Pivot: Building a scalable, data-driven platform without compromising UX
Helping schools improve teaching practice, student well-being, and leadership with data-informed insights and automation tools.
At a glance
DiUS helped Pivot deliver a scalable and engaging product that provides schools with greater data capture capabilities to improve teacher performance and student well-being. We redesigned the database to improve scalability, analytics, and performance. We also implemented agile delivery and QA frameworks to improve transparency, sequencing, and prioritisation. Finally, the team improved the user experience by simplifying data visualisation, enabling self-management of tools, and automated onboarding.
Pivot Professional Learning is a Melbourne-based company offering evidence-based tools, data analytics and practical support to improve student well-being and help improve teacher effectiveness in schools. Its premium service draws on international research to provide school teachers with insights they can trust via student feedback.
The secure, online student survey leads to a detailed report, providing clear and actionable guidance to teachers on professional strengths and areas for growth in line with Australian Professional Standards for Teaching. A suite of tailored resources and strategies are then provided to the school, ensuring that teachers are well-supported to pursue their most valuable professional learning opportunities.
Pivot now serves hundreds of schools across Australia and is now rolling out to New Zealand and South East Asia.
Shape, drive and execute the re-platforming of its core business.
Pivot’s original legacy platform was focused on providing teacher feedback surveys and was being used across hundreds of schools. The team also created a separate platform offering student well-being surveys across 80 schools.
Due to growth in demand, Pivot wanted to combine the two platforms into one single platform that also included the ability for school leaders to have greater involvement in the design and management of the surveys, as well as providing greater visualisation and analysis.
The new platform needed to serve hundreds of schools and required the infrastructure to scale to potentially 10,000 schools within a year. Pivot reached out to DiUS to provide the technical infrastructure to reach these objectives within the time-frame, with a particular focus on:
- Enhancements to store and present data to better enable a wider range of analytics.
- Flexible ways of working and a tech stack that can grow while maintaining the performance and security of the platform.
- Scale up support and onboarding by enabling administrative staff to self-manage and for their non-technical staff to simply self-serve and diagnose problems.
What we did
Developed a product roadmap and new ways of working
A delivery team was assembled at DiUS to support the three main focus areas within the tight time frame.
Enhancements to store and present data
We redesigned the database to improve the way data was being stored using AWS Aurora Serverless which automatically scales capacity based on the application’s needs. The redesign provides more analytics in more flexible ways at a larger scale. Data is written on DynamoDB for simplicity and speed and then streamed to RDS which provides the relational needs for all the data analysis.
We improved application performance by optimising and parallelising database queries, reducing response payload, and implementing proper app state management with a Time to Live (TTL) on data retrieved. TTL provides a caching time that avoids re-fetching data when the data stored in the app state is still fresh. By only fetching data when needed, we were able to reduce the number of calls, improve user experience, and reduce costs. For example, we no longer fetched all schools on initial logging, but only fetched them when actually needed, such as when navigating to a page that required the school data.
In addition, we implemented optimistic updates to avoid refreshing the whole data after updates. Optimistic updates modify the app state to replicate what we know was done in the database, rather than refreshing the data after each update. This approach resulted in a better user experience with fewer loading indicators (also known as “spinners”) appearing on the screen, which can be frustrating for users and slow down the application’s performance. Additionally, optimistic updates reduced the number of calls made to the database, further improving application performance.
A flexible ways of working
An agile delivery framework was established to create new ways of working that improved transparency across the team. Engineers were included in the product development process which provided greater technical perspective to inform the product roadmap and improve sequencing and prioritisation. The sequencing and prioritisation was instrumental in our delivery approach, working against tight deadlines.
We took an iterative approach that enabled us to get working features out within the required time-frames. We also raised the code standard to improve feature delivery, highlighted bottlenecks, and improved platform stability by introducing QA patterns and testing frameworks.
Scale up support and onboarding
Finally, we helped improve the user experience across all the different user groups within schools which were teachers, leaders and admin. Each group requires different types of information and access so the team improved visualisation of data by simplifying how it’s viewed without losing its value.
We also enabled greater self-management of the tools so that non-technical school staff have more access to create and display the data they need, within a secure and considered way. We provided CRM (Zoho) integration for the creation of subscriptions and accounts. We also provided the capability for school admins to onboard their schools, something that was previously a manual process that took multiple pivot staff hours of back and forth with the schools to get the data in the right format.
DiUS was also deeply engaged in the recruitment process and helped to build an onsite team from scratch, making the handover as smooth as possible and leaving behind a very capable team able to continue the maintenance and delivery of features in the solution.
Results for Pivot
Improved the platform’s performance, flexibility, and user experience.
DiUS helped Pivot deliver a robust, scalable and fully-functional product so that schools can have a greater level of data capture and value to improve teacher performance and student well-being.
The surveys built were well received by students as they were engaging and catered for different age groups, as well as different learning styles. The schools were excited to get on the platform, after having demo calls. Through demonstrating the advantages of agile ways of working, we were able to help the Pivot team understand it more deeply and fully embrace it.