Education – Healthcare – Career – Wellbeing
Lemonade’s team of software engineers took on a sizeable challenge with the transformation of the CLB’s data from paper to electronic format in 2009. Not only collating the data of all 2 ½ to 18 year old pupils in the Flanders region of Belgium, but also interfacing with professionals from 4 different fields, taking multiple inputs and presenting data in a clear and usable format. 11 years on, the LARS platform handles 4000 users and 1.2 million pupils data, with an average of 30,000 records being touched each day.
Collaboration and the fight against COVID – keeping schools open
11 years after the project was first initiated, the LARS software platform has been developed and deployed in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic on behalf of the Regional Flanders and Belgian national governments.
That’s because it is ideally-placed as an efficient and effective resource for track & trace requirements, fast-testing for the virus and for the vaccination roll-out to pupils.
LARS – helping to keep schools open.
CLB – Integrated pupil support in Flanders
The CLB work at the meeting point of education, welfare, health and work / careers. Offering free information and guidance to pupils across Belgium they are firmly rooted in the development of every pupil and providing support where that development is threatened.
The 62 CLB centers across Flanders collect, store and access pupil data, using the leading pupil management platform, LARS.
The project was initiated in response to a reform that obligated the CLBs to transfer certain information electronically and LARS was created by Lemonade in 2009 when approached by the CLB Network. A need was seen to collate data centrally, where all stakeholders could create, edit and make use of it effectively.
As well as a single paperless file for every pupil, the SaaS platform provides overall reporting and data warehouse facilities delivering vital insights into a number of aspects of the school population.
Close customer collaboration
One key to the success of the LARS software development over time has been the strong collaboration with the CLB Network.
The Lemonade team were represented in the steering committee, not only collaborating in development decisions but also gaining insights into the issues behind the service they are providing. In addition, developments often need a business case with a very limited budget available for the service.
The close working relationship contributes to continuous improvements and enhancements of the application and periodical releases. In January 2020 a significant version was released with an enhanced user interface.
Acting as a mediator, Lemonade enabled the key collaboration connecting the stakeholders, businesses and technical systems to deliver valuable functionality.
Lemonade constructively challenged the client to disrupt their standard process and open doors to new possibilities, new tools and new integrations. The result was a more manageable platform structure.
Multiple integrations key to success
Creating the links to multiple data sources and ensuring the integrity of the resulting database has been a key challenge for the project. Examples are the eHealth system where the formative data of 0 – 2 ½ year olds is collated and Discimus where the curriculum information feeds from. In addition some of the data comes from Government departments which increases complexity. For example, at present there is a new integration from a Government initiative around online identification/authentication.
A significant win for the team was enabling the use of Kafka with MongoDB. Lemonade has facilitated a simple and cost effective state management for the LARS microservices, gradually transforming their trusted 10 year old monolith application into independent, scalable microservices. All microservices communicate through Kafka in an event driven way. This was a step change for the system, being easy to scale out, easy to add new functionality and easy to deploy.
Fit for purpose User Interface
By making the system cloud based and therefore available online, everything is managed centrally and no installation is needed at the CLBs. It has also ensured development can be ongoing, including the UI.
Over time the user interface has evolved and taken a good step forward in user friendliness, despite the budget constraints. The system must support considerably different user needs, from simple record access, to specialist professional intervention and monitoring for trends and changes from managers. All of this sits on top of a high demand of data availability and system reliability.
A Complex Service Environment
The LARS platform sits at the heart of the CLB services, receiving new records, triggering pupil follow ups, monitoring priority records and delivering data insights.
Its vital role in pupil’s lives probably wasn’t recognized at the start of the development project and generally goes unmentioned now, but the contribution of the service and the development team can be labelled as significant.
A focused team of software engineers has been involved throughout the development of LARS from 2009 to present day. With a results focused approach it has ensured efficiency and strong return on investment for the CLB.
Future development plans
General development and management is ongoing, with upgrades to the user interface and functionality, and the LARS team are working toward a broadening of its implementation across the academic sector. While the platform is fundamentally about people’s well-being and is managed by the education authorities in Belgium, financial constraints are a dominating topic. Regardless of this, expansion and enhancements are in discussion, with the goal of further delivering to the ultimate beneficiaries, the pupils. There are also other government agencies that could both contribute to and benefit from involvement with the platform.
The solution ensures effective availability of information and provides insights that are next generation compared to the position of 2009 before LARS creation. Its success is testament to the advanced skills and experience of Lemonade’s team of engineers, building the integrations, tools and interfaces. In addition the collaborative approach where Lemonade were thinking with the customer was paramount in finding the best solution for the CLB Network in Flanders and the individual CLBs.
As a premium tool for monitoring and managing the wellbeing of very large groups of people there are numerous potential uses for LARS. Not only education and healthcare, but social services, infrastructure and large industry, could all take significant benefit.
Lemonade are excited to talk to any organisations that recognize both the social and commercial benefits of this care tool.