columbia, eligible independent schools receive government funding at a percentage of their local public school district rate. Up until 2020, the Ministry of Education used the Independent Schools Information System (ISIS) to administer funding and manage payments, grants and audits. However, the legacy software was nearing its end of life and relied heavily on manual processes.

Legacy Software

The ministry had built the system with OpenVMS as its operating system to supply key information for school funding. Historically, OpenVMS has been the operating system of choice for many ministries, hospitals, banks, and large-scale organizations across Canada. By 2020, the platform needed to be replaced by a new system as it would no longer be supported by the OCIO as of 2021.

Increased Enrollment

The enrollment in independent schools is steadily increasing. Between 2001 and 2019, independent schools saw a 45.6% increase in enrollments. As such, the ministry staff required a more robust system to support the growing volume of independent schools.

Manual Processes

The Ministry of Education also needed to automate a number of grant, funding and disbursement processes through digital tools, enabling staff to spend less of their time on manual paperwork and Excel spreadsheets.

The Goals

It was imperative that the new solution offered an excellent user experience for both employees of independent schools as well as ministry staff. This boiled down to six distinct goals

  • Improve productivity of the Independent School Grant Funding process by providing flexibility to manage Grant Calculations and Allocations.
  • Streamline the grant funding and forecasting process. 
  • Improve the data accessibility for ministry and independent school authorities.
  • Improve reliability, accuracy and accountability.
  • Eliminate manual processes that are prone to errors and inaccuracies.
  • Ability to generate various business reports.

The Process

Inception Phase 

To begin, our team gathered requirements by performing desk research and UX research in the form of stakeholder interviews. In order to design an intuitive solution, it is imperative that the users pain points and challenges are well understood. All requirements were captured as user stories in Jira and the architecture, test strategy and released plan was documented in Confluence. The inception phase concluded with a presentation to the ministry and the delivery of a project roadmap.

Construction Phase 

The project was completed in a Disciplined Agile manner and the ministry received demonstrations of the software at the end of each sprint. The application data model was designed in such a way that it shares relevant data with the ministries net new Capital Asset Planning System (which FreshWorks also implemented). To confirm commitment, our team delivered a working alpha release as a prototype of the final product.

Transition Phase 

After integrating ministry feedback, the team began release of the incremental builds. The system was deployed on various ministry environments (development, test, UAT, production) and tested for production readiness. In addition, the team delivered detailed documentation for the production release and performed knowledge transfer to ensure the ministry understood the context, research, designs, architecture and technologies of the new system.

The Solution

A modern grant management and disbursement solution (ISFS) that meets the current and future business needs of Independent School funding. 

The distinctive yet unified user interface enables a seamless experience. The system also utilizes Dynamics to its full potential and maintains a ratio of configuration to customization of roughly 80/20.

The Features

Microsoft Dynamics 

Microsoft Dynamics combines the ERP, CRM, Office into one cloud-based experience on a common data model, providing the Ministry of Education with a people-centric platform that makes employees’ daily work easier. The practical functionality of Microsoft Dynamics allows internal staff to be more productive and knowledgeable. They have access to both the insights they need to make the best decisions and the tools they need to do their work. Microsoft Dynamics also offers the Ministry of Education deeper insight into planning, forecasting and disbursements of funds to the independent schools in the province.

School Level Data (SLD) Management

School-level data is conveniently organized through grouping to prevent “information overload” — that is presenting so much data that you leave the user confused and / or unable to make a decision. Data management at the school-level enables users to view various data from within the platform, such as authorities, information about schools and school districts. Users can now also view collections of groups under sub-categories, including Independent Schools, First Nations schools, and more.  Considering the huge amount of data (for Authorities, schools…), it is imported from a csv/xls file. 

Following are the sub-areas under the SLD Management:

  • Authorities
  • Schools
  • School Districts
  • Collections
  • Enrollments
Grant Management

This module helps the user manage the existing grants, import collections, generate Authority and School-level disbursement and import enrollments.  Following are the sub-areas under Grant Management:

  • Grant Programs
  • Grant Payments
  • Funding Schedules
  • Authority disbursement
  • School disbursements
  • Collections
  • Enrollment
Grant Administration

This module helps the user complete the required setup for the school year, eligible student categories, funding groups / rates, funding details, funding schedules and other features. The sub-areas under Grant Administration include: 

  • School years 
  • School sub-categories
  • Eligible Student (ES) Groups
  • Eligible Student (ES) sub-Categories cat 
  • Funding Groups
  • Funding Rates
  • Grant Programs 
  • Funding Details
  • Funding Schedules
  • District Operating Cost
  • School Operating Cost
Reports

There are various reports which are generated in the application.  These reports can be downloaded in various formats like Word, Excel, Powerpoint, PDF. Following are some of the reports which is mainly used:

  • SY (School Year) Funding Report
  • Audit Trail Enrollment Report
  • CDS Approval Report
  • CDS Feeder File
  • Disbursement Total by School and Authority

Technologies Used

Microsoft Dynamics 365

We chose Microsoft Dynamics to give the Ministry of Education deeper insight into planning, forecasting and disbursements of funds to the independent schools in the province. Microsoft Dynamics also helps internal staff feel prepared, productive and knowledgeable — providing staff with access to both the insights they need to make the best decisions, and the tools they need to do their work.  

Microsoft Power Apps 

Microsoft Power Apps was chosen to get the team building quickly and efficiently and gave us ample room for continuous improvement, all while meeting the anticipated September 2020 launch. We used Power Apps for pre-built templates, drag-and-drop simplicity, and quick deployment — then rolled out continuous improvements as needed.

Sparx 

Sparx Systems Enterprise Architect is a visual modeling and design tool based on the OMG UML. We used Sparx to design and build the software system and model business processes.

Visual Studio 

Visual Studio is used as the development IDE for implementing the business logic in C#/.Net and javascript language. 

Model-Driven Apps  

We used Moden-Driven Apps as it provides a no-code or low-code component approach to app development. Modeldriven apps run with the new Unified Interface client which provides a responsive accessible design running in browsers and on popular mobile devices.

Power Automate

We used Power Automate to automate the workflows and avoiding menial and time-consuming tasks.

C# and .NET   

We chose C# and .NET for implementing business logic which is required in various modules of the application.

Javascript 

Javascript was used to handle any UI level enhancements in the application. 

Unified Interface

We used Unified Interface to provide an optimal viewing and interaction experience for any screen size, device, or orientation. It brings all the rich experiences to any client that you are using. Whether you are using a browser, tablet, or phone, you will be able to consume similar experiences.

SSRS – Reports 

SSRS – Reports allowed us to generate few reports in the application.

Azure Cloud

We used Aure Cloud for hosting the application… 

Jira and Confluence 

Last but not least, we used Jira and Confluence to track issues and plan work as  it was important to create and maintain an effective organizational strategy. We used Confluence to share information, keep things organized, and foster better collaboration among our team members.

What the Client is Saying:

5
Quality
5
Schedule
5
Cost
4

They were very accommodating, flexible, and adaptable.

"Now, many internal processes are more efficient. FreshWorks excelled at using an agile methodology, communicating consistently and rapidly adjusting to feedback. A client-oriented team, they went above and beyond to provide training, navigate hurdles, and quickly acquire internal knowledge."

Gabriel Joseph

Director

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