As Support staff for Tribal’s MIS system ebs, when we arranged to spend a week with one of our customers, Sheffield College, our expectations were high, but to some extent these were matched by our trepidations. We obviously tend to deal with issues, so to be exposed to such a large group of users over a sustained period was likely to pose us with some challenging questions.
The aims however were simple – for us to witness first hand from the customer’s perspective, exactly how ebs is used and advise on ways in which it can be used more effectively.
An open, proven approach to uncovering potential improvements
Getting the most out of our time with end-users is paramount to the success of these exercises, so a structured approach to the week is a must. We were given a timetable that consisted of morning and afternoon sessions with members of the Systems, MIS and Registry teams. Each team demonstrated how they use ebs to complete tasks in their role, and as part of the team for that session, we were given typical tasks to carry out to see how the application is used from an end user perspective. In this way, we got to see the day-to-day operations in the MIS system that drive key processes, and ultimately decisions, in the college.
We also gave users the chance to ask any questions that they had regarding the application as a whole. Questions were as revealing as they were varied, and it gave us even greater insight into how the college had developed its use of ebs over the years, but also served to highlight several areas where simple changed could be made to increase the efficiency of their processes.
The outcomes – efficiencies, best practice and fruitful relationships
The whole exercise proved to be enormously successful, enabling us to identify a wide range of areas for improvement, many of which could be implemented immediately.
- We have reduced the time taken to identify possible duplicates in the system, by simply changing the default drop-down being used from ‘matches’ to ‘contains’.
- Several users were brought up-to-date with the ebs Support Portal, giving them access to key information such as the Known Issues page, users guides, release notes and FAQ’s for modules, as well as the PCR window should they wish to provide ideas on how to improve ebs for the future.
- In the Curriculum MIS team, we demonstrated how users could achieve greater efficiencies by carrying out all their day to day tasks within the single client system.
- The Timetabling team were given information regarding a fix due in the next release and shown how to stay up to date with the latest information and fixes around the timetabling functionality in ebs.
- Register users and an exam officer were made aware of a key element of ebs, the Screen Manager, which would allow them to configure ebs to hold additional columns and fields and therefore overcome a current issue they were experiencing. informed the users that should the member of ICT Systems have any questions regarding the setup of extra columns they could contact the ebs Support team.
- We advised the Exams team how to avoid time consuming manual searches for students in a submission and also shown best practice around generating submissions in ebs.
- Informed the exam officer and team member of MIS of the exam import functionality in ebs Client. By demonstrating the exam import functionality, this will allow the Exams and MIS Teams to import results directly from examination boards, and will also save the college significant time manually inputting grades against exam entry records.
- Similar efficiencies should be realised now the teams are proficient with the functionality of the ‘Update ILR Achievements’ process, allowing users to transfer their imported exam grades into corresponding ILR records.
- MIS and Registry teams were shown how the ‘Learner Manager’ component enables them to carry out bulk data processes and therefore limit many time consuming tasks. An MIS user was pointed to the ebs Support Portal where they have since downloaded the user guide and are planning training to implement this across the college.
- We identified further time savings that could be achieved by the MIS and Registry users when it comes to collating data for continuing students on apprenticeship programmes in the new academic year.
The value gained from by the Sheffield College through this free exercise is unquestionable – the time savings alone will make a significant difference to how the college operates, and many of the processes we observed should now be closer aligned to best practice within ebs.
“The visit by Emma and Ricky was a fantastic opportunity for the Sheffield College and Tribal; it has improved the overall support and working relationship for both parties. The visit has instigated improvements whilst allowed us to give constructive feedback to Tribal.”
Linda Hazelwood, Registry Manager, The Sheffield College
The value to us is also unquestionable. When working on Support, opportunities to meet customers on a face to face basis are limited; this visit has built on our relationship with the college and given us a keen appreciation of how the college operates.
It’s a success on many levels and we’re delighted to be part of the exercise. It’s certainly an unusual approach for us to be away from the Support Desk, but it’s definitely worth it, for both parties.
We’re offering the free experience to all our customers, so I can’t wait for the next one now!