September 7, 2023
When I created the first versions of OWNA, I started with a target customer: my wife. When my children were entering childcare my wife and I realized we had little visibility of what was happening during the day.
When I arrived to pick up my child, I often forgot to ask for the stats of the day – things like whether they had eaten, if they had napped, the number of nappy changes, and other information. My wife would ask me, and I wouldn’t have a clue because I’d forgotten to look at the paper-based report that detailed whether my child had eaten, the number of nappy changes, and whether they had napped.
Starting from that foundation, I asked lots of questions and learned that childcare centers face many challenges. The problem wasn’t a lack of intent on the part of the staff at the childcare center. They simply lacked the tools to do this in an effective way that didn’t get in the way of the work they were doing. That led me to pivot from a parent-centric view to a broader one. Having started the initial development on MongoDB's document database, I was able to scale and iterate as I had a platform that could grow and be easily adapted.
OWNA started as a tool for one childcare center and has now evolved and covers the full gamut of services that childcare centers offer. From that single center, OWNA is now used in over 2,500 childcare centers across Australia, and we have created localized versions for North America and Europe.
How to create an app that meets challenging compliance requirements and offers flexibility to meet diverse needs
When I started this journey, I looked at how information was recorded and managed at my local childcare center. Almost everything was on paper. Parents want to be able to easily access the information educators are recording and educators and the centers themselves need to store that data and make sure they meet compliance obligations.
Paper-based records are costly to store, difficult to search and centers are subject to regulatory obligations to maintain records.
With childcare centers moving toward electronic systems, we also solved another problem – the sprawl of disjointed applications centers used. We learned that there was a lot of switching between apps and copying data to ensure information was synchronized across applications.
OWNA is a one-stop shop for childcare centers. It enables them to record and share everything from meals and nappy changes, manage staff and rosters, capture documents, images, and video, and support back-office operations with comprehensive Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and payment platforms.
By listening carefully to the needs of educators and parents, we developed OWNA to meet the requirements of both groups.
MongoDB Atlas enabled OWNA to scale and adapt to new customer needs
MongoDB has been foundational to OWNA’s success. We needed a database that was easy to set up, used few system resources, and didn’t get in the way as we added features. MongoDB met those needs with flexible data structures without compromising performance.
One of the key benefits of building on the MongoDB foundation is the ability to adapt the database to meet new customer needs. For example, when it came to recording when children ate, teachers initially recorded a simple yes or no in a field. However, we were able to change that field type, on the fly, into a field that allowed educators to enter how much of a meal was eaten. That change was important to parents and gave educators the ability to communicate more clearly with parents and carers.
As the app’s popularity grew, we wanted to ensure OWNA was secure, scalable, and resilient. While MongoDB’s self-managed database was a great platform for us to start our journey with OWNA, as we grew we needed something to enable the business to scale and free up even more developer time.
It was at this point that we started looking at MongoDB Atlas, as the managed service meant almost all of the operational and management burden was either completely removed or reduced to a few clicks.
Moving to Atlas gave us the power to not only scale the application to more clients but also increase our developer productivity which meant we could focus our efforts on building an even better app. We could devote resources to development and customer support rather than managing the database.
This shift enabled OWNA to scale more effectively and because of the superior business continuity with increased uptime and better resilience, it had a direct positive impact on our customers too.
MongoDB Atlas lets us take advantage of multiple cloud providers. In our case, we use Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform depending on the region or service we’re looking for.
MongoDB Atlas enables global growth and expansion of OWNA's services
The platform we’ve built on is now powering our next wave of innovation and development. For example, we’re launching the Family Marketplace – an online store for parents and educators. They’ll be able to order supplies such as nappies, stationery, craft supplies, and other essentials directly from OWNA.
MongoDB Atlas will be the foundation and we'll use MongoDB Search so that users can find products and receive recommendations to make it easy for educators and parents to find the items they need. Using MongoDB Atlas Search eliminates the need for Owna to run a separate search system alongside the database. This simplifies the architecture and helps developers focus on value rather than managing data integration and syncing. The entire process will be handled within OWNA. Goods will be delivered directly to the center. For parents, this eliminates squeezing trips to shops between drop-offs, pick-ups, and work.
The story for us doesn’t stop with OWNA. We’re also creating two new apps that are built on MongoDB.
ERLY is a workforce management tool that enables small businesses to manage recruitment, rosters, payroll, and other key activities. And, by listening to educators that use OWNA, we learned that there was a desire for an app where qualified childcare workers could offer their services as babysitters. That led to the development of Nurture – a service that connects parents to babysitters.
MongoDB’s tools let us develop apps with less code. The apps we create are easy to maintain and we can develop new features faster than with other platforms.
The development and growth of OWNA has, from the first moment, been powered by MongoDB. The ability to quickly develop apps and features, easily maintain the apps and deploy them either on-premises, using hybrid infrastructure, or wholly on the cloud has enabled OWNA to grow and expand globally.
Kheang Ly is the founder & CTO of OWNA. Overseeing the entire OWNA operations and building the best and most innovative platform. Learn more about OWNA.