This is a guest post by Vasily Ulianko and Per Brandser from Visma InSchool.
Located in Europe and Latin America, with headquarters in Norway, Visma has a bold vision to shape the future of society through technology. To do that, we provide business-critical software solutions for over 1 million customers across the Nordics, Benelux, Central and Eastern Europe, and Latin America. We are most interested in solving business problems with cutting-edge technology. We specialize in serverless technologies, optimization techniques, and data analytics, primarily focusing on building solutions for accounting, invoicing, procurement, and school administration.
Our solutions help simplify and streamline administrative tasks. From resource management, admissions, and documentation to financial management and generating diplomas, municipalities, and counties depend on the solutions Visma provides to make their schools run more efficiently.
Digitizing school operations is one of our most important social missions. Our goal is to contribute to making everyday work easier for school administrators and staff. Our flagship product for school administration, Visma InSchool, is a comprehensive system used by students, teachers, parents and administrators, for everything from planning school timetables to issuing diplomas. To make all information available anywhere, and at any time, through a single log in, we have built Visma InSchool to be a holistic system that lives in the cloud. Visma InSchool team uses Amazon QuickSight for business intelligence (BI) needs.
The path to QuickSight
When we first started considering BI tools, a different solution was available to us through our company’s parent organization. That option, however, was two times more expensive per writer account, was harder to send the data to, and had a clunky and outdated user interface. Worse still, the amount of data that could be stored was also subject to external constraints.
The number of drawbacks with that solution would be more of a hindrance than an aid. We prioritize innovation, agility, and flexibility. We wanted to be in full control of the data source connections, user privileges, and data storage constraints. Researching other tools and what they offered that matched our requirements led us to QuickSight.
We started small, piloting QuickSight first with our product development teams, giving them the user experience they’d need to answer questions about our data from product and business owners. Due to the power of visualizing key actionable data, it didn’t take long before QuickSight was adopted and embraced by other departments.
Complex plans with simple solutions
One of the more difficult challenges for school administrators is developing plans for the upcoming school year. Not only do lesson plans need to be made for each class, but it’s crucial for administrators to have an early understanding of how many teachers will be available in comparison to what the school’s needs are and what those numbers mean in terms of financial impact. Through Personnel Planning functionality, Visma InSchool helps each school identify any discrepancies between existing teaching staff and what’s needed, which helps plan for both the recruitment and redundancy process.
We present school administrators with an automated timetable optimization view, offering extensive editing capabilities via Visma InSchool.
School administrators can now create well-organized lesson schedules that take into account the number of teachers, room availability, required teaching hours, and more.
The schools have to plan the lessons to cover the required hours for each subject in accordance with each individual student’s education program. QuickSight allows us to aggregate the data from this planning process, providing us with a high-level overview that offers the ability to drill down to the county and school levels. This gives our product and consulting teams the tools necessary to guide customers through their school-year planning process.
Automation saves time for school administrators and staff
When we initially started looking at QuickSight, our original intention was simply to use it for visualizations related to Visma InSchool product usage. The more we learned about its capabilities, however, the more we discovered other ways where QuickSight could deliver value. QuickSight has helped us streamline and automate several processes that have not only improved efficiency but saved our customers time and money as well.
The status quo for salary payments to teachers involved manual accounting and pay calculations. We felt confident that automation could reduce the time spent on these tasks, and we created a plan to test that theory. We set the percentage of payments sent to the payroll system without any manual adjustments as our North Star metric. We automated calculations of variable elements that went into each payment before it was sent to payroll. Tracking the statistics to measure the number of customers who were using automated salary calculations compared with those who weren’t was key in understanding the time spent on manual processes.
Based on the data collected during this experiment, our consultants were able to advocate for the use of automated workflows among users. Not only did automation save time for school administrators and their staff, but it also helped product developers measure how useful it would be to research and develop new opportunities for automation.
One solution for all our needs
Different teams have different challenges, and there are often different approaches to solving them. One of the things that we love about QuickSight is its flexibility, which allows us to customize whatever we need based on each team’s specific priorities.
This is a brief overview of how our teams and our customers are using QuickSight every day:
- Product management – Our product management team uses QuickSight to track and measure key metrics, such as the number of timetables being published, the number of salary records created, and whether formative assessments are being created. Having these key metrics on hand, the product management team can experiment with hypotheses that help them improve the product, moving it in the right direction for what will be most helpful to our customers.
- Support – To help with critical warnings, our support consultants use QuickSight dashboards, which are updated hourly to proactively contact customers and escalate the problem to the relevant team before a customer submits a support ticket.
- Consulting – Our consulting teams use the data to tailor their consulting services and inform their training sessions and workshops with school administrators.
- Engineering – Our engineering teams use QuickSight to receive production error reports, allowing them to visualize usage statistics as well as discrepancies among different but related datasets.
- Customers – Our customers are most interested in the user base and sign-in statistics, as well as key results of school work, e.g., statistics on issued diplomas at the end of the academic year.
Yet another reason why we love QuickSight is how simple and seamless it is to integrate with our existing architecture. We are using a set of Amazon Aurora databases that back our system microservices, housing around 4 TB of data in more than 1,000 tables. With so much that can go wrong with integrating systems, not having to worry about any of that with our QuickSight implementation was a major plus. Simple setup and a flexible, usage-based pricing model made QuickSight the best choice for us.
QuickSight for dashboards and reports is just the beginning
We’ve had QuickSight for about 3 years now and have no regrets. Having been built by Amazon and accessible via the cloud, we rest easy knowing that it will continue to evolve and improve. Not having to worry about upgrades or maintenance is another upside to QuickSight; there have been several releases with new features and capabilities since we’ve been customers, and each one has brought an improved user experience.
In the future, we are planning to use Amazon QuickSight Embedded to deliver targeted BI information, interactive dashboards, and customized data visuals directly to our customers via Visma InSchool. As Norwegian counties manage their schools, they want insights and statistics across the schools in their county, which we can embed in their UI. Schools want information about their data and about teachers and students to make better decisions on adjustments and strategy. Empowering our customers with near-real-time information to make data-driven decisions is our goal, and we’re confident we can achieve it with QuickSight.
About the Authors
Vasily Ulianko is a Director of Engineering in Visma InSchool, leading the development and operations, focusing on building strong engineering culture and solid system design.
Per Brandser is a Product Strategy Manager in Visma InSchool. Mainly focusing on coaching our Product Managers on vision, product strategy and product discovery methodology, Per is a promoter of data driven product management.