When we talk about digital transformation, the conversation is often centred around the private sector. Typically speaking, digital innovation is led by businesses with the budgets and imperative to invest in establishing a competitive edge.

Transformation is also easier for organisations that have one foot firmly in the digital world – meaning practically any B2B business or company that wants to reach consumers online. 

As such, schools and education isn’t the first thing that springs to mind when it comes to digital transformation. The manual day-to-day operational processes of schools, such as attendance, visitor management and record keeping haven’t changed in decades. 

Is it time for this to change? Schools could take some lessons from the digital world, improving site safety and reducing the operational burden on staff.  

Lessons from the digital world

Picture a mature digital business, like an eCommerce company or FinTech. They have one significant advantage compared to a traditional institution when managing operational security, compliance and efficiency – data. A business with a mature tech stack, including a platform, website, CMS, ERP and cloud services produce data as standard. 

While plenty of businesses struggle to leverage or manage all of the data they produce when supported by the right tech stack, a digitally native company can achieve ‘a single point of truth’ across the business. A single shared view of data can be immensely valuable for day-to-day operations.

Digitally native businesses can have real-time visibility on customer activity, product performance, operational data, up-to-date info on employees and projects and backend data like changelogs and data backups. While this visibility is valuable in supporting normal business activity, it’s also significant from a security and compliance point of view.  

Digital businesses come with many cybersecurity challenges, sure, but they have a lot more visibility over managing and tracking security proactively than your average brick-and-mortar school. They can more easily enforce sign-ins, and authentication, and implement more advanced measures like zero trust. 

Digital transformation also alleviates many compliance challenges that organisations have, often producing the required data and records. A digital-first organisation also means less labour intense compliance processes, as records and data keeping are more automated. For something like a Single Central Record (SCR) required by schools, manual data entry into a spread simply doesn’t cut it anymore.

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Physical locations – digitally enabled 

So, does the physical world – in this case, schools and university campuses – need to catch up? While some might try and argue ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it’, the rate of digital transformation over the last decade has left sites like schools far behind. Thankfully, catching up is easy and inexpensive, and there’s value there that’s just waiting to be unlocked. 

Naturally, site operations are different to that of a software product. A school doesn’t create data and records as standard. But with some fairly low-touch cloud-based digital sign-in tools, it’s easy enough to deliver this, create visibility across a site, and reduce the operational strain of attendance records and visitor management.

Alongside the added efficiency, having a single record hosted on the private/public cloud improves the accuracy of records, simplifies compliance tasks, and gives schools and universities more control and visibility over who is on campus. Alongside preventing unapproved access to the site, the records improve safety through easier safeguarding, and more reliable and efficient roll calls in the event of an evacuation. 

Hello visitor management 2.0.

Transforming site operations with technology can go even further than this. Improving site security by automating student and visitor management is just the start. ‘Visitor Management 2.0’ is a new, digitally-enabled principle for managing physical site security, compliance record keeping, scheduling and a host of other operations. Through a suite of supporting cloud solutions, schools can transform their day-to-day processes and eliminate time-consuming manual tasks and processes. 

Security can go beyond sign-in records to pre-registration and verification of site visitors like contractors. Likewise, automation of site operations can be taken further to digitally enabled appointment scheduling, taking the onus off school staff to manage teacher, counselling or parents’ evening appointments and campus tours. 

Digital transformation has changed a lot of industries in both the public and private sectors, but in the education space, there’s a lot of value left to be unlocked. On an operational level, by adopting sign-in tools and digital visitor management processes schools and universities can not only improve site safety but go even further with end-to-end compliance, appointment scheduling and more.

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