Digital Enablement: Tapping on Tools and Experience
From left: Dr Lee Mei Kay, Ms Koh Wei Kee, Mr Jimmy Oh and Mr Ignatius Tan from the Dean’s Office, SDE

Digital Enablement: Tapping on Tools and Experience

Necessity is the mother of invention but openness to change and experience are essential for successfully reengineering processes and finding the right tools for the best results.

Forward-thinking staff members from the then School of Design and Environment (SDE), even when preparing for the School’s transformation towards the College of Design and Engineering (CDE) were actively innovating and planning for the greater volume of SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) courses arising from the nation’s lifelong learning goals.

As the completion of all SSG-funded Continuing Education and Training (CET) courses required a minimum of 75% survey responses by course participants for audit and reporting purposes, the scaling up of programme volume was potentially time-consuming as more surveys and reminders had to be sent out to ensure course participants receive and complete the survey questionnaires in a timely fashion.

In 2020, NUS IT’s Digital Enablement courses provided both the inspiration and the tools to tackle this concern. Ms Koh Wei Kee, Dr Lee Mei Kay, Mr Jimmy Oh, Mr Ignatius Tan from the Dean’s Office and together with two colleagues from the Department of the Built Environment, worked on a solution with the Digital Enablement team at NUS IT.

“The more CET courses the faculties offer, the more time they will spend on these processes and manual effort. Hence, we bit the bullet and explored MS Flow. Thankfully, we had the NUS IT DE team who were very keen to help us,” shared Ms Koh.

The team considered the CET courses and found that out of 176 course participants, 90% required weekly reminders. Of these, less than 50% would respond and complete the survey. For each course’s survey, more than 100 minutes were spent sending reminders and tracking responses. This is on top of manually triggering surveys right at the start.

Over the next two weeks, the team studied available online resources and consulted the NUS IT DE team over several clinic sessions.

As the designer of the flow, Dr Lee shared that Sharepoint was used for tracking while the Microsoft Flow (now known as Microsoft Power Automate) handled the automation. Microsoft Forms was used for the administration of course survey. Combined, this process automated course survey administration and efficiently tracked responses from course participants.

The list of course participants and their survey response status are maintained in a Sharepoint list. Using Power Automate, the flow will seek out the corresponding survey response status and trigger a template email to send the survey link to the participants. Once the survey is sent, the survey response status is auto-updated to “Sent” and colour-coded in the Sharepoint list. Once the survey is completed by a participant, the flow will check the Sharepoint list for the corresponding email address and auto-update the survey status to “Completed”. This eliminates the time needed to manually trigger the survey, and track responses.

Reminders to complete the survey are done similarly. Power Automate checks the Sharepoint list for the “Pending Response” status and triggers a reminder email to all participants with this status. Participants’ statuses are then updated to “Survey Reminder Sent”. It then automatically updates the survey response status of the participant in the Sharepoint list once the survey is completed. 

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At NUS IT’s Digital Enablement: Community of Practice showcase in January 2022, the team shared how the new process reduced manual work by 90% and improved their response rate from 45% in 2020 to 100% in 2021. A total of 8 course surveys were administered via the automated process and 110 participants responded to the survey. Watch the video of their presentation here.

The project team also appreciated their colleagues for their mutual experience and specialities. Dr Lee observed, “As the team was formed up by members with different level of knowledge and expertise in the use of Microsoft Forms, Power Automate and Sharepoint list, the sharing of technical expertise and business process is critical to make the project applicable to solving real issues on the ground.”

For fellow colleagues exploring their own digital enablement journey, Ms Koh shared the team’s learning points, “Start small and build up the automation process over time. Be willing to adapt or change current processes to complement the automation of manual process.”

Currently, CDE’s CET Office leverages on Qualtrics which has similarly increased efficiency due to improved monitoring as well as different functions for post-course surveys reporting.

CDE plans to launch a series of sharing so that others can also benefit from adopting similar automated workflows for their respective work functions or projects. This will help ensure continuity in cultivating the spirit of organisational transformation and encouraging administrative excellence progressively within the College.

Watch the showcase of this and other successful projects presented at NUS IT’s Digital Enablement Community of Practice event here.

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