Although SCL has always promoted its school activities online, its original web-based booking facility was very limited and did not cover all of its clubs. The more usual process for bookings and payments involved parents completing paper forms, taken into school with cash or cheque in an envelope. Managing all of this was very time-consuming, particularly for the coaches who typically made twice-weekly visits to SCL’s Sandhurst headquarters to reconcile payments against the club register. “This could take them two hours each time,” says Ian Burley, SCL’s Head of Continuous Improvement.
As well as being inefficient for those running the clubs, the process wasn’t exactly convenient for parents. The need to do office-based admin also limited SCL’s geographical reach, to schools and coaches within a manageable distance of Sandhurst. As SCL had saturated its existing markets, it wanted to be able to cover a wider area spanning outlying counties to meet new growth targets.
As there was nothing wrong with SCL’s existing web site, the priority was to develop an integrated booking system – providing a seamless, end-to-end browse-and-book experience for parents.
SCL had already received one specification for a proposed system, but the document was very text-heavy and gave no real indication of how the finished product would look and feel. Based on a personal recommendation, SCL brought DCSL GuideSmiths on board. The team conducted a series of workshops to understand what SCL needed, then produced a comprehensive system spec brought to life with screen shots and interactive demos of how everything would work. “Even at that earliest point DCSL GuideSmiths were able to show us 90 per cent of what we’d be getting,” Mr Burley says. “That really inspired confidence – they stood head and shoulders above the other provider.”
Even at that earliest point DCSL GuideSmiths were able to show us 90 per cent of what we’d be getting,
DCSL GuideSmiths clearly understood all the requirements. The new booking system needed to integrate with the existing web site; work optimally on mobile devices; allow payments to happen securely within the booking system itself; and provide a range of advanced features – from the ability to register medical conditions and easily identify club availability, to the option to redeem childcare vouchers, credits or promotional codes. “We wanted to create a very intuitive parent journey,” Mr Burley says.
We wanted to create a very intuitive parent journey,
DCSL GuideSmiths developed the new system using the latest software tools including Microsoft ASP.NET MVC 5 and C#, underpinned by SQL Server, to create an experience that is functionally very rich. As well as incorporating the Sage Pay secure payment processing facility without diversion to another URL, the new system includes a members’ area where customers can look up previous bookings, and management reporting tools so managers and the board can see how the various clubs are selling.
In accordance with its diligent adherence to the Agile (Scrum) software development methodology, DCSL GuideSmiths worked very collaboratively with SCL to ensure that the finished product would be exactly what the company wanted. “They planned everything very well, breaking the development into two-week sprints: every fortnight they would deliver something for us to test and review – and tell us what was coming in the next sprint.” Mr Burley explains. “This was a great help: it meant I had the relevant business people ready to try things out at each point.”
They planned everything very well, breaking the development into two-week sprints: every fortnight they would deliver something for us to test and review - and tell us what was coming in the next sprint.
The new booking system went live, on schedule, in early January 2017 enabling SCL to start taking bookings for primary school children’s clubs over the February half-term break. Its impact was immediate. “I’ve just come out of a senior management meeting and the feedback is fantastic – from the business, from the finance department, from the coaches and from the parents,” Mr Burley says. “One parent, who works in web site design, said how impressed he is with the system’s simplicity and functionality. It’s proving a huge success.”
One parent, who works in web site design, said how impressed he is with the system’s simplicity and functionality. It’s proving a huge success.
The rich mobile capabilities have meant an easy transition to the new booking system, even for parents who turn up with paper forms and cash on the day, as SCL coaches can simply get them to do the electronic bookings on the spot, using their phones. “Most parents carry a smartphone on them,” Mr Burley notes.
This immediate efficiency gain relieves coaches of time-consuming administration, which they can now devote to running other club sessions, or undergoing training. Competitively, meanwhile, SCL believes it has re-set the bar. “Our parents now have a seamless and very simple process to find and book all of our clubs – it takes less than five minutes from registering a new account. This definitely puts ahead – the functionality is second to none,” he says.
“It looks good for me too, as project manager,” Mr Burley concludes. “I can honestly say this has been a great project to have been involved in. DCSL GuideSmiths provided excellent value for money, and the fact that we went live with over 99 per cent of what we set out in the original spec is excellent. They delivered exactly what they promised.”
I can honestly say this has been a great project to have been involved in. DCSL GuideSmiths provided excellent value for money, and the fact that we went live with over 99 per cent of what we set out in the original spec is excellent. They delivered exactly what they promised.