The Outward Bound Trust is an educational charity that partners with schools, colleges, employers and youth groups to empower young people aged between 9-24 to defy limitations through learning and adventure in the wild. Outward Bound’s mission is to develop and equip young people with the attitudes, skills and behaviours they need to make positive changes in their lives. 

The Problem

All participants taking part in Outward Bound’s UK courses are required to complete and return a participant data form. This form enables the charity to ensure they can support the young people attending its courses in a way that suits their needs and provides them with the best opportunity to thrive.

Outward Bound’s team distributed around 25,000 of these paper forms per year, each of which would require individual processing and depending on the quality of the returned form, additional time to clarify or follow up on any details.

This time-consuming approach was further complicated by the covid-19 pandemic as many customers were concerned about handling paper. Outward Bound tasked Microsoft Gold Partner Blacklight with delivering an online solution that would make the process more efficient for its colleagues and customers.

The Solution

Using Microsoft Dynamics, to streamline many of the charity’s internal processes, Blacklight supported Outward Bound to launch its first digital ‘Participant Information Form’ (PIF).

The PIF was created with integrated intelligence using logic-based rules that automate the process so that only completed forms that have been triggered by certain responses, require a member of Outward Bound’s team to review the submission. Having an automated process that highlights any concerns makes it easier for the person reviewing the data to identify what further action needs to be taken, rather than having to review all completed forms.

Taking this approach has also reduced the time typically taken to decipher a customer’s handwriting or follow-ups to clarify missing data, as the online PIFs can only be submitted when all the requested information is completed – which could never be guaranteed with paper forms.

In addition to ensuring a greater quality of data captured and the time taken to collect this data, the PIF has also enhanced the charity’s compliance with GDPR. The number of administrators accessing sensitive information has been reduced significantly as personal data is only shared with the people who need to see it.

The Benefits

Since launching the PIF, Outward Bound has reported:

  • Financial savings of more than £5,000 in printing and posting each year, as well as equivalent savings for its customers on postage to return the forms
  • Automated business logic integrated into the forms has removed the need to review 70% of forms completed, saving on average 182 days per year (it is estimated that each form takes an average of 15 minutes to process)
  • Increase in the quality of data collected due to controls and triggers in the form
  • A more modern user experience for Outward Bound participants
  • Greater data security and GDPR compliance for Outward Bound

Commenting on the project, Rob Sharpe, Digital Transformation Project Lead at The Outward Bound Trust, said: “This is the first stage of our digital transformation project, working with Blacklight, aiming to modernise our IT systems, using Microsoft Dynamics as our core technology.

“Having been live for 12 months the benefits the PIF system is delivering are significant. We have reduced tangible costs and improved efficiency, whilst making the user experience much smoother for our clients.”

Blacklight Software

Making Digital Transformation Happen