Case Studies > Four Years into Blazing ERP Trails, Illinois District Reflects on Upgrade with Edtech Partner
Glenbrook High School District 225 discusses how Skyward’s Qmlativ has revolutionized their business officeTaking a leap of faith tends to end in one of two outcomes: regret or reward.
In 2018, one Illinois district placed their trust in their ERP provider of six years by upgrading to their provider’s brand-new platform. The outcome? A big-time payoff now almost four years in the making.
Glenbrook High School District 225, about 30 minutes north of Chicago, became one of the first districts in Illinois to adopt Skyward’s Qmlativ School Business Suite. Looking back on the last four years, associate superintendent Dr. R.J. Gravel reflects on his district’s conversion journey with Qmlativ, highlighting some of his favorite features, Glenbrook and Skyward’s strong relationship, and what the next years might look like.
"Qmlativ acts as a blank canvas with many tools available, then we have the flexibility to create exactly what data we want and analyze it as needed."
Leveraging software to better assist employeesSince migrating to Qmlativ in 2018, Glenbrook has been fully dedicated to exploring all that the ERP platform has to offer. The district is constantly finding new and creative ways to use Qmlativ to better fit their growing needs, often using custom forms.
“In our district we strive to combat the way we’ve always done things,” said Gravel. “We have continued to find ways that Skyward helps us do this.”
This mindset involves finding challenges and looking at ways to leverage technology and software to address them. One example is Glenbrook’s self-insurance program for health benefits.
“We look at this program as an educational opportunity for employees to learn why they should make certain decisions when it comes to their benefits, rather than just clicking on an option,” said Gravel.
To avoid making this process monotonous, Glenbrook uses Qmlativ’s custom forms to take what was a very step-by-step process and turn it into an immersive experience by embedding videos, Q&A opportunities, and more to create a true dialogue.
Another example of a creative use of custom forms is Glenbrook’s use of Qmlativ’s check estimator. To analyze anything from what to expect on your next paycheck to how many sick days you have left, Glenbrook employees are able to monitor their personnel data through a custom report that is generated on-demand.
“Ultimately, what makes everything come to life is the absolute advanced report creator,” said Gravel. “Qmlativ acts as a blank canvas with many tools available, then we have the flexibility to create exactly what data we want and analyze it as needed.”
With endless possibilities, some users may become overwhelmed with the custom reports features, but Skyward works hard to help to make users’ jobs easier.
“Skyward recognizes that people have different levels of technological understanding,” said Gravel. “Multiple tools to create reports are available, but when you really want to create something from scratch, do significant calculations, and interpret complex data, Skyward support is there for you at no additional cost.”
"I can confidently say that Skyward is one of the only vendors that is dedicated to monitoring the trends in state and federal reporting and the many changes that get made."
Building a reciprocal relationshipWhen working with a new system, it is crucial that customers feel supported, even beyond implementation. For Glenbrook, Skyward’s continued support has led to a true friendship.
“Since working with Skyward, we were never just given a product and told to figure it out on our own,” said Gravel. “Even though our systems are in place now, we still consistently have actual humans reach out to us and ask us how we’re doing.”
When an issue does come up, Skyward prides itself on its quick response time, which helps keep users at ease. As an exceptional example, Gravel recalls recently submitting a ticket at around 8:30am that would require some new code to be written for a report. By 11:00am that same day, the code had been written, tested, and was sent back to the district to be run by Gravel himself.
“If I need help, I have it,” said Gravel. “Even if I’m not looking for help, I still have people asking me how things are going. I don’t have that in any other software product that I use.”
Recognizing the support that Skyward continues to give them, Glenbrook extends that relationship by showcasing the possibilities of Qmlativ to other districts not yet using it.
“We routinely will invite prospective or customers migrating to Qmlativ to our district to talk to us about our experience,” said Gravel.
But it isn’t just about a visit—Gravel and Glenbrook truly want other districts to see how Qmlativ can benefit them.
“What makes this experience so unique is that I will share my thoughts, but then I leave the room and we let people with the same job titles talk to each other about the product and how it relates to their specific roles,” said Gravel. “This allows the prospects to get the real story of Qmlativ.”
The best part about this process? It works! Since starting these visits, nearly 100% of the districts that have seen the system in action at Glenbrook have adopted Qmlativ, helping bring the total number of Qmlativ customers in Illinois to over 100 districts.
Gravel isn’t just dedicated to increasing the number of people using Qmlativ— he is truly invested in improving the product as much as possible. To do this, Gravel constantly works with Skyward’s user experience and product development teams to help shape Qmlativ to better fit users’ needs.
“When looking to change or create something in Qmlativ, the UX team wants people to be themselves,” said Gravel. “They want to hear feedback from users that are clicking through and trying to accomplish things they want to see where they stumble. They want to see where things don't make sense.”
This feedback provides Skyward with data on how to improve their products, developing the most user-friendly tool possible.
“I can't say that I've ever had that level of reception and understanding, and seeing changes come to fruition, with any other company,” said Gravel. “Simply said, Skyward continues to update their product very often. Any issues that we’ve identified were heard, understood, and acknowledged, and very quickly resulted in product enhancements. When they weren’t quickly resolved, it was because something even greater was on the horizon.”
"Instead of me telling prospective customers something to convince them to use Qmlativ, I'd encourage them to look at the product themselves."
Finding many successesSince adopting Qmlativ, Glenbrook has experienced many “firsts” with the system, some expected, others not. An expected example was being one of the first to complete state and federal reporting with Qmlativ in Illinois, which has gone very well for the district.
“I can confidently say that Skyward is one of the only vendors that is dedicated to monitoring the trends in state and federal reporting and the many changes that get made,” said Gravel. “They rapidly implement tools to address those reporting requirements.”
In the last four years, Glenbrook has completed a variety of reviews including five external audits by the IRS, pension firms, and the state board of education. All audits have come back clean.
“There is no better testimonial to the value of state and federal reporting than that,” said Gravel.
An unexpected first for Glenbrook was experiencing the rapid changes that came with COVID-19.
When the pandemic hit, the Glenbrook district office was fully prepared for remote work due to their Qmlativ system. While other districts were scrambling to schedule who could be in the office throughout various points in the day to avoid contact with each other, Glenbrook staff switched to dining room desks and video meetings with ease thanks to Qmlativ’s ePayables. With this, Glenbrook didn’t miss a single payment to vendors or employees, all because they took the time to build electronic payments before the pandemic hit.
“We are the only school district in our entire area, and I am very confident saying that, that 100% operated remotely during the pandemic,” said Gravel. “We were successful in that because we had already transitioned to be a paperless business office, thanks to Qmlativ.”
Looking forward: Next 4 yearsLooking ahead, Glenbrook plans on exploring more ways that they can use Qmlativ to streamline their business office even further. The next plan? Reinventing their hiring process.
“One of the greatest challenges in school districts is the onboarding, off boarding, and job changes of employees,” said Gravel.
To make these processes easier, Glenbrook plans on using Skyward’s Task Manager. This tool will allow them to create workflows and processes, then assign different individuals or teams to that particular task, all while keeping everything documented and organized in one location.
“We are looking to build out a workflow process that starts in our schools and filters up to the district office on the HR side,” said Gravel. “This will require a big devotion, as we want to create the most flawless process possible to first get people interested in a position, then guide them through the interview process, then support them on their first and last days, and everything in between.”
Although this is a big project, Gravel and Glenbrook are looking forward to continuing their relationship with Skyward and building great processes.
“In another four years, I hope that we continue to refine what is already a great product,” said Gravel. “We will continue to find new ways that will improve the efficiency of our operations and minimize work that could be otherwise automated. Our goal is for staff to have more time in their day to devote to students and supporting our overall school community.”
For other districts looking to start using Qmlativ, Gravel suggests that users take an educated look into the product to see what it could do for them.
“Instead of me telling prospective customers something to convince them to use Qmlativ, I'd encourage them to look at the product themselves,” said Gravel. “Look at the product yourselves from the role of a board of education member, from the role of the person who is submitting their time needing to get paid, from the role of the secretary that's trying to make sure a vendor check comes back to them in time. Look at the product and the product will speak for itself.”
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