2021-12-13 04:39:22

A letter from our CEO, David Eedle

By David Eedle

As the 2021 school year draws to a close and holidays near, here's a greeting from the CEO of EdSmart, David Eedle.

Hello to the EdSmart community,

It seems redundant to open my season's greeting letter by observing 2021 as a ‘challenging’ year. But I believe it’s important to acknowledge the remarkable times a business like EdSmart has experienced over the last 12 months.

Bram Stoker (yes, as in Dracula) wrote:

“It is really wonderful how much resilience there is in human nature. Let any obstructing cause, no matter what, be removed in any way, even by death, and we fly back to first principles of hope and enjoyment.” 

I am exceptionally proud of the resilience the EdSmart team has displayed throughout 2021, and further back to 2020 as the COVID pandemic took hold. The FY21 financial year was our toughest ever, with our revenue severely impacted by the focus of schools being diverted to more pressing priorities like the pivot to online learning. It is a testament to everyone involved in EdSmart that we survived and have grown the business and the team.

In the middle of the year, my co-founder, Fiona Boyd, and I changed roles. After helming EdSmart as CEO since 2014, Fiona took on a new position of Business Development Director and I moved into the CEO’s seat. The intent was to ensure Fiona could focus on large-scale strategic expansion of the business, especially internationally, while I concentrated on the day-to-day business and growth locally. We must acknowledge Fiona’s leadership across those many years. I believe the recent transition has been worthwhile, with both of us pursuing concrete strategic and operational plans to positive effect.

Our Board of Directors continues to provide professional and supportive counsel to the whole team and me. I thank them for their dedication over the past year as we navigated the COVID world.

In July, our Board Chair of several years, Tim Fry, stepped down. I’m very grateful for his thoughtfulness and leadership, and glad he agreed to remain as a Director. Michael Brooks came into the Chair role and recently confessed to me his amazement at the scale of activity EdSmart supports through its technology platform.

Our platform activity went through the roof in April last year and kept climbing as schools found new ways to utilise EdSmart to cope with the challenges of COVID. That trend has continued. Our metrics show that we flew past the 2020 numbers by the end of September this year. Some of the numbers are pretty massive; for example, we’d processed 2,88,1235,493 rows of school data via our data import platform by the end of September. Each row then contains multiple data columns – e.g. ‘David’ and ‘Eedle’ – so the actual individual elements of data is a significant multiplier of 2.88 billion.

Many new schools joined EdSmart in 2021, and our rollout to all the state schools in South Australia commenced, with EdSmart going live to the first batch of SA schools in the middle of the year.

I must offer up much kudos to our Sales and Marketing Team. In April 2020, the bottom fell out of the market, and we barely saw signs of life until early this year. Our sales practices in the past included a willingness to jump on a plane and present in-person to prospective customers. I alone flew (checks notes...) around 30 times in 2019. I’ve been on a plane twice in the past 18 months, and both were personal trips. Instead, we’ve had to rework every part of the sales process completely.

This growth has not been without its challenges. Scalability is a foundation of a technology platform like ours, and, early in the year, we were not delivering the experience we wanted to deliver. We set in place a range of short-term remediations then commenced a long-term project to re-architect core pieces of the EdSmart platform to a new type of database and code platform that promises to deliver immense scalability and performance for many years to come.

The Engineering Team has achieved this work while shorthanded for many months. One of the challenges of COVID and the closed borders is a severe shortage of skilled software developers; it’s a problem experienced by most software houses, and we’ve been no different. Fortunately, we have managed to add several terrific developers over the past couple of months and started to make progress on a range of previously postponed projects.

The Engineering Team has responded magnificently to short-term challenges. For example, when some states announced they would mandate COVID vaccinations for school staff, we released the first iteration of our Certification Management module within a week. The module has been used to verify the vaccination status of thousands of staff and students, and to ensure schools are compliant with government regulations.

The majority of the EdSmart team is based in Melbourne, and, of course, this means lockdown has been the word du jour. Melbourne was in lockdown for over 100 days this year and, outside of that, we have been subject to ever-changing restrictions. The result has been that we have barely been in the office. The whole EdSmart team has become adept at fully remote work; we’ve met each other’s dogs, cats and children, as well as the occasional item of underwear hanging inopportunely in the background during a Zoom meeting.

Of course, our schools, especially in Victoria and New South Wales, are familiar with sending staff and students home for remote learning. I’ve been amazed at the adaptability and innovation of our schools as they seek to cope with the constantly shifting sands.

One of the challenges among many has been to conceive of the best possible ways to support our team as a company. There are staff members I have not met in person and probably won’t until our end of year BBQ, which will be the first time in 2021 we have all been in the one place face-to-face.

Instead, our calendars have been filled with Zoom meetings, and our Slack has spawned an ever-increasing number of channels. We set in place a staff support program that has included regular ‘Zoomies’ (not ‘Zombies’ as one team member mistook them for), drinks on a Friday via Zoom; extra days off to give all staff a long weekend each month; complimentary counselling sessions and other measures.

We have endeavoured to respond to all our customers and support them through the tribulations of COVID, and I’m grateful to the Success Team for their work. Every day they are on email, Zoom and the phone, guiding, supporting and assisting staff in schools all over Australia and New Zealand – and the rest of the world – to use EdSmart efficiently and productively.

With the end of the year rapidly approaching, we will finally take a breath – as I am sure will everyone else! It has been quite the year. From everyone at EdSmart, I wish you a wonderful holiday break and look forward to a fantastic 2022 ahead.

Kind Regards,

david signature transparen

David Eedle
Co-Founder and CEO, EdSmart

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