The Benjamin School Automates Student and Staff Onboarding with Pliant
The Benjamin School is an independent, co-educational pre-K–12 day school located in Palm Beach County, Florida. It is highly ranked and well-known not only for its academics, but also for its balanced emphasis on Arts and Athletics. Approximately 155 teachers and associates are responsible for about 1,200 students. The school’s mission, and its rigorous and varied programs, focus on preparing its students for acceptance into and success at four-year colleges.
Like every other school, The Benjamin School faces operational challenges as it transitions from the school year that just ended to the new one that is about to begin. And that transition is a real challenge for The Benjamin School’s IT team.
Every new school year brings several hundred new students who arrive with high expectations. Each one needs to be informed and provisioned: informed about all of the educational systems and applications they’ll be using, and provisioned with the necessary access and credentials needed to actually use those resources.
There are also new teachers and staff who need similar information and provisioning. Earlier, the IT team had to do the same in reverse, de-provisioning all the graduating and otherwise departing students and teachers. With the school’s complex technology stack, and its numerous specialized educational applications, there is a great deal of provisioning and de-provisioning required every year. In addition, the IT team had automated and integrated only small portions of these processes and platforms – they were being handled primarily with manual efforts.
As a result, the time-consuming and error-prone processes were causing problems for students, teachers, and staff alike. The problems were particularly acute and stressful during the back-to-school. Another major aspect of this challenge was that fixing all these onboarding issues was consuming far too much of the IT team’s valuable time.
The Benjamin School’s leaders and its IT team knew that it had to fully orchestrate all aspects of its onboarding processes. That’s when they turned to Pliant for help
Requirement: Comprehensive, Flexible Orchestration
The school’s IT team had previously tried to automate some processes and workflows with other automation tools such as PowerShell. But those tools required many hours of manual effort to get the system integrations and automated interactions needed. Those tools also were rigid and limiting, lacking the flexibility needed to accommodate many of the smaller, specialized education applications in use at the school.
The IT team began looking past ‘manually enabled’ automation tools to more comprehensive orchestration systems. They knew that they needed a solution that could encompass their full IT environment – not just their traditional infrastructure, but also all their specialized, K-12 focused educational and administrative applications. The IT team sought a solution that could tie it all together smoothly and automatically.
Searching for these must-have’s is how The Benjamin School’s IT team found Pliant and the Pliant Orchestration Platform.
The Pliant Orchestration Platform combines the automation of tasks and workflows with the integration of infrastructure and applications, which all come together through the synchronization of data and processes. While some of those individual capabilities can be achieved with commercial automation tools, no other solution available today offers all of these capabilities in a single, unified platform.
The Pliant Platform opens up full, end-to-end, and top-to-bottom orchestration of every technology resource within an organization’s IT operating environment. That means full automation of processes that can span virtually any combination of hardware, networking, software, and cloud-based resources.
Equally remarkable is the ease-of-use that’s built-in to the Pliant Orchestration Platform. It is so simple to
work with that even non-technical users can easily build and deploy custom automations in just hours – not
days or weeks (or not at all)
A Convincing POV Orchestrates Key Systems
To test the Pliant Platform’s capabilities, the IT team decided to build a trial process with ‘no-touch’ integration of two of the school’s most important, foundational systems – Windows Active Directory and Blackbaud. The Benjamin School uses the Blackbaud cloud-based education management solution for a range of functions,
including enrollment management and learning management, student information management, and for creating high-quality user experiences for all of the varied constituents in its school community.
Going into the POV, the IT team expected that many days or even weeks of hands-on work would be required to integrate the two target systems, and prepare their data for uploading, etc. Instead, they learned that the Pliant Orchestration Platform already had a pre-built, API-powered ‘action block’ for Windows Active Directory. As for Blackbaud, the Pliant team built an API integration for that solution in less than a week (well under Pliant’s 15-day SLA for such new integrations). Then it was literally a quick, drag-and-drop exercise to build the test automation process.
Thereafter, the POV basically involved the Pliant and The Benjamin School teams uploading the school’s new student data, and then stepping back and watching the test onboarding of new students kick off and run in full automated mode, with no manual intervention required.
The orchestrated process included new student data being automatically fed into Active Directory, then synchronized and seamlessly ported to the Blackbaud integration. Next in the unified process, Blackbaud automatically prompted population of the data across multiple systems that were automatically selected for each user per a variety of criteria. Lastly, access to those systems (typically 10 – 20 apps and systems for each student) was automatically provisioned, as were unique
The Benjamin School’s IT team was impressed not only with how quickly the Pliant Orchestration Platform delivered a new orchestrated process, but also with the Platform’s flexibility and how smoothly and error-free the process ran.
“I speak for the whole team when I say we were blown away by how easy and fast it was for us to take a very complex, multi-faceted process and corral it into a single, fast and highly efficient orchestrated process straddling several key functions,” said Russ Tepper, The Benjamin School’s CTO. “We knew right away that the Pliant Platform would deliver two big wins for us. First would power a much better user experience. Second, it would free up my own and my team’s time to work on other strategic IT projects.”
Results to Date
The Benjamin School’s IT team has taken its Active Directory/Blackbaud orchestration from their testing environment into production. All indications are that the new orchestrated process is ready for the big influx of students as the new school year opens.
Under their old way of handling this process, it would have taken the IT team a total of approximately four hours per student (with all the manual data preparation, hand-tooled integration work to cover an ever-changing roster of new apps, coding custom automation scripts, manual error remediation, etc.). With the Pliant Orchestration Platform, all that work, and all the interim steps are handled smoothly, automatically and very rapidly within a single, unified, and efficient process.
Early results show that the new, orchestrated process takes the average, per-student onboarding time from 4 hours down to just 5 minutes.
“This platform’s capabilities are a real game-changer for us,” added Tepper.
“Now, every semester our big push is handled much more smoothly and
efficiently. That takes a huge burden off the IT team. So, it’s no surprise that
we’re busy exploring where and how else we can implement the Pliant
Orchestration Platform to further enhance the IT services that underpin The
Benjamin School experience. We can’t wait!”