To stay top of the class, organisations need to keep innovating. Processes need to be digitised. Information needs to be unified. People need to be mobilised. With limited internal resources, Bolton College needs innovation to be cost-effective and simple. We spoke to Business and Enterprise Manager, Jon Lomas, about how the college is turning new ideas into reality. 

What obstacles are there to innovation?  

The biggest challenge facing public sector organisations is always going to be financial. We need to find ways to make our budget go further while meeting the increasing demands of an increasing population. At Bolton College, we want to be able to continuously evolve education options, which is why we are now offering more vocational learning and apprenticeships. 

Why is innovation important? 

Innovation is a key differentiator between us and other colleges. We want to help as many young people as possible learn, progress, and achieve their full potential. Salesforce is the equaliser that allows us to set our imagination free. We’re currently building an app that’s set to revolutionise the way our students secure apprenticeships.

Tell us more about the app

Last year, we had more than 7,000 applications for apprenticeships. That’s 7,000 PDFs to download, and 7,000 sets of data entry. The app will enable us to link applicants to prospective placements more easily and save everyone a lot of time. Salesforce has made building the app really easy. I’ve not had any formal training; the online tutorials and community resources have answered so many of my questions. 

What other steps are you taking to improve the education experience? 

We want to increase visibility for everyone involved – the employers, our staff, and the students. With Sales Cloud, we’ve already given every member of our team a 360-degree view of every student and employer in our network. In the future, we’d like to build a community for employers to manage applications for apprenticeships. 

What are the benefits of greater visibility?

Now that everything’s tracked, we can forecast based on actual figures not guesswork. We can spot trends in popular apprenticeships and make sure we cater for our students’ needs. This ultimately leads to more government funding and more skilled workers boosting the local economy. Simplifying our processes and improving information sharing also helps to reduce costs, making our budget go further. 

What tips would you give to someone embarking on developing a new app? 

1. Reuse existing resources: creating an app is a lot less intimidating if you can find a template to follow. And, believe me, with Salesforce, there’s a lot of choice!  

2. Ask the community: there are hundreds of forums where people share their expertise and experiences; it’s an amazing free resource.

3. Have confidence: you don’t need a background in development to create your own app. Every idea can become a reality. 

Many thanks to Jon for those insights - many of which can apply to any company looking to digitise their business processes. To read more about Bolton College's success with Salesforce, visit the website.