We’re excited to spotlight BrightArrow’s founder, Raymond Bily, in this Blackbaud K-12 partner spotlight. Learn how his company grew from its early roots in the voice technology industry to become a leader in the Digital Dialer industry.
Plus, discover how their product, Digital Voice Dialer, integrates with "ON" and makes syncing data between the two a snap.
1. Tell us the story of BrightArrow — how did it come to be?
I founded BrightArrow Technologies in 1997. I began my career at Microsoft as one of its early employees and one of its first product managers. I then started a very successful music technology company, taking it public in 1993. By 1997, as PC’s were getting fast enough to perform real-time voice analysis, I founded BrightArrow Technologies with a team of top audio engineers to focus on applications in the voice technology industry.
Working with 3Com, BrightArrow wrote software that expanded the functionality of network-based phone systems (IP-PBX’s). 3Com asked BrightArrow to develop a suite of K-12 related functions as it expanded its leadership in the educational market.
BrightArrow’s education suite included: call recording, intercom/paging, homework hotlines, E-911, speech recognition-based call routing, find-me-follow-me, and intelligent call screening.
The most sought-after feature, however, was its ability to burst out large numbers of simultaneous calls, thus the earliest rendition of what has become one of the most popular ways for schools to quickly reach out to parents and staff with important information.
BrightArrow focused on polishing the “gem” of its feature set, its automated outbound messaging and introduced a hosted service, so schools no longer needed a particular phone system to burst out voice messages. BrightArrow introduced Digital Voice Dialer as a standalone solution in 2008 and subsequently integrated voice, email, texting, and social media into a single hosted interface.
In 2016, BrightArrow became the first and only automated notification system that connects directly to the ON database for weather closures, emergencies, reminders, and other alerts without any data importing or file transfer.
2. What problem does BrightArrow solve for a private school? How does your product make someone’s life easier?
BrightArrow provides a broad base of features that can be adapted to the needs of independent schools. Our web-based service delivers to private schools an easy to use, yet powerful, set of functions that makes reaching out to parents, staff, and faculty for urgent communications stress-free. Should your school need to close unexpectedly, BrightArrow lets you simultaneously send a voice call, text message, email, and social media post in a single step, which allows you to focus on other urgent tasks.
Private schools also use BrightArrow to bolster and encourage trust-building two-way communication between parents and the school. Whether it is to remind parents about a fund-raising activity, a school/parent get-together, or to ensure the safety of your students, it is a simple task for a principal or headmaster to personally speak to the parent in a recorded message rather than just sending out an email.
In those instances, where you may need support, BrightArrow provides a 24x7 support line staffed with engineers who can help with whatever your needs might be. 90% of all support calls reach a live engineer!
3. How have schools benefited from working with BrightArrow?
Portledge School in Locust Valley NY has been using BrightArrow for many years, originally with their Blackbaud Education Edge, and more recently with their “ON” Products. Back when Hurricane Sandy devastated NY and NJ, Portledge School used BrightArrow extensively for keeping parents informed of developments during and after the storm.
This year, during their annual fund-raising bazaar, Portledge School auctioned to a parent the privilege of their student to record the “snow day school closure” message used throughout the rest of this winter. In fact, the BrightArrow system is commonly used by private schools to help broaden the success of fundraising activities at many levels.
A unique aspect of the BrightArrow system is the ability to separate the lists into subset lists, yet remain totally in sync with the latest "ON" Products data. For example, a teacher can send a reminder message to the parents of 2nd graders, or to parents of students in a particular extracurricular activity.
4. What’s your favorite product feature and why?
While each school has their favorite BrightArrow feature, our Mobile app is one that gets a lot of praise. The app provides your administration team the ability to quickly and easily create and send notifications right from their mobile device. You download the BrightArrow Target Mobile app for free from either the Apple or Android app stores. The app keeps things simple – from the Web, you can set-up sub-groups for the different lists. Then from your iPhone or Android mobile phone, you are always a few presses away from being able to send out messages to your chosen groups of parents and staff.
The great thing about the app is that your parents’ most current phones and emails in your Blackbaud ON database are ready to use so you can confidently send out an urgent message from anywhere at any time with voice, text, and email knowing it will reach your parents.
The BrightArrow mobile app steps you through the creation and sending of a message:
5. Explain how your integration with the ON products works.
The BrightArrow API-based integration to the "ON" Products is the result of a close working relationship with Blackbaud that has been cultivated over many years and multiple product launches. Until now, a school’s only option to synchronize with a notification system was through a nightly push from the onRecord emergency contacts list. BrightArrow is the first and only notification system that does a real-time API integration with the "ON" database.
To make use of this integration, you acquire the "ON" Products API license for BrightArrow. On a nightly schedule, the latest phones and emails of parents, staff, and students are transferred into your notification database. Also, with a single menu choice, you can launch a mid-day refresh of your contact information.
With BrightArrow, not only do you have access to the Emergency Contact database, but can separate those contacts by parents, student, or staff role, grade level, requested emergency communication type, or any of the custom data fields. For example, if you have your bus routes or home language in a custom field, then you can choose automatically populated subset lists with those values.
6. What’s the big initiative (i.e. product feature, event, content marketing campaign) at BrightArrow that every Blackbaud customers should know about?
BrightArrow would like to offer a special extended license period. If you purchase before June 30th, 2017, your first one-year license will be extended, at no additional charge, from the date of purchase through to June 30, 2018. This way even if you already have a notification system for the 2016-2017 school year, you can start making use of the broader functionality of BrightArrow immediately without needing to wait until your current contract expires.
7. How can a school interested in learning more reach out to you?
BrightArrow (www.brightarrow.com) can be reached by calling 425-558-2100 and saying “Sales.” If you would like to schedule a demo or receive a price quote, contact BrightArrow at Sales@BrightArrow.com.
About the Author
Peter Baron is the Chief Member Relations Officer at the Enrollment Management Association. Prior to joining EMA, Peter served as a senior product marketing manager, for Blackbaud K-12. Peter is the founder of edSocialMedia, a community-driven site dedicated to exploring the role of social media in education. He regularly contributes to various online communities and education conferences like NAIS, CASE/NAIS & SSATB to explain the importance of providing modern, user-friendly experiences for school constituents. Peter also serves as a trustee for Wolfeboro, The Summer Boarding School and is an Executive Committee member of TABS’ North American Boarding School Initiative.Follow on Twitter More Content by Peter Baron