How the Canadian International School Uses Workato to Connect Legacy App Silos

CIS uses Workato to connect its legacy app silos

The Canadian International School (CIS), located in Singapore, encompasses two campuses and serves around 3,000 students. One of the most diverse and academically rigorous institutions in Singapore, CIS is an International Baccalaureate school.

As a growing institution, CIS needed to address redundancies in its app suite, as well as streamline processes across multiple systems. To do so, it needed an integration platform that would unlock data housed in app silos and reduce manual work for its staff. With Workato, CIS can:

  • Connect legacy apps into agile, modern workflows
  • Streamline the academic planning process
  • Reduce manual data entry and increase data quality
  • Sync complex NetSuite records with a student management system in <2 minutes each
  • Reduce the time needed to sync 80,000 records between apps from 2.5 hours to less than 30 minutes

Working with Data Silos Across Many Legacy Apps

The school uses NetSuite, a cloud-based ERP program, as an information hub. “It’s one of the major anchors in the application suite that we have,” says Manish Madan, Head of IT at CIS. “[It functions as] our financial system, our admissions system, and our internal purchasing system as well.”

The school also uses some additional, education-specific systems. “We also have a student management system that is used for things like demographic information and students’ personal details,” Madan explains. “Additionally, we have a learning management system, as well as an information portal that houses our intranet. All of our teachers, students, and parents log in through that system, which acts as a point of single sign-on for all of our constituents to be able to access all of the different applications.”

These disparate systems proved challenging for the school. “One of the challenges we’ve had at CIS is the accumulation of several legacy systems,” says Madan. “Often, these systems overlapped in functionality, [which meant that] the school wasn’t getting the maximum return on each of the investments that it had made in various systems.”

Additionally, crucial information existed in app silos, and keeping data up-to-date across systems was difficult. “There was a lot of dual entry of data happening across all of these different systems,” Madan says. “Their functionality often overlapped, as well as their data sets. So the same data often needed to be fed to multiple systems. Our staff was occupied doing dual multiple entries of data across this suite of systems.

It was also difficult to orchestrate workflows that cut across these systems. “The central challenge we faced was servicing business workflows that crossed system boundaries,” he explains. “We realized that business workflows don’t reside within the context of a single system or application; they often require combinations of data and functionality from across the application architecture.”

Switching from MuleSoft to Workato

The school knew that, in order to get the most out of its apps and systems, it needed to integrate. Initially, the school used MuleSoft, but they soon found they needed a more agile platform.

Working with a consulting firm, the school eventually selected Workato. “Workato was a strategic initiative for us to be able to respond to the business need [for integration and workflow orchestration] and to leverage our investments in multiple platforms actively while addressing specific business challenges,” Madan comments. “That was really the core driver—it was a strategic initiative to make the most of our IT investments.”

Using Workato to Connect NetSuite with Educational Systems

With the consultancy’s help, CIS devised a plan to integrate their systems using Workato. They created several integration recipes that would sync data between apps based on particular triggers.

To make the process simple, CIS took advantage of Workato’s pre-built NetSuite recipes. “The recipes that Workato had out-of-the-box were a big boon to us because we didn’t have to create everything from scratch,” Madan comments. “We used the out-of-the-box recipes and triggers, so data that comes into NetSuite automatically syncs over to our student management system.”

The school also uses recipes to sync data between NetSuite, an HR app, and the student management system, he explains.

Enabling Better Data Quality and Happier Employees

These integrations have had a profound effect on processes throughout the school. From the admissions cycle to tracking family and student preferences, Workato allows CIS staff to have full access to (and confidence in) their data.

In particular, integration has streamlined the planning process for the academic year. Madan explains: “We require our instructors to plan our schedules for the following year, so there’s a teacher angle there. This planning process requires data from the admissions system, as well as data from the HR system and the academic system. There’s been a huge value to us in automating that process and giving a consistent big picture to parents, students, and employees.”

But integration also has subtler benefits for CIS staff. “[Without these integrations], our employees would be less happy because they would be doing more manual work rather than focusing on their functional expertise,” Madan says. “It’s a qualitative metric, but it matters quite a bit. We want employees to focus on their functional expertise rather than on data entry.”

Overall, the integration has dramatically decreased the time required to sync data between apps.  “There are approximately 150 fields on each student record in NetSuite,” says Vincent Goh, a Senior Systems Analyst at the school. “Syncing them to our student management system involves some complex data checks, but Workato can complete those checks and sync a record in under two minutes—often, the processing time is only 30 seconds per record!”

Syncing information from the school’s scheduling app to the student management app is faster, as well. “We have to sync 80,000 records every day,” Goh explains. “It used to take 2.5 hours to sync them;  with Workato, it only takes 20-30 minute.”

Additionally, Madan explains that integration has improved data quality across the organization: “When data across the enterprise so many silos, [quality] is greatly reduced because of manual entry and because of the incompleteness of that data. If you measure data quality by accuracy and timeliness of the data, we would be much worse off [without integration].”

Goh echoes this sentiment. “After implementing Workato, we don’t have any data issues,” he remarks. “We don’t need to spend too much time helping users patch systems to clean up the data. It’s a big help to the IT team and all the other staff!”

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