Scouts Australia

How to Stop Spending So Much Time on Administration

ScoutsACT is a Child Safe organisation. We take a zero-tolerance approach to any form of abuse or neglect. We have a set of detailed policy and regulations that ensure that our members can participate in our activity program safely.

Some of the things we do to make our organisation safe for our members are:

  • having a formal membership application process that includes providing referees, and evidence of the member holding a WWVP card;
  • ensuring leaders understand their roles and responsibilities in Scouting;
  • ensuring adults are required to be appropriately trained before they can lead a section;
  • requiring that every activity is assessed as to its level of risk;
  • requiring every activity be approved by a Group Leader or Adventurous Activities Leader with the appropriate qualifications;
  • obtaining parental consent for youth members to attend activities;
  • recognising the diversity of our membership, and valuing the abilities that each member brings to our organisation.

Everyone understands the need for these principles, policies and regulations.   If there is an accident or incident, adherence to these basic principles will protect all members, providing insurance and other support.

To manage these requirements is not easy. Over time ScoutsACT has adopted Extranet, DocuSign, Caremonkey, Scouts Central, Pioneer Tracker, Dropbox, Google Suite, Olems, Xero, Facebook and hard copy PDF forms to capture and store all the information we need to meet our requirements listed above. As the amount of reporting required increased, each of these tools proved useful in addressing part of the problem.

However a serious fault in the overall administrative or systems landscape in our organisation is the silo nature of each system or tool.  Significant staff (and volunteer) time is soaked up with duplication of data entry from system to system.  The second issue is cost. Valuable resources that should be put into funding programs for our youth members is instead being spent paying software licence fees.

An obvious example of this is the work and time required to enter a new adult leader into all systems once their appointment is confirmed (eg, Extranet, Xero, ScoutsIT, Google Suite, some Facebook pages, and in many cases, Bendigo Bank).  Ideally, when a person becomes a member of the Association, their information should be entered once and that information, and access permissions, should populate automatically into every functional area relevant to that person’s role.

This is where the new forms come in. Recognising the problem, Branch has been working with Zoho reviewing our processes and consolidating them into simple easy to access forms. The new forms are being released progressively, focussing on the most heavily used forms first. These also happen to be the forms that have very complex workflows.

To date the following forms have been released:

  • Activity Approval form (typically Leaders to GL)
  • Activity Consent form (completed by Parents/Carers)
  • Membership form (Youth and all categories of Adult membership in one form).

Collectively these three forms have replaced eight ‘old’ forms. While we maintain PDF versions of all forms on the website to enable business functions to continue in the meantime, we will eventually be moving to paperless processes.

Every form has a ‘User’ and one or more ‘Approvers’. For users you will experience little change from previous systems. You access the forms from the website, click on the link and start completing the form. If you need to send the form to another user you can just copy and paste the link (eg, a Membership application that needs to be sent to a parent or prospective Adult Helper).

The biggest change is in the process for approval. We have introduced a dashboard, called the Approval Portal. Approvers receive an email notification of forms awaiting their attention, log in to their dashboard, and can deal with all the forms assigned to them. Approvers can approve, reject, edit, comment and print forms from their dashboard, and all their forms remain viewable within the dashboard – a permanent storage place.  Approvers can arrange their dashboard into different views including a list, a Kanban view, and a calendar view. 

Below is a shot of my approval dashboard showing all Activity Approval forms in list view. 


Below is the same list in Kanban view, sorted by ‘Pending’, ‘Approved’ and ‘Rejected.


As many of us now use portable devices, another important new feature is that the forms are extremely easy to fill out on phones and tablets. The Approval Portal too is clean and simple to use on a phone.  The images below show the Approval Portal log-in and interface as they appear on a mobile phone.


The forms are being built is such a way as to allow further automation, which will be rolled out over coming weeks and month. One example of this will be the ability to include a ‘Pay Now’ touch button on the Activity Consent form, and another example is a workflow that runs your Adventurous Activity Approval form past an appropriate Scout Appointed Guide for review before it is passed to your GL for sign off. Workflows such as these are complex and time consuming to set up, but will reward us all with an easier, quicker and better process.

At the moment the forms and the portal are first-release versions and we know there is much to be improved. They can, and will, look and function better and better.

Please send your feedback to Errors and user access issues are addressed with the utmost priority. Suggestions for improvement are being logged, assessed and actioned in a logical order driven by the work plan.

Jackie Stenhouse 
Branch Commissioner Group Resources 

Brent Juratowitch
Assistant Chief Commissioner Groups

31 January 2020




Join Scouts

Click Here

Join Scouts