A platform for sustainable schools

Bridging the enterprise-grade performance of Dynamics CRM with an amazing React-based user experience, we unlocked better ways to reach and engage with school communities and develop new ways to interact with these groups to support long-term and sustainable benefits.

ResourceSmart Schools (RSS) is a leading, internationally-recognised sustainability and climate change education program offered by Sustainability Victoria (SV). The structured framework and facilitated support provides guidance, knowledge and skills to achieve measurable environmental change within schools and beyond the school gate.

ResourceSmart Schools helps school communities benefit from embedding sustainability into everything they do and is well placed to help Victorians take action on climate change. By participating in the program, schools implement appropriate solar generation systems, energy efficiency and other sustainable practices (water efficiency, improved waste management, and biodiversity improvement) through curriculum, school operations, culture and community.

Despite the RSS program being highly successful to date, SV was facing a significant problem with declining user participation attributable to the legacy web application that supports the program. The legacy web application was built on an ageing technology stack that was relatively slow, unintuitive for users, and caused a range of user-related issues driving user decline.

Sustainability Victoria engaged Exco Partners to address these challenges and uncover better ways to reach and engage with school communities and develop new ways to interact with these groups to support a long-term and sustainable benefit.

Exco Partners delivered an innovative solution based on the Microsoft Dynamics 365 platform. The Microsft Dynamics 365 platform provided an enterprise-grade foundation for customer relationship management (CRM), business process automation and customer support. Teachers and Students interacted with the platform via a React-based user-experience oriented web interface designed by our award-winning design team.

We established the project with the following objectives:

  • Enable further reach and engagement with the teaching, student and school communities in general
  • Develop new ways to create a long-term connection with the above user groups
  • Increase the accessibility and usability of the program
  • Increase SV’s ability to contribute to Victoria’s positive sustainable and environmental practices.

The project was approached with three key phases drawing on our CoreMethods™ methodology. We designed each phase to address key aspects of the project and drew on specific skills across our multi-disciplined Exco Partners capabilities. 

“An innovative solution was required to utilise the Microsoft Dynamics platform without compromising the consumer user experience”

Our first phase, Discovery, focused on customer research, stakeholder engagement, visual design, and planning. The key finding from the Discovery phase indicated there were three critical areas of focus the new platform needed to address. 

Usability: make the system easy and intuitive, reduce steps, automate processes, and simplify user workflow.

Engagement / Motivation: building an environment that encourages and motivates students toward sustainability through sharing, small wins and clarity of benefits.

Support: creating a platform and online community from which teachers and students can manage their journey without the need for a dedicated SV support

Our second phase, Build, delivered the technology solution in a series of two-week sprints. The functional components were documented as User Stories and then iteratively developed and system tested.

A vital requirement of the technology stack was to vastly simplify the legacy platform infrastructure, which required multiple web and database servers.

The back-of-house capability needed a secure and robust data management capability so that the Sustainability Victoria product managers could support their customers. The ability to search, filter and report on school data without speciality support was important, as was the flexibility to continue to evolve school data with data and process automation.

We selected the Microsoft Dynamics 365, and Microsoft Power Platform based on power and ability to integrate seamlessly and securely into an enterprise technology environment, such as managed by Sustainability Victoria.  

The power of tools such as Microsoft Power Automate and Power BI further enhanced the capability of the back-of-house solution.

An innovative solution was required to utilise the Microsoft Dynamics platform without compromising the consumer user experience and to address the user research findings of usability, engagement, motivation, and support.

The React framework was desirable for the technology solution of the consumer user interface. React is the most popular framework for delivering amazing user experiences on the web and has significantly enhanced our solution’s user experience capability.

We used our Digital Experience Runtime toolset to accelerate the integration of the front-of-house React user interface to the back-of-house Microsoft Dynamics platform. This integration created a seamless experience for managing data for both consumer and internal SV users.

We selected an Azure Active Directory B2C solution for managing consumer user authentication, reducing the need for bespoke security and user identity management. Our front-of-house user interface solution was deployed in a serverless container environment, which vastly simplified the infrastructure needed to support the system.

The final solution, live in mid-2022, successfully delivered a solution that supports almost 3000 schools across Victoria. Sustainability Victoria is also discussing options to bring other Australian states on board using their own branded version of the technology solution.

The solution was recognised by the industry for innovation in the CRN Impact Awards 2022.

Our Experience Runtime and RADD stack

Our Digital Experience Runtime is a curated collection of services, tools and methods designed to accelerate the delivery of amazing digital experiences.

These accelerators enable the rapid development of rich consumer user experiences. The solution is backed by the enterprise-grade performance and flexibility of the Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Microsoft Power platforms. 

The Exco Partners Digital Experience Runtime lets us create innovative and user-experience oriented solutions using the React user interface framework.

The Exco Partners RADD stack allows for a serverless deployment of the Digital Runtime based solution to simplify infrastructure support and management complexity. React, Azure AD B2C, Dynamics and Docker.