iTrainScotland is a professional IT training course provider delivering classroom based IT training courses to businesses across Scotland. Classes are delivered at their own training centre and at client premises. There are over 150 options covered with popular scheduled courses running several times a year. In addition to scheduled courses iTrainScotland also offer a tailored course service that allows clients to design their own courses for specific groups.
Prior to this project course bookings were taken manually over the phone, records were kept in Excel spreadsheets and a basic Access database and timetables recorded in Outlook calendars.
Our initial brief was to introduce online (self service) course booking to their existing website and to build a back-office application to manage availability, bookings and delegate registration. Further phases of the project focused on providing a portal for corporate clients to manage their bookings and course outcomes for their staff, a client portal for course delegates, enhanced management reporting and course administration tools.
The initial booking system needed to
- Integrate seamlessly with the existing website that was developed in house
- Allow users to search courses and read course information
- Return and display course availability for all courses
- Allow users to book multiple courses for multiple delegates in one visit
- Process online payments for courses and sundries
- Allow users to manage delegate registration at the point of booking and afterwards
- Enable admins to easily create and edit course information
- Enable admins to create and manage course availability
- Allow admins to create bespoke courses on an adhoc basis
- Provide a secure portal to buyers and delegates to allow them to access, course materials, feedback forms, invoices etc.
The project required
- Working closely with the client to document their business processes and develop process maps and feature lists
- Working closely with in house developers to integrate the new booking engine into the existing website
- Developing customer personas e.g. a corporate buyer responsible for a large training budget, a first time course delegate, etc. to understand better what different users would expect from the new system
- Developing a data structure and backoffice process to allow ITrain staff to easily manage courses, availability and bookings form a single application
- An agile development process to ensure constant client engagement throughout the development process
The key challenges in the project were:
- Developing a tailored system that was able to work the way the client’s existing business worked. A large part of this was fairly standard availability and booking management but we also had to make provision for the creation of entirely bespoke courses at any time.
- Understanding the different user types and providing tailored portals for each one. For example the portal that a ‘buyer’ (a person responsible for booking courses on behalf of an organisation) has access to is different from the one a ‘delegate’ (a course attendee) has access to. A buyer can see course attendance and feedback for all delegates on courses they book, manage who is registered on future courses as well as seeing all the information on courses they have attended themselves. A delegate can see all courses they have attended and give feedback, download course materials, etc.
- Creating a customised checkout process for buyers to set up courses and delegate lists as part of the buying process.
The system was successfully developed and launched with no disruption to the existing site. It immediately added course search and booking functionality as well as new secure client areas.
Availability is now managed entirely in the Backoffice Application and can be added to or removed from courses in few clicks.
New courses can be quickly added and published immediately on the site and bespoke courses created for clients at any time.
Trainers can see their upcoming courses in the Backoffice Application including delegate lists and venues. They are also able to view feedback on previous courses.
The Backoffice Application provides reporting on course attendance, invoices, payments, feedback, etc.
Further phases have added a correspondence module that sends automated emails to course delegates before and after courses, a calendar application inside the Backoffice Application that replaces the reliance on Outlook calendars and eliminates double entry of events and additional self management features to the buyer and delegate portals.
This shows our experience of
- Developing booking engines and backoffice applications for non-standard booking processes
- Working closely with clients and internal stakeholders to integrate into existing sites and infrastructures
- Helping to manage change, particularly in the adoption of new systems replacing manual, people based processes
- Developing online booking systems that are easy to use and quickly adopted
From a starting point of no online bookings at all, the vast majority of course bookings for iTrain courses are now taken online.