Meet Parent Paperwork and Their CEO, Fiona Boyd.August 10, 2017
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What made you decide that Digistorm was the right fit to partner with ParentPaperwork?
We were really interested in the Digistorm school app product, eduAPP, as our son’s school St Leonard’s College in Melbourne went in this direction. We love the fact that it’s branded to the school and therefore from the parent point-of-view, the app is seen as the school’s own app and therefore we really pay attention to the notifications. There are a number of parent communication apps out there but really a parent is interested only in their child’s school, not in the app. Digistorm have focussed on delivering the information parents need from schools and they have the best functionality in the space. It was an easy decision from our point of view. We think Digistorm provides best-of-breed solutions to the education sector and this is a way of thinking and doing business that is in alignment with ParentPaperwork.
Tell us a bit about your business goals - where do you see ParentPaperwork in ten years? How has your existing product developed and have you launched any new ones?
The ParentPaperwork product has developed from a single solution to a problem, that of paper forms coming home in your child’s schoolbag requiring signature or input, to a suite of modules that digitises every form in the school on the administrative side. We have four modules available which cover forms to parents, staff, students and intending parents. And we’ve recently released a Reports and Analytics module that helps the school’s leadership and administrators understand better what’s going on inside their school.
We see there are more paper-forms processes in the school environment that we can digitise, so we have a couple more modules slated for later this year.
Ten years is a long time, possibly the systems that run schools will be quite different to what they are now. Ideally though, we’ll have evolved to become the main Administration Management System for schools. We’re currently in 8 countries and in ten years time I can visualise our product suite being in thousands of schools worldwide. What would be really cool (and this is CEO pipe-dreaming here), is the notion that we could be part of the Edtech backbone to education systems in developing countries, helping to power up education delivery in the places where delivering schooling has been challenging for governments.
ParentPaperwork integrates directly with our eduAPP product. What do you believe are important traits in an app for schools?
We love the fact that schools that have ParentPaperwork and the Digistorm eduAPP integrated make the lives of parents easier by having one consistent channel for parent communications and forms. That means parents can pick up their forms inside the eduAPP and respond to them there. It’s just so easy. Parents can also re-check forms previously filled in and there’s a list of current forms needing their input.
The most important traits for a school app are that parents are authenticated and that the experience is low fuss and makes sense to the parent. That the information they need and want is obvious and easy to find. eduAPP is really good with this. Parents want to be able to check in on the app regularly so there needs to be as little friction as possible in terms of being able to do this.
Here at Digistorm, we’re all about people - finding the right team to help build a successful business is so important. What is one interview question that you always ask when recruiting at ParentPaperwork?
I’m so glad to hear the Digistorm crew is all about people as that is part of our DNA, too. When we began, we started with the mission to make teachers and parents lives easier by reducing the paperwork burden and the riddle of lost forms in schoolbags. As time has gone on and we read constant news stories about automation taking over jobs, we remind ourselves that we do what we do because we believe in education and we want resources allocated where they matter most, to the students and also to the staff who teach the students and run the school. I worry about discussions around automating the teaching process, I think various tools can help the teaching/learning process but ultimately as we want to belong and knowledge transfer and learning is a deeply human thing. At ParentPaperwork, we focus on making sure our team members believe in our mission to make schools run better but it’s so easy to get stuck in one way of looking at things. We hire people who have deep experience but who also bring other aspects of themselves to work - their fuller self. So the interview question I always ask to find out what is underneath the presentation layer of the candidate is: "what do you do in your downtime, what’s your hobby?".
"Technology is the scaffold that enables people to really power up the structure of education delivery."
On our team, we have a world class Indian classical instrumentalist, a terrarium builder, a crochet expert, a modern day Sufi and a home chef. Our team members also come from Sri Lanka, Ghana, the Philippines, Australia and Italy. We have an equal gender balance and while we’re a small team, we are diverse.
Let’s get a little broader. This is a question that’s really important to us and to the industry: what do you think is technology’s place within education?
This is a great question and my answer is philosophical. I believe technology’s place in education is to help facilitate the teaching/learning process. That could be directly via tools that help deliver content, or it could be indirectly via better administrative systems or apps that help parents stay connected to their child’s learning journey. Technology has the opportunity to become the scaffold that enables and empowers the really important work of educating children and those older to become their fullest, most expanded and contributing selves. We do not see technology as replacing any of the important face-to-face work that is required to teach deep and difficult subject matter, or to teaching different ability and comprehension capabilities. Technology is the scaffold that enables people to really power up the structure of education delivery.
The last one’s a fun and personal, and something that we ask our own team to get to know them: you’re stuck in an airport for 6 hours and you can’t leave. What do you do to keep busy?
This has happened to me recently. You know when things don’t go to plan and you get a few hours back I will often choose to do nothing much, wander around, read a book, have a glass of champagne or beer while reading a book, basically revelling in the fact that the plan has changed. 6 hours is a good amount of time and if you’re in Singapore or Kuala Lumpur you can go into town and get lost for a bit. There is also the option of coughing up a fee and enjoying a lounge experience at the airport where you can have a head and shoulders massage, shower, find a comfy chair, grab food from the buffet and otherwise settle in for some quiet reading time. I always carry a good book with me (a real book that is!).