How technology can put the ‘home’ into ‘care homes’

What might we think of when we hear the term ‘care home’?

We might imagine rooms that look a little different, with walk-in baths, handrails and emergency alarms.

We might envisage nursing staff checking the health of residents.

We might picture medication trolleys wheeled around, rattling with medicines as they go.

These are all typical care home scenes. But they discount a crucial aspect of these places: that they are homes.

It’s a subtle but important distinction. Being homes, they must go beyond medical care to help residents enjoy a comfortable, rewarding and rich life – just as we all strive for in our own homes and our lives.

Technology can be a huge help where this is concerned. But before we consider how, it’s worth spending a few moments on the bigger picture.

Person-centred care

If you work in a care home, you’ll already know that the CQC (Care Quality Commission) is the independent regulator for England’s health and social care sector.

The CQC inspects, reviews, and rates social care organisations, having the power to order improvements or shut homes. And among the criteria it uses to do this are its 13 ‘fundamental standards’.

One of these standards, ‘person-centred care’, sets out that residents must be at the heart of their care. It requires that residents are treated as individuals with unique needs, and they must be closely involved in the planning and monitoring of their care.

As an example of how this might work in the real world, consider an imaginary resident. Let’s call her Joan.

She has always taken pride in her appearance but now finds getting dressed a little tricky due to arthritis.

Joan is a private woman, so she would like a female carer to lay out her chosen outfit then wait in the bathroom next door while she dresses, in case she has any difficulties.

On days where her arthritis flares up in her hands, Joan might need help buttoning her blouse and applying her makeup and nail polish.

Once she is ready, Joan feels more confident, sociable and prepared for the day ahead. And painting her nails in her favourite shade brings back happy memories of her wedding day.

This example does not entail a great degree of ‘medical’ assistance – the things that we might imagine are the mainstay of healthcare.

But it does involve listening closely to Joan, understanding what makes her tick, and developing a plan of care that puts her first. Doing so can help her feel respected and valued. And doing this for every resident is what makes a care home a real home-from-home.

And this is why thoughtfully-designed care plans are essential to person-centred care. It’s also one area in which technology can help.

Digital care plans

More and more organisations – in more and more sectors – are moving towards paperless systems. The care sector is no different, and for good reason.

But let’s take a step back. Historically, care plans have some similarities with the folder you might see hooked at the end of a hospital bed. But there are drawbacks with this approach:

  • Being in one place, staff must visit the bed to update the records.
  • It’s not easy to share this paper record between staff, across teams and departments.
  • To use their time efficiently, staff members might save all their note-taking for one period, meaning there may be a delay between talking with a patient, or resident, and recording the conversation. This can, in turn, mean important details – like Joan’s favourite nail polish – get forgotten.

Of course, more than ever, digital technology is being used to record notes like this. But putting them on a static desktop computer in a nursing station still poses similar problems.

One care home that we work with closely has found a solution to this. It has now installed care plan software on a suite of tablets. This means care plans are easily accessible, everywhere and at all times.

The care home is using Person Centred Software. We have no affiliation with this software developer, but we know that it has made a hugely positive difference to staff – and ultimately, to residents.

It’s helped the care home iron out these wrinkles in care plans. And when you make improvements to lots of little things, they all add up to a big difference.

Enriching entertainment

As with our own homes, a big part of making a care home a rewarding place to live is to offer a mix of leisure activities.

TVs are one such aspect of entertainment. Typically, residents’ rooms each have one – as do communal areas. But in many cases, these TVs function in a traditional sense – that is, they are the glowing box in the corner of the room that might make us laugh or groan. Ultimately, they’re a passive form of entertainment.

But they can be much more than this. Again, using our client as an example, this care home has installed internet-connected smart TVs and, through them, now runs various software designed to enrich residents’ lives.

Interactive Me, for example, is one application this home uses in its smart TVs. It’s software that allows family members to send their relatives digital media – like images, music and video. It can work as a family photo album, or provide a collection of internet-sourced media that will entertain the resident. One family created a library of images, sounds, and articles about Italy to help their grandparent recall their fond memories of growing up there.

Another smart TV application used by our client is Care Messenger. As the name implies, this is a messenging service that residents and their families can use to stay in touch. It allows for the sharing of rich media, but is designed for simplicity – so residents can interact through their remote control. The care home can also use it to send messages and news to residents, rather like an internal noticeboard.

In the age where Facebook, Twitter and the like are so widely used, it may seem unnecessary to have standalone applications like these – with features similar to those we see in social media. But social media can be complex and intimidating for people who have not grown up with such platforms. And so, incorporating simple apps into televisions is a more accessible, ‘gentler’ way to bring technology to older people.

Smarter safety and security

We all like to feel safe and secure in our homes. Care homes are no different – but they have a tricky balancing act to consider in this regard. On the one hand, care homes look after vulnerable people and have a duty to protect them from risks – but on the other hand, they must ensure their security measures do not encroach on residents’ lives.

Clearly, technology has an essential role in this respect. CCTV and access control systems can now connect wirelessly to IT systems – making it easy to change security settings in certain areas, and view live reports of staff, residents’ and visitors’ movements. Additionally, RFID, swipe cards or biometric systems can be used to ensure the right access for the right people. They can work as clocking-in systems, too, which is valuable for tracking and planning employees’ work patterns.

From the perspective of individual residents’ safety, one innovation that we’ve seen is the GPS watch from CareLine Care. Used by our care home client, it has proved to be especially valuable for residents at risk of falls or wandering too far from the home boundary.

It features a GPS-based alarm, which can be programmed to alert carers if the wearer travels beyond the care home perimeter. It also has an accelerometer that can detect if the wearer has fallen over, again automatically alerting care staff so they can respond promptly.

For both scenarios, the watch offers an advantage over more traditional protective measures. It means residents can enjoy the outdoors with a greater degree of independence – and do not even need to think about reaching for an alarm in the distressing moments after having a fall.

Another, less obvious, aspect of security in care homes is that of cyber protection. Care providers handle, store and manage sensitive resident records. And consequently, they must be compliant with the UK GDPR, and must protect themselves from cyber attacks.

Care homes in the post-Covid world

No blog right now would be complete without a mention of the pandemic. But we’re conscious that nothing we can say can do justice to the amazing way the care sector has responded to events of the last 12 months.

As a technology company, we’ve seen the emergence of two contrasting trends within care sector technology and innovation during this time – and both are entirely understandable.

The first approach has seen technology projects put on the back burner. Given that time, resources and budgets have been stretched by everything from staff self-isolating to extra cleaning, it makes complete sense that things like IT upgrades have taken the back seat.

The second approach has seen some care homes divert their technology plans towards innovations that can help during the pandemic. For example, one of our care home clients installed special visiting ‘pods’ so family members could see residents in a safe way.

Sadly, good work like this never makes headlines quite like the rare occasions when things go wrong. But there are impressive and moving stories everywhere. Our experience is that, overnight, care homes became extraordinarily self-sufficient, sourcing their own PPE, taking brave steps to protect residents in the face of ever-growing challenges.

One article we read recounts the experience of a care home nurse working through the pandemic. She said of her colleagues:

“What teams they were and are to this day; professional, uncomplaining, and immensely hardworking, keeping the home clean, residents well-fed and cared for in the best way possible.”

People first, technology second

There is one common theme to all the technology described here: underpinning all of it is high-speed, reliable and secure internet connectivity. This is where we can help – but it’s about more than the technology products and services. Here are some unique reasons why you might choose us:

  • We put people first, before technology – as reflected in our slogan, ‘Uniting technology, inspiring people.’ For us, that means technology should serve people, not the other way round. We believe this approach makes a good fit for person-centred care.
  • We work with more than 20 care home organisations of different sizes.
  • For a London-based care home group of eight affiliated homes, we’ve provided a full set of IT services including secure Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery service to protect their data and IT applications – a real comfort over the last year, when so much uncertainty has existed elsewhere.
  • In north east Lincolnshire, we work closely with a provider of community health and care services. For this organisation of more than 800 staff, we’ve provided a fully flexible telephony solution, which has enabled them to react quickly to changing circumstances.
  • In the case of the care home described in this blog, we have helped them simplify their IT support, upgrade their internet line and their wifi to support the great person-centred technology they’ve implemented in their home.
  • We are also HSCN (Health and Social Care Network) Stage 2 compliant. This means we are approved by NHS Digital to provide HSCN connectivity services to health and social care organisations. In fact, we’re one of only 20 in the marketplace to reach this stage – and we were one of the first to receive this accreditation.
  • We have a long history of working with health and social care organisations. One example of this is our work in Kent, where we provide high-speed connectivity to more than 400 hospitals, GP surgeries and hospices through the HSCN.
  • With HSCN, we work with over 60 health organisations, including Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust and Great Ormond Hospital – you can read the case study here.
  • We don’t have pushy sales agendas and prefer to spend time at the outset getting to know you and your needs. Our founder, Ian Fishwick, has driven our year-on-year growth for more than 30 years by focusing on customer loyalty. And loyalty is never achieved by dazzling clients with hyped-up products for the sake of a sales target. Ian shares some valuable insights into our ageing society in this video.

One last point

As mentioned above, we are not affiliated with any of the companies listed in this blog. But we have worked with the care home sector to help them make the most of these services. And we are sure that they could help other care homes, too – so we hope you found this blog valuable.

  • Written by Tim Scott

Tim is AdEPT’s Chief Commercial Officer. He leads our work with partners and suppliers, and develops our products and services. In his personal life, he is closely involved in a local children’s football team and a local care home.

Written by Tim Scott

Chief Commercial Officer at AdEPT

Google Workspace vs Microsoft 365: Cloud Platform Comparison

Cloud-based storage is extremely beneficial for both companies and individuals to use. 

The average person uses thirty-six cloud-based services every day. It’s no wonder, with all they have to offer and the ability to now have everything you need while on the go.  

Google Workspace, formally known as G Suite, and Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365) are the obvious frontrunners when it comes to cloud-based collaboration platforms.  

What does each have to offer, and is there a clear winner between the two? 

Keep reading to learn all about these platforms and discover which might be best for you.  

Which Is Most Used? 

Google Workspace is the most popular platform, with two billion active monthly users

Microsoft 365 is Microsoft’s most popular product by far, with over two hundred million active monthly users and climbing.  

However, popularity does not necessarily mean a product is better. Looking at the other features involved is essential for making an accurate comparison.  

Which Is More Accessible?  

Both Google Workspace and Microsoft 365 can be accessed online and offline, but they work a little differently.  

Microsoft 365 offers a desktop software that companies can download, which connects and synchronises with their cloud-based storage platform. They also offer a web-based version of their software, but the apps are not as powerful as they are on the desktop software. 

Microsoft 365’s are available on Windows, iOS, macOS, and Android.  

Google Workspace is web-based but does provide access to their apps when offline. Because it is designed for the web, the apps can be accessed from any device when using most web browsers.  

Which Is Most Expensive?  

Google Workspace offers fewer options for pricing than Microsoft 365, with only four possibilities. Each option includes a custom e-mail, video meetings, cloud storage, security controls, and support. As the price increases, so do the features.  

The pricing depends on the option you wish to choose.  

Microsoft 365 offers many different types of options that allow you to tailor your subscription to your exact needs. You get their apps, cloud storage, e-mail, and calendar with your family or personal options.  

The business options include extra cloud services for your business and Microsoft team support.  

Which Is More Secure? 

When cloud-storage first came out, you may have been hesitant to try it because of security worries. This makes sense, as you’re trusting a third-party with all of your sensitive information. 

Both Google Workspace and Microsoft 365 offer a wide scope of security features, so you can feel at ease when using either one of them.  

Google Workspace’s Security Features 

Google Workspace provides full-data encryption both while at rest and while in transit. They have improved features, so it is now easier for administrators to manage access permissions and restrict access to data and apps.  

They also provide two-step verification, with your phone’s built-in security key being offered as a verification method.  

In October 2020, when G Suite became Google Workspace, Google also became the first collaboration suite to get an accredited ISO/IEC 27701 certification. 

ISO/IEC 27701 is made to help organisations align with international privacy laws and frameworks.  

Google Workspace has also put in place abuse flagging, logging, classification, and detection capabilities to prevent misuse of certain applications that allow people to interact with one another.  

Lastly, Google Workspace has helped prevent data from being leaked from your e-mail. They improved their auditing service of Gmail by checking email accounts that auto-forward outside of their domain.  

Microsoft 365’s Security Features 

Like Google’s two-factor authentication, Microsoft 365 offers multi-authentication for all of its plans.  

They also provide role-based access control, which clarifies the process of assigning access to specific individuals. It does so by giving access to groups and then assigning users to those groups.  

There is also advanced threat analytics for Microsoft 365, which monitors users, devices, and network resources to detect suspicious activity before it becomes a real problem.  

Microsoft 365 offers the option for real-time alerts, so you will know right away if there is ever a data breach without having to check constantly.  

Security reports are available, which shows how secure your data is with a graphical representation. You can download and send these reports, so you know exactly how your sensitive data is being used. 

Both Google Workspace and Microsoft 365 prove to be secure platforms that take precautions to keep your data safe.  

What Are the Core Apps for Each? 

Both platforms offer a wide variety of apps that customers and businesses can benefit from. They also allow users to install third-party apps and services. Administers can control who can install apps and what apps can be installed. 

Apps Offered by Google Workspace 

The apps offered by Google Workspace include: 

  • Gmail 
  • Calendar 
  • Chat 
  • Docs 
  • Drive 
  • Meet 
  • Sites 
  • Forms 
  • Slides 

Apps Offered by Microsoft 365 

Microsoft 365 also offers multiple apps, including: 

  • Excel 
  • Word 
  • PowerPoint 
  • OneNote 
  • Outlook 
  • Teams 
  • OneDrive 

Google Workspace vs Microsoft 365 

So, which is better, Google Workspace or Microsoft 365? They both have a lot to offer and have many benefits for both personal and business use. You really can’t go wrong with either one. It just depends on which is right for you.  

Want help learning which cloud-storage is best for you, or have questions about technology services?  

We can help you find the best solution for your situation. Contact us today to learn about our services, and we can help you make the best use of technology.   

Written by Sami Malik

Marketing Campaigns Manager

What is Microsoft 365 Education? All You Need to Know

In addition to causing a world health crisis, COVID-19 has created a whole host of challenges for educators, the business world and community leaders. How do these groups continue to carry on with their roles from home? How do teachers effectively communicate and create lessons that will engage students? 

If you’re part of the work from the home workforce, how can you effectively do your job and communicate with colleagues from afar? 

Even as the world works through the pandemic crisis, more and more people, including students will be staying home and continuing their work.  

The Microsoft 365 Education platform offers comprehensive tools and support to do the work you need to do, whether at home, in school or at your office. Read on to learn about the features of the Microsoft 365 Education program and its many benefits.  

Microsoft 365 for Education Plan Options 

In the name of computers, Microsoft is a name to be reckoned with and their education platform has it all, including options. There are three different plan options available through Microsoft 365 Education. They include: 

  • Office 365 A1 
  • Office 365 A3 
  • Office 365 A5 

The most basic platform is the 365 A1 option. You would need a school email address, then you could access the core components of the program via the Microsoft cloud services. In the A1 option, you must use the online version only.  

The A1 platform includes access and services to the following: 

  • Word 
  • Excel 
  • PowerPoint 
  • Outlook 
  • OneNote 
  • SharePoint 
  • Exchange 
  • Teams 
  • Forms 
  • School Data Sync 
  • OneDrive 
  • Stream 
  • Sway 
  • Power Apps 
  • Flow 
  • Yammer 

The A3 and A5 program offers all of what you can get in the A1 program with some additional offerings too. If the A3 program you would get access to: 

  • Publisher 
  • Access 
  • Bookings 

IN the A5 program you could also access the Power BI app. 

More on some of these offerings later.  

Benefits of Using the Microsoft 365 Education Program 

There are a host of benefits beyond the long list of apps you can use with 365 Education. Let’s take a closer look at some of those benefits.  

Cloud-Based Access and Storage 

It used to be that when a school used a program, they had to purchase the actual program and install it on their computers. While this might have worked, updates were a pain to keep up with and it becomes costly when you need newer versions of the program. 

With Microsoft 365 Education, you don’t buy the program. Instead, you subscribe to use it and access it through the cloud. This makes it much more affordable for schools to use and access. 

Students and staff can store their data on the cloud. The cloud has unlimited storage capabilities, so you never have to worry that your work will be lost or not saveable.  

Regular Updates 

In today’s work and school from home, there are computers for everyone. In one school alone, that can be a lot of computers to manage and maintain.  

What happens if a program needs an update? Does your school’s tech department need access to every computer? In fact, the answer is no. With the Microsoft 365 Education platform updates are regularly done through the cloud. Schools don’t need to worry about those updates or keeping the work or platform secure. It happens automatically. 

Preparation for the Working World 

It’s no secret that students in today’s technology-driven world need to be very tech-savvy. it’s highly likely they will enter a workforce that requires them to have some technical skills.  

Many businesses around the globe use the Microsoft platform too. As they work with these apps on the platform, they are essentially preparing themselves for the future working world.  

Digital Collaboration 

When educators first found themselves working from their kitchen table at the beginning of the pandemic, one of the things they quickly realised was they needed a way to collaborate from afar. 

The Microsoft 365 Education platform allows users to access PowerPoint, Excel, or Word apps and collaborate in real-time from anywhere.  

No matter where the user accesses the work, the formatting remains consistent and is available right on the cloud. 

Data Security and Controls 

While the 13-year-old who is writing their argument paper might not hold corporate information, data security is important. Schools have a wide range of data that they need to be secure.  

The 365 Education program offers a wide range of security features. These include: 

  • 24-hour remote monitoring 
  • Threat management 
  • Consistent anti-spam monitoring 
  • Anti-malware protection  

School systems, teachers and students can rest assured their data will be protected.  

Apps That Are a Part of Microsoft 365 Education 

When Microsoft put together this platform for educators and students, they really thought about what those in the education world would need to do. Let’s take a closer look at some of the apps that are a part of this platform.  

Outlook 

Outlook is the business and educational email platform. It allows users access to email storage and cloud services. The unlimited email storage provides legal hold and in-place archiving. 

Microsoft Word 

Microsoft Word is the platform’s desktop publishing and word processing application. It allows teachers and students the ability to have an instant and simultaneous collaboration on their word files. 

The A1 version of the program only can use the web version of Word. 

Excel 

Excel allows users to create spreadsheets and visualisations and to collaborate on these spreadsheets. Again, the A1 plan only allows the use of the web version. 

PowerPoint 

PowerPoint allows users to create slide shows to present information using a library of templates and graphics. Users can create, edit, and collaborate on slideshows. They can create slideshows that also have cinematic motions, animations, and 3D models.  

Check Out Microsoft 365 

This pandemic world has created enough problems for the world. Teachers and students should be able to do schoolwork without facing issues of communication or the ability to collaborate. Microsoft 365 Education provides just what the education community needs to face today’s challenges head-on. 

If you are part of a school community and want more information about the value of benefits of Microsoft 365 Education, contact us today

Written by Sami Malik

Marketing Campaigns Manager

What Is Direct Routing for Microsoft Teams?

More than 95 million people took up Microsoft Teams as their main collaboration software in 2020. With companies still prioritising remote work, programs like Teams are essential for smooth operations.  

But what if your business needs to make regular phone calls to clients? Are phones and landlines incompatible with Teams? 

Luckily, no. Direct routing is a useful Teams feature that lets you enjoy both the benefits of Teams while sending and receiving phone calls from outside parties.  

In this article, we’ll be outlining what direct routing is and how it can help your business when using Microsoft Teams.  

What is Microsoft Teams? 

So what is Microsoft Teams? Why are so many companies so crazy about it? 

Microsoft Teams is a proprietary business communication platform developed by the titular company. It’s part of their Microsoft 365 family of products as a hub for teamwork and collaboration.  

What that means is that you can use Teams to facilitate conversations, messages, files, and other documents with your co-workers online. It’s all shared in a single workplace that you can access from anywhere.  

On top of file storage, you can hold video conferencing meetings with your teammates using the platform. It’s become one of the premier business collaboration tools in the past few years partially because of its abundant benefits.  

Benefits of Microsoft Teams 

Microsoft Teams gives your business an alternative to slow and often inefficient email conversations. Instead of email correspondence, you can use Teams to directly message a co-worker or create a group chat between project members.  

This makes for quicker and more efficient conversations. Faster communications translate to more productivity and even a better office culture.  

Teams also give you planner tools and integrations with other Microsoft programs. Sharing documents like presentation slides and spreadsheets are made much easier this way.  

You can schedule meetings with your co-workers much easier. This is important especially since many businesses are still operating remotely. 

Teams is also mobile-friendly, so your team can join calls on the go if need be.  

Direct Routing in Microsoft Teams: What is It? 

It’s clear that Microsoft Teams is a great tool for calling people within your organisation. The question still stands: “what if I need to call someone outside of my company?” 

Luckily, the direct routing feature helps you do just that. Direct routing allows you to leverage the call functions on Teams to communicate with clients and stakeholders outside of your organisations.  

You can call people outside other than your company’s Team participants and even receive calls. Let’s look at exactly what Microsoft Teams brings to your business here:   

What Direct Routing Isn’t 

Simply put, direct routing is a way to connect your Teams network to the PTSN, or the world’s circuit-switched telephone networks.  

Direct routing provides most of the same features as a regular phone call. Once integrated, your Teams members can use it to call clients just like they would with a phone.  

What you can’t do is conduct video calls, screen share, or many of Teams’ other functions. It’s restricted to just phone calls.  

Benefits of Direct Routing in Microsoft Teams 

Direct routing helps consolidate different needs and programs for your administrative team. Instead of fumbling around between Teams’ many features and their phones, direct routing puts it all together into a single portal.  

This reduces confusion and makes life easier for your team.  

It also gives your team members even more mobility. They can call practically all relevant stakeholders through direct routing from anywhere using Teams.  

Call forwarding costs will be reduced even when your workers are on the road. It also simplifies employee training since it’s a relatively simple process.  

If you’ve been working with a trusted carrier for years, you can easily integrate contacts and other functions into Teams using direct routing. This provides more flexibility for your business.  

What You Need for Direct Routing in Microsoft Teams 

Now that you know the benefits of direct routing, it’s important to go over how to use Teams with direct routing.   

You first need a paid subscription to Microsoft 365 or Office 365. For each user you want to deploy, you’ll need individual Microsoft phone system licenses as well.  

A SIP trunk is essential here, as they act as virtual versions of analogue phone lines. It helps connect your phone line to the public phone network.  

You’ll also need a Session Border Controller or SBC. An SBC is a special-purpose device that protects and regulates IP communications.  

SBCs create a secure connection between your SIP and VoIP network. In other words, it makes sure your calls are properly being carried out through Teams.  

There are other optional things you can implement to improve your direct routing on Teams. 

Audio conferencing licenses provide dial-in numbers for Team meetings. Handsets are often purchased for boardrooms or for receptionists using direct routing.  

How to Use Direct Routing in Microsoft Teams 

Do you have all the materials needed to set up direct routing? Great! 

To configure it for your business, you first need to connect your SBC to direct routing. This is done by using the Microsoft Teams admin centre.  

You’ll have to connect to Skype through PowerShell then connect the SBC to the tenant.  

Then, you have to enable users for direct routing. This step includes creating a user and assigning the license.  

You’ll also have to configure voice routing as well as translating numbers to the correct format.  

Once direct routing is set up, Teams users can use a dial pad embedded in the Calls tab to set up phone calls. External calls are presented like Team calls and answer the same exact way.  

You can also hold, transfer and park calls just like you would with a landline connection. Voicemail and call-forwarding can also be set up under Settings.  

Leverage Direct Routing on Microsoft Teams Today 

If your company needs reliable collaboration software but also need to make calls, Microsoft Teams is the way to go. Use this guide to properly set up your direct routing system while enjoying the other benefits of Teams.  

Looking for reliable IT, telecom, and other business solutions for your company? Contact us today and we can help your organisation operate without any more technical headaches! 

Written by Sami Malik

Marketing Campaigns Manager

5 Benefits of Microsoft Teams VoIP for Business

In only four short years, Microsoft Teams is now used by half-a-million businesses as their default messaging platform. 

Over 115 million people use the app to collaborate. Its deep integration with Office makes it ideal for workers to chat and work together online. 

But did you know that Teams also includes VoIP calling? And that it works seamlessly within the software? 

This article offers a guide to Microsoft Teams VoIP and its benefits. 

Discover the top 5 advantages of using VoIP within Teams including making calls from anywhere. Learn how its low prices can slash your company’s communications spend. And how to keep your phone calls crystal-clear and secure. 

Read on to learn all about Microsoft Teams VoIP for business. 

What Is VoIP? 

Voice over Internet Protocol or VoIP is a technology that uses the Internet to make and receive voice calls. 

Instead of utilising analogue phone lines, VoIP converts your voice into a digital signal. That data gets sent through your Internet router and is translated back into the audio format by the receiver’s device. 

Millions of businesses are turning to Voice over IP technology because it: 

  • Offers lower costs than traditional systems 
  • Provides extra functionality like personalised answering 
  • Can fully scale as required 

VoIP works with many types of apps like Skype or WhatsApp. However, Microsoft has added it to its Teams software which is great news for all businesses as you’ll soon discover. 

Microsoft Teams VoIP 

Microsoft saw the benefit in VoIP when it purchased Skype in 2011 for $8.5 billion. 

At the time, Skype was the dominant player in the VoIP scene. Users the world over made free calls through the app and could pay to call landlines and mobile phones. 

Microsoft released its Teams application in 2017 and included the ability for members to phone Skype users and vice versa. They then decided to go one step further by adding VoIP technology directly into the app. 

You need a Microsoft 365 license to make calls in Teams. 

Companies with 300 employees or fewer also require a Microsoft 365 Business Voice licence. Alternatively, a Direct Routing option exists which routes all calls to an existing PSTN network. 

Regardless of the method, Microsoft Teams VoIP for businesses offers a wide range of benefits. But what are they and how can they make your company more productive? 

Benefits of Microsoft Teams VoIP 

We’ve highlighted the top 5 advantages that Teams and VoIP bring to the business table below. The list is not exhaustive but gives an overview of how well the service works to benefit all stakeholders. 

1. Increase Productivity With in-App Calls 

Good communication is the cornerstone of every productive team. 

Microsoft Teams is designed to let your employees do just that. Features like online meetings, chat messaging, and screen sharing encourage interaction. Throw VoIP into the mix and it turns the platform into the perfect conversation channel. 

The software places simple icons into the workflow that enable staff to make a call as they work. 

They don’t need to leave the software to open Skype or another VoIP app. Everything’s handled within Teams. Add those time savings up and it produces a lean working environment with less cause for distractions. 

2. Phone Calls Using Microsoft Teams Mobile App 

The Microsoft Teams mobile app now integrates VoIP calls

That means you can make and receive calls while on the go. You can also join one-to-one calls, schedule meetings, and group chat.  

Adding more participants during a live conversation is simple. 

The mobile app enables you to find additional members using the search facility or enter a number directly. This also works for team members that are outside of your organisation. 

3. Low Pricing 

VoIP has revolutionised the telephony industry by lowering phone bills to a fraction of their previous cost. 

MS Teams continues this tradition by offering a low-cost monthly fee to use its Microsoft 365 Business Voice service. For this cost, you get: 

  • Call transfer and queue ability 
  • 1,200 minutes per user per month 
  • Up to 250 users audio conferencing facility 
  • Call from any device running Microsoft Teams 

Alternatively, you can choose to host your own VoIP calls on the cloud. 

AdEPT offers affordable VoIP services that fully integrate with Microsoft Teams or as a standalone option. Additional features like instant messaging bring all the benefits of older tech into the modern workplace. 

4. Secure High Definition Voice Quality 

One negative issue that’s associated with VoIP is the quality of the calls. Lesser services can produce tinny or hollow audio which won’t suffice for business use. 

With Microsoft Teams, you always receive crystal-clear, HD quality calls. 

The platform uses Microsoft’s Azure cloud technology to transmit data. Because Azure is an ultra-fast network that spans the globe, connections rarely drop out. Audio gets transmitted as intended and both parties can communicate as if they were in the next room. 

End-to-end encryption (E2EE) is also coming to Microsoft Teams in 2021. 

A recent statement made at the Ignite event showcased E2EE on the platform. However, it requires both parties to have it enabled and for them to opt-in. 

5. Auto Attendants 

Is it possible to give incoming callers a virtual list of voice prompts that redirect them to the right person? 

The Microsoft Teams Phone System offers this service and allows callers to type from their keypad or by using their voice. Their choices can forward the call to another auto attendant, staff member, or to a call queue. 

It’s relatively simple to create custom corporate menus with multiple levels. There’s also a directory search that the caller can filter by speaking a name. 

The feature even supports specifying business hours and holidays. 

Microsoft Teams VoIP for Business with AdEPT 

Microsoft Teams offers two flavours of VoIP functionality within the app. 

You can use the software to talk to any other Teams user within your organisation. Or you can use it to make calls to landlines and mobile phones. 

Called Microsoft Teams – Direct Routing, this VoIP solution makes it easy for your staff to add voice calls. As a Microsoft Gold Partner, AdEPT can help you take advantage of those benefits today. 

AdEPT is an award-winning telecommunications service provider with over twenty years of experience. 

We assist 12,000 companies throughout the UK to get the best out of Microsoft Teams. We also offer cloud services on Azure, managed support, and our Nebula Voice service. 

Get in touch to discover how your staff can become AdEPT at using VoIP in Microsoft Teams. 

Written by Sami Malik

Marketing Campaigns Manager

Life beyond the pandemic: People-first technology for housing associations

A grandmother who lives alone needs her leaking tap repaired. She calls her landlord, which is a large housing association.

She gets through, and the call agent checks the woman’s records. He notices a history of similar issues reported at regular intervals for some time.

For a moment, the agent wonders to himself about the plumber’s past work. So he makes a note to investigate after the call.

But keen to help her right now, he arranges for another plumber visit, confirming the booking details to the woman. She is delighted.

Three days later, the plumber arrives at the woman’s flat to discover the leak has mysteriously stopped and the woman has been baking.

The plumber needs to go to his next job, but the woman insists he stays for a moment. So over tea and cake, she starts proudly telling the plumber about her 12 grandchildren, who she hasn’t seen for far too long. She shows him the drawings stuck to her fridge and talks him through every family photo on her bookshelf.

In a fortnight, the woman will call the housing association again to report yet another problem. Until then, she will spend her days looking longingly at reminders of her family, hoping she will soon speak to a human being.

This is not a fictional story. In today’s society, the impact of loneliness is significant and has increased as an effect of Covid lockdowns.

Social landlords face a huge challenge. Face-to-face contacts are expensive and unnecessary repair calls are a huge financial overhead. At the same time, many social landlords believe it important not only to provide housing but also look after the welfare of their customers, too.

So why am I – an independent ICT consultant – and AdEPT talking about it?

Because for housing associations, it’s one of many unique challenges that have been compounded by, or emerged due to the pandemic. And technology has a critical role in helping address all of them. 

This blog takes a closer look at this very topic.

Working from home

Before we expand on the topic of loneliness, let’s consider the most obvious shift of all: working from home.

As with organisations of all shapes and sizes, March 2020 saw housing association employees decamp from offices and onto home working.

For me, strangely, this switch feels like it happened both yesterday and a million years ago. For housing associations, having staff work from home on this scale has posed some new and significant technology problems.  Challenges have included communications with customers – significant numbers of interactions have traditionally been face-to-face. There has also been significant disruption to repairs, safety checks, and void processing. Visits necessary to investigate ASB cases have been difficult. And with many customers’ work patterns disrupted, income has often been erratic whilst working in an environment where evictions have not been permitted.

First and foremost – and like all businesses – housing associations have found themselves having to find the bandwidth in their infrastructure to keep all of their basic customer-facing and property maintenance services functioning.

This has seen a demand for laptops and suitable furniture for homeworking – and for many, has presented challenges to provide secure remote connections. Providing telephone, and in particular contact centre services has often presented significant challenges. Alongside this, many working practices have had to change to remove the use of paper and support a geographically dispersed home workforce.

None of these areas are unique to housing associations – both have affected other many sectors. But, combine them with the duty of care that many housing associations see as an obligation to their tenants – and the increasing demand from those tenants as they spend more time than ever in their homes – and we’ve seen a perfect storm form before our eyes, affecting every facet of these organisations.

One other big factor here is the speed in which the changes happened. Tectonic plates shifted overnight. There was a clear distinction between those that were prepared for these changes and those that were not. And as I’ve continued to work with housing associations throughout the whole period, I’ve realised that although the changes have been enormous, they are in fact an acceleration of trends I’ve seen over recent years.

AI and chatbots

Using AI in customer service is one such trend that has been on the cards for housing associations for some time. We’ve already seen widespread adoption of chatbots in the private sector – and they tend to get mixed reviews.

For housing associations, using chatbots throws up some unique hurdles related to the demographics of social housing. Namely, that this sector tends to serve a greater proportion of older, vulnerable and disadvantaged people than in other sectors.

Take, for example, age. According to government statistics for 2016 to 2018, 17 per cent – or 3.9 million – of England households lived in social housing. Of those households, the biggest age group was those aged between 55 and 64.

Now consider the leaning towards chatbots by age group. Although it’s wrong to stereotype older people as more reluctant about technology than their younger counterparts, it does appear that older people are particularly unenthusiastic for chatbots, at least according to this GenPact / YouGov survey of 5,170 people.

Consequently, housing associations that are looking to use chatbots – and many are, in the wake of the pandemic – must tread carefully when rolling them out.

One housing association I am working with is doing precisely that. It’s looked at the common, repetitive tasks that can be automated – for example, booking a plumber – and now offers a chatbot to help with such enquiries.

In turn, this has allowed the organisation to reassign customer service staff to more complex tasks – and during the pandemic, that includes more regular outbound calls to isolated and vulnerable people.

In going through this process, this housing association found, first-hand, what we often see in other projects that involve unfamiliar technology: the more people use it, the more people get used to it – and even come to appreciate the rationale.

But, as I’ve seen over decades of working with this sector, whenever you increase capacity, you increase demand. Let’s return to our first story for a moment.

Video conferencing and collaboration

Many housing associations have been traditionally reticent to adopt video conferencing.  This, particularly for those who cover wide geographic areas, has meant a huge cost in travel expenses and time for both staff and board members.

We now live in an age of Zoom and Teams calls. The social housing sector is no different. With that, I’ve seen many organisations making the switch to Microsoft 365 – and they’ve soon realised that by using Teams, it makes sense to integrate it with Microsoft’s related products. This in turn is promoting greater use of other elements of the 365 suite such as SharePoint.

Business intelligence

Recent trends show that there is an ever-increasing demand for artificial intelligence to interpret the vast and rich sources of data which are typically held by housing associations.

This has included adoption of business intelligence and PowerApp tools available from within many housing associations’ Office 365 subscriptions. These are now being used to provide customer insights to allow better planning particularly around lettings, repairs and rents.

These tools can create dashboards which simply and visually highlight the use of resources and customer trends, allowing housing associations to have better insights about demographics and customer demand. This in turn allows a more proactive service to be delivered to customers whilst ensuring an efficient use of valuable budgets. For example, as mentioned at the start of this blog, it can help identify where demand is being created and can allow planning around more appropriate and cost-efficient remedies. 

Proactive response to customers benefits the customer as well as the housing association, as often simple solutions can be found – let’s not forget that technology exists to serve humans, not the other way round.

This is just one example of where using technology to provide real business intelligence can make a difference within, and beyond a housing association. It’s also ties into the many and complex regulations that this sector.

Tougher legislation ahead

In November last year, the government published its long-awaited social housing white paper. While some argued that the paper did not properly address the issue of housing supply, it did say “We will establish a new arm of the Regulator of Social Housing to proactively regulate on consumer standards including quality of homes, repairs, meaningful engagement with tenants and complaints handling”.

In short, this points to tougher regulations for the sector – and any housing association technology partner that’s worth their salt must be fully on board with these regulations.

For me and AdEPT, it’s about seeing the big picture and the seemingly little details – and being able to comply with rules from every direction.

For example, housing associations are obliged to make paying rent as easy as possible, including taking payments over the phone. And they must do so to meet the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).

Prior to the pandemic, this was well established. But in the age of home working, processing such transactions over home networks carries greater risk of non-compliance.

Consequently, we at AdEPT helped housing associations take steps to improve their data security, ensuring that they comply with all payment regulations.

There’s a reason why we’re Stage 2 compliant with the Health & Social Care Network (HSCN) and work with more than 30 NHS Trusts – it’s because we know the regulations inside out – and we know how they translate to technology.

As the pandemic continues – and the true impact of the government’s whitepaper emerges – it’s clear that there are many areas where technology must step up to the plate.

For housing associations, this can only happen with a deep understanding of the complex regulations involved – and foresight to see what’s ahead.

Flexible working

With the mass vaccination programme now well underway, there is some hope on the horizon. But will we return to our old ways of working? I doubt it. And for housing associations, this offers some food for thought.

One lesson of the pandemic is that we perhaps do not need to follow the 9-to-5 routines of old. Perhaps we need to rethink our long-held view that being tied to a desk, at set hours, is not always the best option. And this may be especially beneficial for housing associations.

Prior to the pandemic, many housing associations remained traditional office-based organisations. The pandemic has led to a more pragmatic approach with appropriately socially-distanced visits to estates and properties.

It has also led to a move away from a rigid 9-5 office hours mentality – and home working has meant that housing officers have been able to adjust their work-life balance, in turn making them more available to customers at more appropriate times such as early evenings and weekends.

It has also seen a move to communications systems appropriate to customers’ needs. For example, in many areas WhatsApp has become a common way in which housing officers keep in touch with their customers.

One housing officer’s experience was particularly telling. She explained to me that prior to lockdown, her Monday-to-Friday hours meant she would visit homes to find people at work, wasting her time. She told me she would complete more home visits in a few hours on a Saturday morning than she would through all five weekdays.

Now, through the lockdown and home working, she’s seen a more flexible mindset emerge. Staff have been more willing to spend a few hours in the evening helping tenants – when tenants are available – if it allows them time in the day to be with their children. And home working affords that flexibility.

This one example illustrates the adage that necessity is the mother of invention – and I believe it heralds a permanent change in the housing association sector towards more flexible working. And technology must follow suit.

Legacy systems

It is worth mentioning one long-running technology challenge affecting the sector – that of the housing management systems used by the majority of housing associations.

Typically, these applications were developed decades ago for ICL mainframes, but they now struggle to work with the modern software used and valued by the sector, often meaning that staff must re-key the same information in multiple systems.

So far, I’ve not seen any software developers offer any real solutions to this problem. And so, I see a big opportunity here and hope that innovation comes soon.

I say this because it’s a critical point to address when working with housing associations – and we already factor this into our work with existing clients.

How we can help you

There are lots of ways we can help your organisation to use technology to better support your tenants now in lockdown, and tomorrow in life beyond the pandemic. Below are some of the areas where we already help housing associations, the public and third sectors:

・AI
・Business intelligence
・Data and cyber security
・Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)
・Internet of Things
・Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Dynamics
・Microsoft Teams and collaboration tools
・Networking
・Private / public / hybrid cloud
・VoIP and telephony
・WAN and SD-Wan

It may be that you’re already aware of these technologies, or do not know exactly what you need. Instead, as with most technology projects, you have a problem and want help finding a solution, irrespective of what that might entail. Either way, it all starts with a conversation – get in touch today through the contact details below.

People first, technology second

For a blog from a technology company, I’ve said very little about technology itself! And that’s because the housing association sector is inherently focused on people.

Returning to the story of woman at the beginning of this blog, there are clear ways that technology can help with the unique challenges this sector faces at this time and beyond.

Like all good technology solutions, they start and end with people. Here are our details – let’s start the problem solving with a conversation today…

  • Phil Riley is an independent ICT infrastructure and network consultant for housing associations. He has worked with this sector for more than 40 years – and at AdEPT, he is joined by Garry Drinkwater and Dean Barnes, who also specialise in supporting housing associations.

    You can get in touch with Phil, Garry and Dean on:

    0333 4002490
    enquiries@adept.co.uk

Written by Phil Riley

S.Tel Consultants Ltd

What Is a Contact Centre Solution?

When someone uses the phrase: contact centre solution, what do you imagine? Chances are, it’s a massive room, with hundreds of phones ringing and a customer services team hurrying to answer. 

Whilst this image may be true for some, nowadays both small and large businesses can leverage the power of contact centre solutions. After all, who wouldn’t want to enhance their customer experiences, engage new prospects and grow their business!

This post will answer key questions such as: what is a contact centre solution? And what are the benefits? So that you can make wise investment choices for your organization.

Keep reading to find out all there is to know about contact centres! 

What is a Contact Centre Solution?

A contact centre is your business’s communications hub. It’s a single, centralised platform that lets your customer services team easily manage your external communication channels. 

The primary purpose of a contact centre is to improve your interactions with customers. This is achieved by giving them quick and efficient ways to engage with your brand. 

For example, contact centres can provide technical support, sales advice and general customer services. Plus specialist functions such as making appointments or making purchases. These services develop the customers understanding of your products/services and increase their likelihood of purchasing from you. 

A contact centre solution can be installed at your office or hosted in a cloud environment for the most flexibility. The best contact centres will also integrate with other managed services you need. These might include a business phone system and customer relationship management system (also known as a CRM). 

Are Contact Centres All About Calling?

Traditionally, contact centres focused on voice communications. Hence why many people still conjure up that call centre image when thinking of the term. But, as technology and consumer habits have changed, so too have contact centres. 

Nowadays contact centre channels mirror the technology that consumers use in their private lives. Online chats, integrated social messaging, email and even video calls are now commonplace as customers look for more ways to connect. 

Microsoft found that 66% of customers use an average of 3 communication channels to connect with customer services. This emphasises just how important offering choice is to modern consumers.

You may come across the term “multi-channel contact centre” or “omnichannel contact centre” when searching. Multi-channel refers to a solution that offers more than one channel to connect. Such as email and chat.

Omnichannel takes this a step further. In an omnichannel contact centre each communication channel talks to one another. This allows customers to mix and match channels until their query is resolved. 

What Should I Look for in a Contact Centre Solution?

In recent years, the communications market has proliferated. So there are lots of vendors out there vying for your attention. But it’s important to remember that not all solutions are equal! 

When evaluating contact centres, make sure they include the following non-negotiable features:

  • Advanced call distribution to control the flow of calls and maximise customer experience
  • Email, website live chat and integrations with popular social media apps like Facebook and Instagram
  • Interactive Voice Response to route calls to the right department within your organisation without the need to speak to an agent
  • Performance monitoring tools to track performance, customer satisfaction and other key sales metrics
  • Scripts to provide high-quality support and generating sales in the case of outbound call centres
  • Interchangeable assignments so agents can work as a team

This list isn’t exhaustive. As a business, you’ll have unique demands for your contact centre. So whether you’re planning to run telemarketing campaigns or provide customer support talking to an experienced managed contact centre provider is the best way to make sure you’re getting the features you need. 

An experienced provider will also give you a detailed demo of your potential solution and set you up with a free trial. By using the software before buying, you’ll guarantee you’re investing wisely.

How Can a Contact Centre Benefit My Business?

Even if you don’t have a traditional contact centre, chances are you will benefit from a contact centre solution.

Most businesses find that dedicated call management software improves their ways of working. If you’ve ever had a call come into the office and had to put them on hold for 5 minutes while you desperately try to find the person they’re after, you need a contact centre solution!

For workers, contact centre solutions take the hassle out of customer communications. For example, call routing reduces wasted time on the phone and improves customer satisfaction by avoiding the dreaded hold button. 

Additionally, as contact centres integrate with CRM systems, keeping customer records up to date is much simpler! Agents can enter notes whilst on the phone and can save time typing up info later on. This also makes sure that data isn’t lost or stored in violation of GDPR requirements.

Another benefit is the proven impact on sales. When a customer’s problem is resolved with one interaction, only 1% switch to a competitor. If this problem isn’t addressed, this figure jumps to 15%. 

An omnichannel contact centre will guarantee you’re in the 1%. Customers won’t need to play pass the parcel as they move from chat to email to phone. They’ll be transferred instantly and get their query resolved on the spot.

Want to Learn More? Give Us a Call! 

Investing in a contact centre solution will improve customer satisfaction, increase the efficiency of your workforce and grow your bottom line.

AdEPT are one of the UK’s leading providers of contact centre solutions and works with an ecosystem of market-leading contact centre solution vendors, including the likes of 8×8 and Avaya. We can offer a range of solutions to suit businesses of all sizes. Get in touch to see how we can help you reach your CX goals. 

Written by Sami Malik

Marketing Campaigns Manager

The Benefits of Cloud Based Contact Centre Solutions

Until recently, contact centre products were installed on-premise. As a result, companies found themselves locked into pricey contracts for software that was hard to maintain. Not to mention that the features and functionality were limited too.

Thanks to developments in cloud computing, that’s changed. Nowadays you can choose cloud based contact centre solutions and reap the rewards! Not only do cloud based contact solutions save you money in the long-run, but they also make it easier to manage and maintain your communications too.

Keep reading to discover the benefits of cloud contact centres. 66% of organisations have already made the switch. Is it time that you did too?

What Are Cloud Based Contact Centre Solutions?

A cloud based contact centre is the modern alternative to legacy on-premise call centre software. Instead of installing the software, communications networks and data in your offices, it’s hosted ‘in the cloud’ by an internet service provider, like AdEPT.

With a cloud solution, you don’t need any on-site equipment other than the pc or phone you use to access your communications hub. All the channels you need are accessible by a browser, so agents can call, email, chat and video call from anywhere. All you need is an active internet connection.

Benefits of Cloud Based Contact Centre Solutions

A cloud call centre system is designed to optimise your customer experiences. For this reason, they’re able to provide deeper levels of insight and analytics than their on-premise predecessors. And they can integrate with other essential managed services your business requires such as CRM systems, help desks and chatbots.

Here are the most exciting benefits you can expect from switching to a cloud solution:

Reduce Your Communications Costs

One of the biggest misconceptions about cloud contact centres is that they’re more expensive than on-premise systems. But that simply is not the case.

You’ll pay a set price, per user, per month for your contact centre solution which can knock thousands off your phone bill. And you won’t need to worry about the initial CAPEX either. In contrast, on-premises products charge upfront licensing fees and ongoing maintenance and upgrade costs.

Another cost-saving comes from reducing the administrative burden the system creates. As there’s no equipment to maintain on-site, you won’t need to pay call out charges to your service provider if you need something upgraded or if you experience an issue.

Instead, the vendor will roll out automatically. This allows issues to be resolved remotely. As a result, you can reduce the labour costs of managing your contact centre solution.

Work From Anywhere

Almost half of all UK employees worked remotely at least once a week in 2020. And following the Covid-19 pandemic, this number is set to keep increasing. Cloud contact centres facilitate remote working, as all you need is an internet connection to access the company’s customer communications tools.

This has many benefits for both employees and their employers. For employees, remote working means increased flexibility, reduced commutes and often, more work-life balance. In turn, this creates a happy, motivated workforce.

For employers, remote work widens the talent pool. If you’re no longer confined to office walls, you get to focus on hiring the best people for your business, rather than being limited to a geographic area. You might even save on business costs, for example, if you need less office space.

Take Advantage of Modern Communications Features

Legacy systems were slow to update and lacked the functionality of modern solutions. The cloud has improved download speeds and space, making it easier than ever for vendors to introduce new features that enhance your customer experiences. Innovation chains are faster than ever before, and that’s great news for businesses!

For instance, most vendors now offer hosted omnichannel contact centres. These tools provide a holistic package of communications tools rather than focusing on calling alone. Where they were once expensive add ons, live chat, email, SMS and social media messaging are now basic components of a contact centre solution.

Enhanced Security and Data Protection

A 2019 study by Deloitte found that 58% of IT managers rank security as one of their top two reasons to move the cloud. For many companies, having the technical expertise and resources needed to maintain security for their infrastructure isn’t very realistic.

On the other hand, vendors that specialise in cloud-based solutions have invested in the technical expertise needed to maintain data integrity and security. 

How Do I Know if My Business Is Ready to Move to the Cloud?

If you haven’t already switched to a hosted contact centre solution, now is the time. But before you invest, you need to make sure that your IT infrastructure is ready. To do this you’ll need to check your internet provision, connectivity and current security requirements.

You can then work with a managed service provider, like AdEPT, to create a phased cloud migration plan. Or, arrange a professional cloud readiness assessment to get an expert opinion on if your business is ready to move to the cloud. Making the move is the best way to future proof your business and ensure that you can reap the benefits of modern communications technology.

Want to Learn More?

Migrating to a cloud contact centre solution will have a positive impact on your employees, customers and your bottom line. You’ll shave hundreds off your communications bill. And have access to omnichannel functionality, which will give customers even more ways to connect.

Interested in learning how cloud based contact centre solutions could benefit your business? Get in touch with our team to find out more. As one of the leading contact centre providers in the UK, we’ve got solutions to suit businesses of all sizes, from all sectors.

Written by Sami Malik

Marketing Campaigns Manager

Cloud Readiness Assessment Checklist: What You Need to Know

By the end of 2020, the global public cloud computing market was estimated to exceed $266 billion. And that’s expected to double in the coming years, with the widespread adoption of AI and machine learning. 

Needless to say, if you’re on the fence about cloud migration, then worry no more. This is an industry-changing technology that’s only continuing to grow and become more invaluable. 

If you’re a business owner or interested consumer, then keep reading. 

In this article, we’re going to discuss what cloud readiness is. Plus, we’ll give you a cloud readiness assessment checklist to help make you aware of what you need to do before completing a cloud migration. 

What Is a Cloud Readiness Assessment?

What is a cloud readiness assessment? And why do you need to complete a checklist before performing it? 

The assessment is a process that takes the applications and data you want transferred to a cloud platform and determines the best way to do it. It takes into consideration the impact on business operations, the minimal effort needed to move the applications, and what the best practices are for your business and environment.

This assessment calculates your cloud readiness, or how ready your applications are for moving to a cloud platform. 

However, before completing this assessment, there are a few tasks you as the owner need to do first to help make this process succinct and accurate.  

Current Infrastructure Analysis

First, before conducting a cloud readiness assessment, you need to analyse your current infrastructure. This is where you’ll record what your current on-premise system is like. Here are a few things to consider.

The Number of Users 

How many people access your database regularly and work with the information? This is important to know because a lot of cloud vendors build price models around the number of active participants. 

How Much Are You Consuming? 

Think about how many resources you’re using, such as things like hardware, storage amount, and network. What are the demands you put on them? 

What Your Current Costs Are

Figure out how much you’re spending on your current system, including maintenance and security. Then, decide if that’s a price you want to decrease, increase, or keep the same.

Understanding your IT infrastructure is crucial in figuring out what system you need next. So, in addition to the criteria above, you need a grasp of what integration capabilities you already possess and how easily the applications can be modified.

You also need to be aware of any network, data, and application dependencies and assess the impact the move may have on current data, security, and disaster recovery plans. 

What Do You Need?

Recognising your current system is only half the battle. Next, it’s time to think about what you need that your current infrastructure does not offer. 

Cloud platforms offer loads of optimised functions like real-time analysis and data visualisation. Take the time to explore available features and determine what benefits you. 

Gap Analysis

Now that you’re aware of where your current systems lie, you need to complete a gap analysis.

Cloud-based solutions offer flexibility and cutting-edge technology. But you need to predict how current your applications will react to the migration. This analysis helps you achieve that.

Some applications will need re-hosting, re-platforming, and new architecture, so highlight those specific apps. 

This analysis also provides the opportunity to assess non-functional aspects like malfunctioning security, maintenance, storage, and costs. 

Estimate Costs 

All business operations come at a price, so it’s best to be a step ahead.

There are multiple ways to go about estimating future costs. But first, you have to know what features you require in the new platform, how many users there will be, and a realistic view of what you can afford.  

Reading a TCO or total costs analysis, calling professionals for an estimate, or reading through review sites and mapping out costs yourself are all great ways of estimating costs. Don’t forget to ask or include initial investment and maintenance fees in your calculations as well.

Choose the Right Cloud

Cloud technology is undoubtedly one of the great innovations of IoT, but it comes with a lot of variation. Make sure whatever cloud you adopt suits your data and security needs. 

There are SaaS, IaaS, and PaaS type platforms; which type you need will depend on your focus. There are public, private, hybrid, and multi-cloud platforms, each containing their own benefits.

When choosing a cloud, ask yourself: What is the cloud structure? Does it work with your current system? What does the integration process demand?

Then, you need to decide on a cloud vendor. 

This is arguably the most important aspect, as this is the company you’ll be entrusting your confidential information to. Consider their security protocols, what support they offer, scalability, compliance, and pricing. 

For private cloud vendors, you’ll also need to consider the location.  

Map Your Migration

While the readiness assessment will determine the best route for cloud migration, it doesn’t hurt to do a little road-mapping yourself. 

The map should contain all the information from your initial analysis, partnered with step-by-step instructions of what actions need to be taken. Include a detailed timeframe for the different phases as well.

Providing this information to the company conducting your assessment gives them a better idea of what your vision and understanding is, and helps them customise the route even further in your favour (within reason).

On Your Way to Cloud Readiness

Understanding cloud readiness and prepping your systems for a much-needed facelift is only a small fraction of work, compared to the amazing advantages headed your way. 

With this checklist on your side, you’ll be more than prepared for your cloud migration journey.

We hope you found this article insightful! Here at Adept, we want business owners to have the information they deserve. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us, or check out our blog for more industry updates!

Written by Sami Malik

Marketing Campaigns Manager

In 2021, small businesses need bigger ways to join the dots

In 2021, small businesses need bigger ways to join the dots

In recent years, there’s been a lot of talk about Big Data, and how it promises so much for businesses.

This excitement makes sense – after all, thanks to our connected world and the Internet of Things, we can use technology to give us all kinds of insights into our products and customers.

But not every company wants entirely new datasets to handle and analyse.

In our experience, a lot of companies just want better, smarter ways to manage their existing data and information. And sometimes, that can translate to one simple need: “I just want my systems to talk to each other.”

It’s for this reason that we’d like to introduce you to Sage 200.

But first, a little background.

The roots of Sage 200

Sage is a real British success story. Back in the early ‘80s, Sage’s founders wanted to automate accounting processes, so they worked with a team of Newcastle University students to develop the original software. And staying true to its roots, Sage still has an office in Newcastle. But it also now has 7.5 million business customers across the globe, with 800,000 of them in the UK and Ireland, including more than one third of the FTSE 100.

One of the Sage’s most popular products with small businesses is Sage 50. But a small SME can soon become a medium SME – and when it does, software requirements often change.
You may identify this in your own business. Perhaps you’ve used software for word processing and spreadsheets, and have reached a point when you need to upgrade your licence for more features.

Similarly, while Sage 50 is an excellent product for accounting in smaller businesses, it does have its limitations if your business grows beyond a certain point. And that’s where Sage 200 comes in…

The basics of Sage 200

From the ground up, Sage 200 is built for bigger businesses – the medium enterprises that fall into the SME category. According to Sage, it can handle more than 100,000 annual transactions and is designed for businesses with multiple cost centres, departments and locations – and for firms that need warehouse inventory management.

The software is available in a number of deployments. It can run in the cloud, or it can be installed on a server at your business – the ‘on-premise’ version. Your choice depends very much on the specific needs and nature of your business.

Much more than accounting

Businesses move from Sage 50 to Sage 200 when they grow and see their processes and needs becoming more complex. Nonetheless, many companies still associate Sage software with accounting and finance. After all, it’s accounting where Sage started – and decades on, it still tends to be associated with those business functions.

But one of the most valuable aspects of Sage 200 is that it goes beyond accounting and finance. It is modular, meaning you can add in modules for everything from stock control to customer relationships, using the CRM module. Here’s a full list of the modules available:

• Base platform (sold as a single user suite):
・Financial Ledgers (Sales, Purchase and Nominal Ledgers)
・Cash Book
・CRM
・Business Intelligence
・Sage Services

• Commercial modules:
・Stock Control
・Purchase Order Processing
・Sales Order Processing
・Price Book

• Additional modules:
・Project Accounting
・Bill of Materials
・Manufacturing

Another benefit of this modular setup is the agility it gives you for your business and its future. If you’ve outgrown Sage 50, you may be ready for Sage 200 – but you may not yet want to add additional modules, preferring to work on an ‘as and when’ basis. Sage 200 gives you this flexibility from day one, allowing you to be confident that you’ve chosen a system that can genuinely grow with your business.

The customisation doesn’t stop there.

Integrated services and adapting to the unique ways you work

There are more ways you can adapt and enhance Sage 200 to better suit your business. One option is to consider integrations with third-party software. We work with a number of Sage-accredited partners that can help with everything from document management to linking your finance functions with your website.

For example, one of our partners offers software that automatically converts invoices received as an email attachment into a Sage 200 entry. And another partner offers software that can connect your Sage 200 software to eCommerce platforms such as Shopify, Woocommerce and Magento.

Another route for customisation is to consider how the modules are built from the outset. I’m sure your business has its own unique ways of working. We certainly do. And so, one of the most valuable benefits of Sage 200 is that the modules can be customised at a very granular level to match your processes – a feature that is highly valued by existing customers, making Sage 200 stand out from similar products.

Imagine you have a particular, routine way of working on a regular task that you’d rather not change to accommodate new software. With Sage 200, the modules can be adjusted to suit your processes, which I’ll explain more below.

In doing all these things – allowing you to integrate different business functions in a way that suits you, your colleagues and your organisation – Sage 200 joins all the dots.

When I say this, I think back to my early days involved with Sage 200 (then known as Sage Sovereign) and can remember visiting many companies that ran manual ledgers and were reluctant to move to a software platform.

Fast forward six months and I would revisit them to see how they were going. When I did, I couldn’t help but notice their ledgers sat on the top shelf gathering dust, and people asking “why we didn’t install this software before?”.

Fast forward again to these days, and very often it’s a similar story visiting companies that are growing, having started with a number of software systems that whilst helped the business grow, are now actually holding them back – systems that simply don’t join the dots and suit employees’ working routines.

Having said that, a lot of our working routines have been completely shaken by the pandemic – and there are many ways Sage 200 can help with this.

Why now?

If growth feels a little out of reach right now, but you’re still interested in getting your business systems to work better with your accounting functions, then it might be worth considering the changes we’ve all experienced over the past year.

Knowing that customers have no choice but to shop online, many businesses have turned to ecommerce to keep trading. That might be for selling physical products, or for delivering everything from fajitas to flowers. It might even be for selling services, such as consulting, recruitment, and counselling – if it involves an online platform to promote and secure such work, then it’s ecommerce.

Certainly, stats for the retail sector bear out this change in direction. According to leading consultancy IMRG Capgemini, November 2020 saw a 39 per cent increase in year-on-year ecommerce sales.

It’s a monumental shift that may be irreversible – and if so, we’re facing a future where ecommerce is the norm and other forms of shopping are the exception.

So where does that leave your business – and how does it relate to Sage 200?

Here’s where I share a more recent anecdote, about a customer’s experience of the pandemic.

Wanting to do all they could to weather the storm, this customer decided to move into ecommerce. And to begin with, it all went well – it even started to make up the shortfall in physical sales. But, as time passed, it became apparent that the website wasn’t talking to the stock system, which in turn wasn’t talking to the financial system.

And so, customers were unknowingly ordering out-of-stock items; the warehouse team struggled to manage inventory, and accounting struggled to track all the associated financials. Consequently, a sensible and well-intentioned move to ecommerce brought its own headaches.

If this sounds familiar – or your own business is looking to launch an online store, then this is precisely the time to think long and hard about how your systems talk to each other – and ultimately lead right back to your financials.

It’s also why we advise all customers looking to move to Sage 200 to invest time at the outset in understanding how your different business functions work together, so Sage 200 can be built to match. Doing so will mean it’s right for everyone from day one, and ready for future changes and growth.

Why AdEPT?

As I’ve mentioned, one of the most important parts of setting up Sage 200 is getting under the skin of your business. In the initial stages, this means we’ll spend time with you and your colleagues to understand your priorities, how you work and the other things that makes your organisation tick.

This is no small undertaking. But at AdEPT, we take the view that if you ‘fail to plan, then you plan to fail’. In other words, we want to get it right for you from the start so it’s right for the future. Not all companies have this ethos.

Beyond the initial setup, there are other unique ways we at AdEPT can help you.

We have in-house Sage developers, so we can add or adapt modules for you as your business changes or grows.

It all stems from our problem-solving culture. So, while in nearly all cases we’ll address issues first time round, we’ll also put our hands up when we don’t know something – but do all we can to find the answer and solve the problem, rather than pass you off with an abrupt ‘no, it’s impossible to do that’. Again, not all companies are like this.

Finally, we’re not the sort of company that completes a project and says goodbye. Our support and training staff focus on being approachable, with a can-do attitude. And as my anecdotes suggest, we value long-term relationships with our customers.

It’s for these reasons that we’re an accredited Sage Support partner.

Where next

If any of the points in this blog resonate with you and you’re interested in Sage 200, then it’s time to talk.

You may now be wondering how much Sage 200 costs and how long does it take to set up. Unfortunately, those questions depend very much on a long list of variables: the size and nature of your business; the size of your workforce; which modules you’re interested in; how you’d like them adapted to suit your business… the list goes on.

Consequently, as much as I’d love to give you a fixed price and an idea of turnaround, it’s impossible to do so without listening and learning from you. And that leads me onto my conclusion.

Let’s talk today

Having worked with Sage products for decades, I hope to have a wealth of experience about how its products, including Sage 200, can help your business.

But more than talking about how we can help you, I’d like to learn as much as I can about your business and your needs. It’s how I’ve been fortunate enough to develop long-standing relationships with clients throughout my career.

So if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch. You’ll find my contact details below.

• Mike Sheard is our Sage 200 Sales Consultant. You can find out more and connect with him here on LinkedIn. Alternatively, you can get in touch with him through our website, here.

Written by Mike Sheard

Sage Consultant