VUS (Vietnam USA Society English Training Services Center) underwent a complete digital transformation to combat a drastic decline in student numbers due to COVID-19. Working with multiple implementation partners, the school turned to the cloud to create an AI-driven, connected, collaborative solution. It combined Microsoft 365, Azure, and Dynamics 365 to build secure, streamlined, and scalable operations. With new tools, the center has reinvented its learning environment for today’s students.
"The pandemic would’ve been a hard time for us without Microsoft,” begins Nguyen Phuoc Tan, IT Director at VUS (Vietnam USA Society English Training Services Center).
A leading English school in the country, VUS has 43 centers around Vietnam, all of which went 100% online when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Fortunately, the school has been using Microsoft 365 for Education for its nearly 1400 employees even before the pandemic. The challenges of the new normal highlighted the need for VUS to adopt modern cloud solutions. Working with multiple Microsoft partners, VUS enhanced its existing Microsoft 365 solution with the Azure Cloud and Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations (F&O) at all locations. The result is an inter-connected, harmonious cloud-based IT system enabling VUS to better support teachers and students.
A scalable, interconnected ecosystem
For the learning center, an ecosystem that enabled scalability was critical. “With COVID, our student numbers fluctuated, but IT costs would stay the same. We needed to scale up or scale down our infrastructure very easily,” explains Tan. To manage these fluctuations, the first logical step was to migrate from its existing on-premise platform to Azure. “Now we have all our IT infrastructure on subscription so we can scope how many users are within our system and just reduce our infrastructure requirements easily,” he adds.
VUS then upgraded its legacy systems and processes for finance and accounting. Previously, payroll was done via spreadsheets. Purchasing and budget management were equally tedious, relying on manual paperwork. Because data was not centralized, there was no way for the two systems to communicate with each other, which made expense forecasting and approvals much more challenging.
These financial reporting issues were resolved when the school switched to Dynamics 365 F&O. “Now, we can easily input and view sell orders, purchase orders, and invoices,” begins Tan. “The finance department uses the platform to submit all our financial data. Everything is stored in one place. And at the end of the month, when the accounting and finance read the report, they're going to see the whole picture about the company’s financial state.”
Dynamics 365 doesn’t just support the finance and accounting teams; it also helps the sales team manage opportunities. “For the sales team, after we input the lead, they can look up information very quickly and engage immediately with the prospects,” Tan adds.
Harnessing the power of data
Another benefit of working with cloud-based solutions is that VUS’ data is consolidated throughout the system. Previously, only one team was in charge of data input. The purchasing team would create a purchase order and later an invoice, then they send the information for accounting to log into the system. Essentially, two sets of people needed to punch in the same numbers, but only one gets recorded onto the platform. “On the new system, the workload can be shared among different teams. We can collaborate and cross-check for data accuracy,” shares Tan.
All that data is now gathered at an Azure Data Warehouse and brought to life with seamlessly integrated Power BI dashboards embedded within Dynamics 365 F&O. “If a user needs data visualization, they can use the Power BI editor to create a dashboard very quickly,” Tan explains. The school leverages the advanced AI-driven analytics of Power BI reporting to guide business intelligence. "With Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations, we have greater data accuracy and data consistency. We have the correct data to make decisions.”
“All the financial information will be stored in one place. At the end of the month, accounting and finance can read the report and see the whole picture about the company’s financial state.”—Nguyen Phuoc Tan, IT Director, VUS
Creating cross-platform connectivity
The final step in the transformation is streamlining the learning center’s operations by automating processes via Power Apps. Utilizing Power Apps is the key strategy in the company’s plan to upgrade its core-edu system into a leaner, more efficient platform. With Power Apps, VUS can soon ask machines to handle class scheduling and the assigning of students to teachers.
Thanks to the new tools, VUS can develop and deploy apps faster and more efficiently. This is a far cry from the previous way of doing things. “With the legacy system, when we needed to develop a custom solution, our team took two to three weeks to analyze the requirement, refine it, create a mock version, review, and finalize it. With Power Apps on Azure, we do a mock-up very quickly with drag-and-drop low code development, show it to the user, and they can give their feedback directly on the system. We then update, test, and go live. The time for the development of our apps has reduced by 50 percent,” says Tan.
Empowering educators with Microsoft
For Tan, Microsoft was the most obvious choice for this digital transformation, partly because of how well Microsoft's cloud solutions work harmoniously together. “Azure is one of the main reasons we chose Microsoft. It creates the most beneficial ecosystem for us. It’s easy to integrate, and makes learning new things on the Microsoft platform easy,” he shares. “User engagement has also been great, as employees are already familiar with many Microsoft tools. Azure Active Directory hosts all the teacher accounts, making access seamless and straightforward. And when there is a need for assistance, Microsoft offers educational support.”
The benefit of Microsoft’s educator platform doesn’t stop with just VUS and its teachers. It’s helped change the student experience. Five years ago, the center was analog; students worked on paper. Today, it’s a streamlined central system with everything stored in the cloud securely. “Microsoft doesn’t just enable us to collaborate using third-party tools to support learning. It provides us with tools to have follow-up communication and data protection,” explains Tan. “If a student loses their device, we can disable the account from Microsoft and all their data will be protected but they won’t lose access to their data.”
Over the next few months, VUS will work on cybersecurity and harnessing Microsoft Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS) to offer mobility to its employees. It will be increasing the data protection with Azure Rights Management and enabling teachers to safely access their work on their personal devices with Microsoft Intune. “Data protection is very important. How we protect our system, our student data and teacher data is the focus for next year,” concludes Tan.
"Now we have all our IT infrastructure on subscription so we can scope how many users are within our system and just reduce our infrastructure requirements easily". Nguyen Phuoc Tan - IT Director, VUS
For further details, please visit https://customers.microsoft.com/en-us/story/1518806805542813273-vus-professional-services-microsoft-365-en-vietnam