In 2019 Muirfield Riding Therapy—a Therapeutic Riding and Hippotherapy charity that recently celebrated 30 years of service and ten years of partnership with NHS Lothian, The Children's Therapeutic Riding Service—decided it was time to update their administrative database and began the search for a design and development agency that would help them both move away from their primarily paper and manual process based system, and better secure their data which had previously only been stored in physical and digital files on site.
MRT’s original request was a fairly simple one, which required the creation of customised software that would increase access and provide long term security, however, following a visit to MRT’s home near North Berwick it became clear to Bad Dinosaur that there were a number of other opportunities to streamline and simplify operations through the process of digital transformation, which would allow both administrative and volunteer staff to reduce waste and increase efficiency.
Having started in 1989 in a field with six borrowed ponies under the founding of Lady Gill Morrison, Muirfield Riding Therapy has grown to include over 250 volunteers and 15 horses offering sessions seven days a week to over 120 riders and has played host to international events such as the 2013 European Conference for The Association of Chartered Practitioners in Therapeutic Riding. But as the charity continued to grow some of the administrative infrastructure has become outdated, and in 2020 the board decided to invest in new software to both streamline work and secure their data. Michelle Sutton and her fellow members on the charity’s Board of Directors decided the best practice would be to put the project to tender, and after meeting with a number of development agencies the project was awarded to Bad Dinosaur.
After reviewing the bids we found that Bad Dinosaur was a company that really seemed to get us. Ian and Rosie spent a lot of time learning to understand what the organisation is all about, and they gave us the confidence that this project would be a partnership where we would create something together that is valuable and helpful for MRT, as opposed to them just creating something for us that they thought would fix our problems.Michelle Sutton, Chair of the Board of Director, Muirfield Riding Therapy
What visits to the riding centre made obvious to Bad Dinosaur was that there were a lot of moving components to the daily operations of MRT, and this meant that volunteers and administrators were often forced to spend more time on secondary tasks. Different issues included a reliance on manual processes such as spreadsheets, access limitations and continuity concerns because the charity’s database was only accessible from and stored on the office computer, and the overuse of printed documents that could easily be digitised to reduce waste. Creating solutions to these issues would not only make life easier for those at MRT, but it would provide a platform for them to continue to grow and improve their important services to the community.
Everyone at Bad Dinosaur was extremely focused and dedicated to providing the best solutions possible for MRT, not only because that’s our goal with every project but because the devotion shown by the MRT staff and volunteers to their work is absolutely inspiring. We wanted to empower them with the ability to spend more time with their riders, which is the real reason why they are all there. To achieve this, we decided to deep dive into the various ways we could cut time consuming tasks without cutting corners.Ian Henderson, Head of Product, Bad Dinosaur
Digital transformation is one of the most progressive strategies for any organisation attempting to increase efficiency and limit risk. At the core of this strategy are the goals of minimising non-digital and manual processes, cutting waste such as the reliance on paper, and increasing accessibility as well as averting risk through the use of cloud hosting and cloud computing. Throughout our workshops with MRT, what was soon clear to Bad Dinosaur was that although the primary objective of the project was to create a platform to replace the locally hosted Access database system, there were a number of additional ways that digital transformation could reinvigorate MRT’s administrative processes.
MRT had been using an Access database, which had fulfilled their needs for some 15 years but was now creating two primary issues. The first issue was that fifteen years of use had created a pile-up of requests that was making the platform less and less fit for purpose. The second issue was, because the database was only hosted locally on the office computer, the continuity of their data was at risk should there be any damage to the offices. But we also soon found that there were a number of other manual processes being done on spreadsheets. For example, scheduling was a task that could take weeks of tedious planning but by introducing a customised programme to help automate schedules the task was cut down to hours.Ian Henderson, Head of Product, Bad Dinosaur
The solutions to these issues may sound quite complex but they are quickly becoming routine transformations for organisations throughout all industries. The team at Bad Dinosaur began by first designing a cloud hosted platform that not only replaced the old Access system but ensured that all data was safely backed-up and also allowed users to connect to the system remotely. This means that administrators, volunteers, and board members can now all access necessary information when and where they need to instead of having to take turns using the office computer. As a result important documents like individual or group schedules can be easily checked by staff on their home computers, tablets, or mobile phones, meaning there is little need for the printing of hard copies which helps move towards an increasingly paperless operation.
Another important aspect of the digital transformation process is the oversight it now provides for key administrators and directors. Previously, compartmentalised tasks such as those held on spreadsheets—scheduling, fundraising etc.—have now been upgraded and integrated directly into the cloud hosted platform, which means it is not only easier to complete tasks as they are more automated, but it is faster, simpler, and safer to share, review, and organise data. This makes it both quicker and easier for leaders like Michelle Sutton, the Chair of MRT, to have the kind of global view of the organisation that will help to ensure its ongoing prosperity.
Unfortunately not long after the design and implementation of MRT’s new cloud hosted system the COVID-19 pandemic forced the charity to close for an extended period of time. But on a positive note, the changes that had been made through digital transformation allowed administrative staff to continue doing their valuable work safely from home, something that would not have been possible before.
The system works brilliantly, but really it came into its own when the first lock-down was announced as we were forced to shut the centre and send our three main admin staff home. But now they were able to contact riders from home, access information to send out letters, and more. And the only reason they were able to do that is because we now had the system to do it. It’s been an absolute lifesaver for us during this period!Michelle Sutton, Chair of the Board of Director, Muirfield Riding Therapy
At Bad Dinosaur we’re so pleased to hear that our work has helped such a worthy organisation get through difficult circumstances, something that digital solutions are really all about. We look forward to hearing more about the wonderful work being done by MRT and to the potential of working together again in the future.