Modernising MAT finance systems is no easy task. Until now.

19 April 2021

Multi-academy trusts (MATs) asking how they can improve their finance systems may find the answer in a new partnership uniting market leader, Sage, with education technology specialist AdEPT Education.

Following months of rigorous evaluation, AdEPT Education was today confirmed to be an official Sage partner qualified to advise on, set up and support Sage Intacct, a finance platform that is especially suitable for MATs.

Being based in the cloud, Intacct can bring together a trust’s financial activities, which often involve legacy systems spread across multiple sites. In doing so, it can help the trust with its wider goals, such as digital transformation.

“Due to their very nature of bringing academies ‘under one roof’, a lot of MATs we speak to find these disparate finance systems are hindering their plans,” said Adam Calverley, who is a Senior Sage Consultant for AdEPT Education.

“In some cases, those systems can be very cumbersome,” he added. “For example, it’s not uncommon to see trusts exporting and working on spreadsheets both for everyday financial tasks and bigger projects. But if you’ve ever tried working with lots of different spreadsheets to get a clear picture of what’s happening, you’ll know how difficult and time-consuming that can be.”

Additionally, being a cloud-native platform, Intacct does not require any supporting infrastructure—or work to set up such hardware. Instead, it runs through a standard web browser, giving staff a clear, real-time picture of the organisation’s finances, wherever and whenever they may be working, and always protected with Sage’s impeccable security measures. Not only does this make Intacct valuable for MATs, it also supports the changes to working arrangements prompted by the pandemic, too.

Adam added: “It’s easy to take for granted the live dashboards that are so common in modern cloud platforms. But many MATs, due to their existing finance systems, do not currently have such dashboards.

“It might sound like a minor point, but for a business manager or a head, being able to instantly see what’s going on can help in so many ways—such as decision making, planning, and even internal communications, since you have more reliable and transparent information at your fingertips.”

When staff look beyond these dashboards, they’ll find the Intacct platform offers another unique feature that is particularly helpful for fund analysis and live consolidations— a routine aspect of accounting in the third sector.

Adam explains: “One of the trickiest tasks in group accounting is understanding the impact of each transaction at a granular level. Intacct specifically addresses this with a feature called ‘Dimensions’, which allows you to track what’s happening in ways other platforms can’t.

“If you raise a sales order, a nominal request, or a purchase order, you can use Dimensions to ‘tag’ the activity, giving you the ability to confidently say, ‘I spent this money, and it was received from this place, and it’s linked to these activities’. This allows the trust to easily see the thread running through all these transactions.”

Another way Intacct can help MATs is reflective of wider developments in education technology over recent years: it works seamlessly with other systems. Most notably, it has its own app marketplace that allows MATs to customise the platform, integrates with SIMs, and is the ideal bedfellow for Microsoft products.

“Through their individual academies, many MATs are already familiar with or using Microsoft 365 and SharePoint,” said Adam. “So the fact that Intacct both integrates with these platforms and also has a similar ‘look and feel’ to them, is great in two respects.

“First, staff can easily work across platforms, and second, when it comes to training for the new system, staff often already have an intuitive understanding of how to use Intacct, quickly taking to it.”

For its new partnership with Sage, the induction for AdEPT Education was not nearly as quick, and for good reason: being a market leader in financial software, Sage is particularly discriminating when forming new reseller partnerships.

As such, AdEPT Education spent months demonstrating how it would draw on its experience, expertise and resources to be an Intacct partner to MATs—and how it would provide the best advice, the best onboarding process, and the best long-term support to such organisations.

“Where they have them, ICT suppliers often display their accreditations as a badge of honour,” said Adam. “But a gold medal on a website doesn’t really do justice to what’s involved.

“With Sage, the evaluation process was long and comprehensive—and rightfully so, because Sage has long been leading the way with financial software. It also began its life as a modest British start-up, which is similar to our own story—so not only have we proven our knowledge about Intacct and our commitment to the trusts, we’re also a good cultural fit.”

Adam added: “There’s nothing out there that’s as progressive as Intacct. Of course, there are plenty of alternatives, but none of them are cloud-native in the way Intacct is, and none of them are quite as suitable for multiple sites, and third-sector organisations such as MATs.

“Given that a MAT’s finance system and the work of those using it underpins so much in the organisation, we’re delighted to be among such a small and carefully chosen group of specialists that have Sage’s seal of approval to help MATs with such an important part of their ICT suite.”

  • Switching finance systems can sound intimidating—but in our experience, once such a project is complete, many MATs are pleasantly surprised at the ease and simplicity of the process, asking why they didn’t make the switch earlier.
  • If you’d like to find out how Intacct can help your organisation and what would be involved, you can get in touch directly with Adam for a free consultation, on adam.calverley@adept.co.uk. Alternatively, you can call the main AdEPT Education line on 0333 4002490.

Written by Ben Rogers

Marketing Manager

Cyber risks can sound scary – but reducing them needn’t be


When Stuart Johnson visits a client to discuss their cyber security, he does something you wouldn’t expect of someone who has worked in ICT all his life: he keeps his laptop well away, doing so to listen closely to the person he is meeting.

And one of the reasons he does this is because he has been in that person’s shoes as an ICT leader – which, for the organisations Stuart works with, is often the founder or owner. As such, he knows that growing a company is much more than a job, and that a thorough understanding of that company and its plans is the first step to improving its cyber security.

“As Covid restrictions are easing, many employees are returning to workplaces having been through almost two years of radically different working practices. So it’s a good time to refresh their knowledge of cyber security.

“But it can be an intimidating subject – and one that’s attracted a lot more media attention over the past few years,” says Stuart, who works at our Doncaster office. “With that, the headlines often go one of two ways: they either make the problem sound insurmountable, or they only cover the biggest cyber attacks, giving people the impression that smaller businesses aren’t at risk.

“In both cases, they don’t tell the full story. And so, when I meet clients, the first thing I do is listen. Then typically, my initial response is ‘don’t panic – there’s so much we can do to minimise the threats and protect your organisation’.”

Invariably, when Stuart is having this conversation, he is beginning the process of auditing an organisation’s cyber security. And having in the past led ICT for charities, food production companies and even a local wildlife park, he has a lot of varied experience to draw on, including some eye-opening lessons.

“I’ve worked in this field from when the internet was just taking off in the 90s, so I’ve seen a lot,” says Stuart. “One thing I’ve concluded is that I’m not a fan of the term ‘cyber security’. Even though you see it everywhere, it suggests this work is tied only to the internet or technology – and that good cyber security is simply a case of, say, getting a better firewall.

“As a result, I prefer the term ‘information security’. Because when I conduct an audit, I look at everything that could be a threat to an organisation’s data and information. For example, I’ll look at the storage of paper records in terms of the GDPR, or staff access to server rooms. I’ll even look at employee lanyards and the associated security risks they pose to the premises.”

For Stuart – and indeed for us at AdEPT – this approach differs from many ICT providers that largely focus on the ‘cyber’ part of ‘cyber security’. It also means clients get an audit in the truest sense: with Stuart, no stone is left unturned. It’s an approach that gives clients real peace of mind.

“I’ll also look at policies and procedures,” adds Stuart. “And I take a lot from my experience of working in the charity sector, where governance and safeguarding were everything. So with the clients I help now, I’ll explain there is no point in, say, identifying risky passwords if you can’t also help the client improve its policies and educate its staff.

“There is certainly some truth that security risks often stem from human error – but it’s not about chastising staff about this. Instead, it’s about explaining why something that seems so minor can have enormous repercussions – and about reassuring them with real-life examples of how cunning cyber criminals can be.”

For instance, Stuart once helped a company that had fallen victim to an attack. He found an employee had taken a phone call from someone claiming to have met a colleague at a professional event the colleague had genuinely attended. The caller asked for the name of the colleague’s wife, saying they’d forgotten it but wanted to follow up on a discussion from the event. As the caller’s story was so credible, the employee taking the call confirmed the name of their colleague’s wife, which, unfortunately, that colleague also used as their email password. From there, the criminal was able to access the colleague’s email account – and in turn, the company’s systems.

“We have to recognise that in the age of social media, there is so much information online about a person – and cyber criminals exploit this to ‘get a foot in the door’,” explains Stuart. “Anyone can fall victim to these techniques – so my approach is about looking at the little details as well as the bigger picture, always keeping these devious ploys in mind.”

This points to another important aspect of Stuart’s work: cyber crime is like a game of ‘whack-a-mole’, with a new tactic appearing as soon as another tactic is exposed and countered. It means Stuart must keep on his toes with the latest news and knowledge.

“Anyone who knows me knows I love my work – and regular training is a big part of that,” says Stuart. “I’m currently studying for a CISSP qualification, which is the gold standard of information security. On top of that, I should soon have an ISO27001 qualification as a lead auditor, putting AdEPT on the map for our unique approach to cyber security audits.”

Such accreditations aren’t limited to ICT specialists – there are government-backed programmes that can help companies get ‘qualified’ in cyber security, too. One that Stuart recommends is the Cyber Essentials scheme from the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), which can also lead to discounts on business insurance.

“Cyber insurance isn’t mandatory, but in my experience, insurers are increasingly closely looking at their policyholders’ cyber risks,” explains Stuart. “So my feeling is it should be part of a company’s overall risk management.

“Of course, this does sound onerous, but on the plus side, not only does reducing these risks minimise your chances of business interruption or losses, but it can send a great message to your customers and your suppliers, too. You could say that by protecting your organisation, you’re protecting them and their data, too.”

With these observations in mind, Stuart is inviting business owners to get in touch to find out how a cyber security audit is the first step to better information security, reduced risk of costly business interruption, and greater confidence in your ICT systems.

“With the audits, I look to speak to employees across the whole organisation,” says Stuart. “And in many ways, it’s more important to understand the ICT usage by people for whom ICT isn’t the day job. And for that reason, it might be pleasantly surprising to know I don’t talk technobabble!

“Another pleasant surprise is the time an audit takes. Of course, every client is different, but I’d say in most cases, I’ll visit for three to four hours to assess the organisation before spending half a day writing up my findings. I’ll then send over my report with a quick explanation, allow the client a week to digest it, then follow up with a more detailed discussion, which answers all the client’s questions.”

Most of all, Stuart says, he wants to stress one point: though cyber crime is a part of life, there’s a wealth of effective ways to reduce the risks. So don’t panic – and get in touch today at enquiries@adept.co.uk.

Written by Ben Rogers

Group Marketing Manager at AdEPT

Lessons in school ICT ahead of Bett

One of the most rewarding aspects of working in ICT is solving problems. It’s something that often gets taken for granted in working life, but for us, it’s at the heart of what we do: scrutinising an organisation’s challenges and needs, developing a plan of action, then reconfiguring existing or setting up new technology to help our client solve their problem and make progress on their plans.

It’s an approach that is especially fulfilling in the education sector. We’ve worked with schools for more than three decades now, having helped almost 600 of them to set up remote teaching platforms during the pandemic.

Consequently, we’ve seen first-hand how improving infrastructure, connectivity and systems – while often a behind-the-scenes part of ICT – can have a major impact on the frontline. For example, better security can protect students from online abuse; improved systems integration can save school management time and money; and some services can even reduce the administrative burden on teachers, helping them get on with the day job.

One other way we find supporting the education sector to be particularly rewarding is due to the very nature of education: it’s about constantly learning and growing – and in a way, the ever-changing world of ICT has that same culture. It’s understandable, then, that we find our school clients have a genuine appetite for innovation. This is a sector that, in our experience, rejects the idea of “we’ve always done it this way” – and often, schools’ tight budgets foster the most creative of approaches.

We’re thinking about this right now because we usually join school ICT professionals at the annual Bett UK show around this time of year. But, following its postponement to March, due to Covid, we thought it worth sharing some of the news, views and resources we’ve seen over the past year that may be of interest to you as a school ICT professional – or even someone who is looking to get more from your school ICT.

One caveat: we’ve always found Bett to be an eye-opening and uplifting event – and an excellent opportunity to learn and network – so we realise there’s no substitute for discussing the below topics in person. But we hope there’s some food for thought for you below and hope, too, to see you at Bett in March.

Cyber security and protecting young people

The pandemic has seen a rise in cyber attacks targeting the education sector, likely due to the vulnerabilities resulting from the profound changes made to school networks. As such, we have found it has been a talking point with our school clients – and may be high on your ICT agenda, too. Here’s some sources that can help:

Wider impact of the pandemic

Understandably, the focus during the pandemic was to keep teachers teaching and students learning. But a few secondary topics emerged that we believe are important:

ICT beyond the pandemic

It’s an understatement to say Covid-19 has shaken up education ICT – so we know many schools are now asking where they go next. Now that pre-pandemic routines are returning to some degree, it might be time to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Here are some areas to consider:

Specialist topics

Not all ICT topics sit with the ICT team – and it’s not always about devices on desks. So we looked at some other areas that regularly crop up in conversation with our education clients:

A final word

We hope you’ve found the information in this blog useful – and if you have any questions, do give us a call on 0333 4002490 or email enquiries@adept.co.uk.

We’d also like to thank you for the extraordinary work of the past two years. Whether you’re working in your school’s ICT team, a business manager or teaching students, you’ve helped our children continue their learning – so we hope a few pointers here can help you in your work.

Written by David Bealing

Managing Director, AdEPT Education

Welcome to the best of both worlds: something new for you, from AdEPT

Although buying telephony products and services for your business is often a lot more complex than doing your supermarket shop, there are some similarities.

Namely, there are times when you want to make a quick purchase – like getting something for dinner on the way home from work – and there are times when you want to pick someone’s brains for advice – like how to spruce up a Sunday lunch with something a little different.

Likewise, if you look after the telephony and networking in your organisation – whether you lead an IT team or run your own business – there are moments where you just want to order some equipment and get straight onto your next task, and there are occasions where you’ll need a little more guidance.

And that’s where our new website, AdEPTDirect, can be of great help.

When you want a straightforward way to place an order, it’s a one-stop shop where you can buy everything from handsets to headsets, cabling to cabinets.

But this is no ordinary e-commerce site.

Not only will you get great offers and deals (more on those below), you’ll get support and expertise from the AdEPTDirect specialists – real people who have decades of experience and love what they do.

They are especially experienced in working with SMEs – organisations that don’t always have large in-house IT departments – so if this sounds familiar, then AdEPT Direct is the perfect choice for you.

As well as this personal support, there’s more. You’ll also get the same benefits that have kept our customers returning to the wider AdEPT Technology Group year after year. Some of these are: 

  • We help more than 12,000 organisations across the UK with award-winning, uncomplicated technical solutions. We pride ourselves on demystifying the complicated world of IT and telecoms.
  • Our mission is ‘Uniting technology, inspiring people’. We believe technology should serve people, not the other way round.
  • Our customers range from small businesses to large public sector organisations, such as providing internet connectivity for the entire Kent NHS.
  • Across all of this work, the common theme is problem solving. That always starts with listening and learning from you to understand what you are trying to achieve. It’s only then that we will help find and set up the right solution – rather than forcing a product or service that isn’t really right for the job.
  • We’re an accredited partner with a wide range of respected suppliers, such as:
  • Avaya – we’re a Diamond Partner (the top level), having had to pass a tough vetting process to get this award. Through it, we supporting businesses of all sizes with Avaya products – ranging from 10 to 10,000 users, including Coca Cola.
  • Cisco – we support and maintain one of the largest single educational Cisco networks in Europe, connecting some 3,000 London schools.
  • Microsoft – we’re a Gold Partner (again, the top level). So we can help you with a wide range of Microsoft products and services and you can be sure you’re getting the best advice.

You can find out more about the wider AdEPT group here. But here’s a little more about the new AdEPTDirect website…

A website designed for you, with exclusive special offers

The new site is designed to make ordering telephony products and services as quick and easy as possible. And when you create an online account there, the ‘Your Account’ section will record your order history, making it easier to see your documents, re-order and update your details.

For the launch, we’re also offering some special rewards to thank you for ordering:

  • 5% discount on your first order when you create an online account
  • Exclusive deals and discount vouchers
  • Volume discounts to reward you for your loyalty.

The people behind AdEPTDirect

Before you head over to the new website, here’s a quick introduction to AdEPTDirect’s people. The whole team is on hand to help, but would be too many to list here, so here are some names and email addresses to add to your address book:

Tracy has worked in IT and telecoms for more than 40 years, initally as an engineer, before moving into product marketing and then into senior sales and marketing director positions. He leads a highly-motivated and skilled sales team who are ready to help you with any queries you may have about the AdEPTDirect website and the products and services it offers. Outside of work, Tracy is a massive sports fan – particularly rugby and cricket – and also helps with his daughter’s eventing team as a HGV driver, groom, financier and marketing manager, finding event riding to be one of the most exhilerating sports.

Matt is the founder of Comms Group, which is part of AdEPT Technology Group. He has worked in IT for almost three decades, is an eternal optimist and loves rugby, being actively involved in local rugby charities.

As his title implies, Ed is an expert on all things telecoms and technology. He is a true problem solver and can’t rest until he has found the right solution, however big and complex the challenge. In his spare time, Ed loves walking and going to the gym, and also sings in a chamber choir.

Any questions?

If you have any questions, then please do not hesitate to get in touch with Tracy, Matt or Ed as above. You can also contact the wider AdEPT Technology Group by phone on 0333 400 2490, or by email enquiries@adept.co.uk.

Written by Ben Rogers

Group Marketing Manager at AdEPT

Act now as Microsoft changes its pricing and licensing model

Sometimes, it isn’t just technology that can be bewildering – it’s the way you source and buy it that can be complex, too.

As a company that helps businesses of all shapes and sizes – both in the private and public sectors – we’re only too aware that the process of buying and licensing subscription-based services, for example, can entail a perplexing range of options.

You may have experienced this yourself: different purchasing platforms, from different vendors and resellers, and with different terms, can all add up to a lot of confusion. When looking at pricing, you may feel like you are comparing apples with oranges, wonder if you are getting true value for money, or have concerns that your new licensing setup might have hidden catches.

These challenges are especially relevant in light of Microsoft’s ‘New Commerce Experience’ (NCE), originally launched for Azure in 2019. The full model came into effect on 10 January 2022, launching an ongoing transition period (see below timeline), and affecting services such as Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365, Power Platform and Windows. With this shift towards NCE now underway, Microsoft is looking to move all purchasing and licensing processes to its new model.  

In its blog about NCE, Microsoft recognised the purchasing experience for its many products and services can be “fractured”, so the new model is designed to reduce complexity, offer simpler licensing, and reward long-term commitments. And that means you’ll see some changes to your Microsoft purchasing arrangements in the future.

One change concerns the Microsoft Customer Agreement: you’ll see it move away from fragmented programme-specific offers and instead find your services governed by one contract.

You’ll also find new financial incentives for annual subscriptions – but it’s worth noting that these new subscription models will not permit licence reductions, which are currently allowed with 30 days’ notice.

Should you want the flexibility to reduce user licences after NCE comes into effect, you will have to pay a 20 per cent premium. Additionally, some news coverage suggests that with NCE, Microsoft will offer a 36-month licensing model, where customers can ‘lock in’ pricing, in a similar way to fixing the repayments on your mortgage for a specified period.

Of course, some of these changes may pose some concerns – and we recognise that price increases are a challenge, especially in light of the pandemic. As such, transparency is vital – as is preparing for changes now – so we have set out below the most significant aspects of NCE, including a timeline of what’s ahead, and urge you to discuss these points with us sooner rather than later.

As a Microsoft Gold Partner, we’re assessed by Microsoft to ensure our knowledge is up-to-date and second-to-none, meaning we can take the general NCE developments as covered in this blog, and tailor our advice to your organisation, to make sure NCE works for you. We hope you’ll get in touch as soon as possible – do talk with your regular AdEPT contact, call us on 0333 4002490 or email enquiries@adept.co.uk

New terms

1. 12-month terms on 365 licensing with no seat reductions.
2. 12-month term paid annually or monthly.
3. Calendar month billing.
4. 24-hour cancellation refund policy.
5. Auto-renew or manual renew must be selected at the start.
6. 15-20 per cent price increase on six SKUs (see below) from 1 March 2022.
7. Mid-term SKU upgrades and add-ons are available.
8. New one-month term, with 30-day cancel/renewal policy, priced at 20 per cent premium to 12-month term.

Affected SKUs

Prices will increase on 1 March 2022 for the following SKUs: 

・Business Basic
Business Premium
Office 365 E1
Office 365 E3
・Office 365 E5
Microsoft 365 E3

These price increases, which will range from 15 to 20 per cent, only apply to corporate licensing – i.e. not charity or academic organisations.

Timeline and transition period

・10 January 2022 – “seat-based” subscriptions, meaning Office 365, Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365 are generally available within NCE

・10 January 2022 – two time-bound pricing promotions released within NCE – 5% off annual subscriptions and 20% off monthly (making this the price as of the time of publishing this blog – 19 January 2022)

・1 March 2022 – price increase of approximately 15% to 20% on six M365 products – Microsoft 365 Business Basic, Microsoft 365 Business Premium, Office 365 E1, Office 365 E3, Office 365 E5 & Microsoft 365 E3. This increase is approximately 15-20%.

・10 March 2022 – new customers will only be able to buy new subscriptions on NCE

・10 March 2022 – end of 5% annual promotion

・30 June 2022 – last day for existing customers on CSP to renew into legacy (until this time, existing customers would have been able to purchase additional licences without moving to NCE)

・30 June 2022 – end of 20% monthly promotions

・1 July 2022 – from this date, any customer looking to renew licence subscriptions must do so through NCE

・December 2022 – any remaining incentives within the “old” framework will be removed.

Written by Tim Scott

Chief Commercial Officer at AdEPT

Windows 11 Is Here – What’s New? A Guide for Businesses

Ah, Windows 11. 

The update for the operating software we all know and love is finally here! If you’re a business utilising the platform for running operations, you might be wondering what the new Windows upgrade will mean for your day-to-day.

How will the innovations be updated? And most importantly, is Windows 11 built with the functionality to support today’s hybrid work environment? Will it enhance your productivity?

Curious about all these questions and the latest Windows 11 features? We break it all down in this article.

When Does It Release?

Windows 11, the successor to Windows 10, launched on the 5th of October 2021! If you have already purchased Windows 10, the upgrade will come free to you.

The update will be available even sooner for certain products like the Surface Pro 8, Surface Go 3, and more. Following are the main system requirements to download the update:

  • One gigahertz processor
  • 4GB RAM and 64GB storage
  • Display that is 720p, 8-bit per channel
  • Internet connection, as well as a Microsoft account to complete the system set-up

If you have these requirements set up on your business systems, you’re all ready to use the new update!

How to Download Windows 11

Wondering how to download Windows 11? Well, it is a relatively simple process. To do a clean install, you’ll need to reinstall and restore all your apps and files. This will get boost your PC’s productivity and adaptability.

On the other hand, if you want to go back to Windows 10, that is possible. Some systems don’t react well to updates, leading to Windows 11 problems. In this case, you’ll have the opportunity to downgrade to Windows 10, too.

Easier Access to Services

One of the most significant changes in the new Windows 11 OS is how accessible it is. You’ll be able to access new services with ease, as well as all the support and services you’re used to.

Let’s take a look at some of the services you’ll be able to use with ease with the update.

  • Microsoft 365: This one is a must for every business, as it allows cross-platform functionality across Android and macOS decides for productivity and operations
  • Microsoft Teams: This is another added inclusion that is made available with the update and is perfect for communicating across teams and verticals
  • Power Automate: This app allows users to create flows to help with everyday tasks like messaging, notifying team members, and more

Having easy access to these essential applications is a significant benefit of Windows 11! It will help your team get their responsibilities more quickly, which helps your productivity and bottom line.

More Customisable

Windows 11 also differs from its predecessor (Windows 10) in how much the interface and user experience can be customised.

Personalising your PC or tablet is critical to getting tasks done with more ease. Following are the main elements that you can customise in the new operating software:

Start Menu

The start menu is the key to your entire online experience. In Windows 11, you’ll be able to pin and unpin the apps you want with ease. Whether it’s MS Teams, Outlook, or any other app your business uses, you’ll be able to see it front and centre when you open your machine.

In addition, you can customise the colour and background settings too.

Taskbar

The taskbar is another excellent place to organise all your apps. You’ll be able to pin and unpin apps and customise the toolbar in the same way as the start menu.

Widgets

Widgets can be of great use to businesses!

Whether it’s stock prices, weather apps, an up-to-date calendar, or more, adding widgets is the best way to keep the critical stuff top of mind.

Use Existing and New Apps With Ease

Windows 11 will continue the app functionality of Windows 10. You’ll be able to use your favourite and most productive applications, accessed from the Microsoft store.

Traditionally mobile applications like Amazon, Notion, and more will be available for use right on your PC. However, you’ll also be able to install Android apps from the Microsoft Store, which is a brand new functionality. This way, you’ll be able to treat your PC as a mobile phone.

Are you looking to manage all your applications? Keeping track of them can be challenging. However, Windows 11 makes this relatively easier.

All you need to do is go to ‘settings’ and then ‘apps.’ You’ll be able to see all your apps listed, as well as their settings. Windows 11 also pulls up comparable apps on the Microsoft Store.

This feature is highly beneficial, as it will keep you updated on the latest apps you could be using to boost your business.

Another option is to use the Endpoint Manager. This will help you manage your app settings and set up the Company Portal app. This is explicitly intended for businesses looking to build an app repository for their operations.

Are You Ready to Start Using Windows 11 Today?

Windows 11 is indeed the operating system of the future. Not only is the new operating system built-in with features that will benefit every user, but businesses can use it to their advantage too.

The best part? As it is based on Windows 11, it is a natural transition from what you know and love. Thus, the tech isn’t too gimmicky and complicated for your employees to figure out.

Ready to download Windows 11 today? At Adept Technology, we specialise in bringing together IT, telecoms, and connectivity with key partnerships and technical know-how. 

When it comes to upgrading your business to Windows 11, we review each customer and their requirements on a case-by-case basis before suggesting whether to make the upgrade to Windows 11. We will work with you and guide you on making the best choice before making the decision to upgrade to the new operating system. To discuss upgrading your business to Windows 11, get in touch with the team at AdEPT. For more information on what else we offer, be sure to check out our products and services today!

Written by Sami Malik

Marketing Campaigns Manager

Cyber security in education: lessons from the pandemic and what’s next

During your early years, you probably encountered many measures to protect your and your school’s safety. Depending on your age, that might have been the Green Cross Code helping you across roads, Charley the cat warning you about talking to strangers, or even weekly fire alarm testing in your school.

Now, in 2021, one of the biggest dangers facing young people and the schools they attend include something far less tangible – but it is just as critical. It is, of course, cyber crime, and the enormous challenge it poses to the education sector.

It’s a problem exacerbated by the pandemic – as indicated by a February 2021 surge in ransomware attacks on schools – and the subject of this alert by the government’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC).

In that report, the NCSC’s explanation of ransomware hints at why schools and education establishments, with their wealth of sensitive data, are such an irresistible draw for cyber criminals:

“Ransomware is a type of malware that prevents you from accessing your systems or the data held on them. Typically, the data is encrypted, but it may also be deleted or stolen, or the computer itself may be made inaccessible.

“Following the initial attack, those responsible will usually send a ransom note demanding payment to recover the data. They will typically use an anonymous email address (for example ProtonMail) to make contact and will request payment in the form of a crypto currency.”

It’s worth translating this for the real world: a ransomware attack involves stealing everything from a school’s financial records, to student coursework, to confidential pupil information, and extorting money from the organisation in exchange for returning those items. This is precisely what happened in the spate of attacks mentioned above.

With such valuable data at stake, it may come as no surprise that the education sector tends to suffer an above-average level of cyber crime – as illustrated by this government survey of the education sector.

Conducted by phone between 12 October 2020 and 22 January 2021, the survey assessed the experiences of 350 primaries, secondaries and further education colleges and found, on average, 56 per cent of these organisations suffered a cyber breach of some kind in the preceding 12 months compared to the 39 per cent average for all UK businesses.*

Even if we focus on the report’s lowest percentage of education organisations suffering a cyber breach – 36 per cent for primary schools – that’s almost four in ten primaries that experienced an incident during an already arduous period for education.

And you needn’t be an IT professional to understand why that might have happened. As with all businesses and organisations during the pandemic, schools saw their users accessing systems through home devices and personal networks – bringing with that a greater volume and variety of vulnerabilities, which bad actors were only too ready to exploit.

Now that a degree of normality is returning, it would be understandable to assume such risks will fade. But unfortunately, this is not such a clear-cut conclusion – and for a couple of reasons.

First, schools and the education sector have made considerable investment, both in time and money, in education technology over the past 18 months. For example, that same government study found 92 per cent of headteachers had introduced, increased or upgraded technology due to the pandemic. And this is mirrored by our own experience, which includes helping almost 600 schools set up the Google or Microsoft remote teaching platforms.

Consequently, based on discussions with our school clients, we believe the education sector will now be exploring ways to get the most out of those technology investments. And that suggests that even though students have returned to classrooms, schools want to ensure their digital teaching platforms are ‘earning their keep’ as a central part of their IT suite.

Second, when it comes to cyber crime, schools have several complicating factors. As suggested above – and as with other public sector organisations such as local authorities – school databases contain extremely sensitive data. And they also have a huge number and variety of users accessing their systems – many of whom, due to their young age, may not be as digitally literate as would be ideal. Digital teaching platforms, though hugely helpful, can have particular weaknesses in this respect if they are not carefully set up and maintained.

So how can your school protect itself? Though cyber crime is a never-ending concern, there are similarly endless resources and tools to help you protect your school, your staff and students. And some of the methods cost nothing other than a little time and planning.

In this respect, one piece of good news is the DfE’s forthcoming ‘Cyber Secure’ scorecard tool, which will allow a school to assess its cyber security measures and pinpoint weaknesses, helping to form a clear plan of action.

Being launched in January 2022 – and following a pilot between 16 September and 9 October – the free and anonymous self-assessment tool will evaluate your school’s cyber security, signposting you towards a range of guidance aimed at both IT and non-IT staff.

Ahead of that launch, there are some other steps you can take – and that includes putting aside some time to explore the NCSC’s existing guidance for schools. As there’s a lot to cover, here are a few of the starting points we focus on with our school clients:

  • Where does the responsibility for cyber security sit in your organisation? If it lies only with IT, then it’s time for a rethink. As the examples above demonstrate, cyber security is an organisation-wide challenge – so it takes the whole organisation to tackle it. And it’s important to remember that fighting cyber crime is about much more than technology – it’s part of your governance, internal communications and organisational culture.
  • How do your school’s business continuity and disaster recovery plans look? That’s a bit of a jargon-packed mouthful – so in other words, could your school keep running in the event of an attack? What plans do you have in place for reporting cyber or data breaches? How would your school bounce back? Here’s a little more free reading material on this.
  • Your school has a physical perimeter to protect pupils. How are your virtual perimeters – your firewalls and your internet gateways? It’s worth noting here that entire networks can be secured as well as individual devices.
  • What are your rules around passwords? As an everyday part of life, this can be a common weakness. A good tip for creating them is to use three random words – and to add an extra layer of protection with two-factor authentication (2FA). In fact, some systems go beyond this and allow only approved devices, from approved locations – and even only at set times – to log into systems – see the ‘Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Security’ section here. Also, we often find the biggest challenge is convincing staff of the importance of good password hygiene – so if this rings a bell, then talk to us.
  • How up to date are your software and systems? If they don’t have the latest patches and upgrades, they could be susceptible to cyber breaches. Cloud-based systems can help in this respect since they tend to be easier to maintain than on-premise hardware – but the debate over cloud versus on-premise is definitely one for another blog – so if you have any questions, get in touch today.
  • Your organisation’s cyber security is only as strong as the security of your IT supply chain. Of course, procuring products and services through official bodies, such as the Crown Commercial Service (CCS), goes a long way to ensure your suppliers meet the legal standards. But not all frameworks are created equal – and different education establishments must comply with different rules.

    For example, multi-academy trusts must comply with ESFA Trust Handbook section 6.16 and ESFA Conditions of Funding (Grant) (Trusts) – Schedule 7: Security & Department Policies (if applicable to the Trust). And they must do this to pass the NCSC’s Cyber Essentials scheme – see below.

It’s worth noting on this point that AdEPT Education, as part of AdEPT Technology Group, is an approved supplier on two CCS frameworks – RM3808 (Network Services 2) and RM6100 (Technology Services 3), as well as five lots of the Telecommunications Services framework run by the Crescent Purchasing Consortium

Aside from those starting points and the NCSC’s forthcoming Cyber Secure tool, another area that may be of interest is the NCSC’s Cyber Essentials scheme. This government-backed programme helps your school improve its cyber security through a series of assessments. If you pass, your school will become certified, which can be of great value for reassuring your staff and your wider school community, such as parents and guardians.

As with school exams, it’s vital to ‘revise’ ahead of the Cyber Essentials evaluation. So we have developed our own Security Readiness Assessment (SRA), which is rather like having your own private tutor to get you ready for the big test, so you pass with flying colours.

Whether or not you work in IT, hopefully this blog has given you, as an education professional, a good overview of current cyber security topics affecting your organisation. And hopefully it’s also offered some positive news for an often-intimidating subject. But if you have any questions – or would like to find out more about our SRA, then get in touch on 0333 400 2490 or through enquiries@adept.co.uk.

*Percentage of UK organisations suffering a cyber breach in 12 months to 22 January 2021, according to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport’s Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2021:

All UK businesses: 39 per cent

  • Primary schools: 36 per cent
  • Secondary schools: 58 per cent
  • Further education colleges: 75 per cent

Mean average of these education organisations: 56.33 per cent

Written by Stuart Johnson

Security Consultant

Is your finance system helping or hindering your school’s ambitions?

When it comes to education technology, the focus of the last 18 months has been on digital education platforms – understandably so. But in that time, we’ve found schools have not abandoned their long-held plans for wider digital transformation.

In fact – and perhaps more than any other sector we work with – schools always have big ambitions for their ICT. And now that some semblance of normality is returning, we’re seeing schools are reexamining other areas of education technology, including finance systems.

So, we felt it was high time to take a closer look at this topic. To do this, I put some questions to my colleagues Tim Scott (TS) and Mike McEwen (MM), as well as Robert Pope (RP), from our partner Bam Boom Cloud. You can find out a little more about them below – and I’ve added links to further information mentioned throughout our roundtable.

Ben Rogers (BR): What’s so important about a school’s finance system? Why might schools be rethinking this aspect of their ICT?

TS: “I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say a school’s financial system oils the wheels of the organisation. And that’s because they’re now expected to do much more than accounting.”

MM: “Yes. I mean, once upon a time, those systems were effectively electronic versions of bookkeeping. But things have changed – driven by the internet, cloud, and the technology we use in our personal lives – and I think that’s why more and more schools want, and need, their finance systems to go beyond that traditional function.”

RP: “Definitely – it makes no sense for finance to run in isolation. As a function of business management, it’s tied to so many things, like how you handle your suppliers or manage projects. And then, for schools, there are unique areas, such as student records, or parental engagement. 

MM: “That’s a really good point. It reminds me of a school that wanted to add a section to its website where parents could log in to pay for school trips, complete surveys and give authorisations. It made complete sense for the school to do this, because by digitising these processes, they could save time and reduce paperwork.

“But, the school discovered its new parental portal couldn’t connect with its finance system and, in turn, other systems. And for that school, its finance system effectively held them back from what they wanted to do.”

TS: “Yes – that’s a good example. A finance system is a linchpin, and if it doesn’t integrate with other systems, like MIS, it can really hamper progress on other projects. I suspect many schools have learned this the hard way.”

RP: “A big reason for this is many schools have older finance systems – ‘legacy systems’, to use IT lingo. Those systems weren’t designed from the ground up for the internet, or for integrating with other systems. This means they’re often not suitable for schools’ plans – digital transformation or otherwise.”

BR: So, integrating older finance systems with other, newer systems can be a real challenge. Is this the biggest issue with these finance systems?

MM: “I’m not sure if you could say it’s the biggest issue, as though there’s a sliding scale of challenges. Even the tiniest technical issue can be a huge challenge if it’s stopping a school from fulfilling its plans.”

TS: “One thing that’s relevant here is what we’ve learned from helping schools with their ICT: they really are ambitious. I wonder if that’s because, after all, schools help children make progress, so this forward-thinking mentality spills over into their culture as an organisation. So Mike is right, something as seemingly small as not being able to get through to a support desk when a piece of technology is not working for a lesson, can have a real domino effect on a school.”

RP: “Yes, we’ve seen that in our work with schools, too. It isn’t just about the usual things we talk about in technology circles – like saving time, reducing paperwork, streamlining systems and so on. It’s because, at their heart, schools exist to help students grow. And teachers and staff want to spend as much time as possible doing this, and not spend all their time addressing technology issues. 

“What I would say in response to Ben’s question is another really big issue for education technology – and finance systems, in particular – is cyber security. This is especially true of on-site hardware, which many schools rely on.”

MM: “Definitely. Although ICT professionals and vendors tend to wax lyrical about cloud technology as being superior to on-premise technology , it’s not without good reason. Because having hardware in a school is often more difficult and expensive to maintain.

“But that is the tip of the iceberg. If a school doesn’t maintain its on-site hardware, it can miss out on the upgrades it needs to protect the school from cyber attacks. 

TS: “And where cyber security is concerned, there are some aggravating factors that specifically affect schools. Their databases contain highly sensitive data. And they have a huge number and variety of users accessing their systems – particularly over the past 18 months – and not everybody is as security conscious as we’d all like.”

MM: “The pandemic is definitely associated with a rise in cyber attacks. I think it’s a direct result of how ICT networks have changed over the crisis, with people accessing them from home, and through their own devices. Unfortunately, bad actors have been exploiting this, and it doesn’t surprise me that the DfE is launching a new cyber security programme for schools next January.”

“There’s some good research out there about this. But I’m conscious schools don’t always have huge IT departments, and sometimes decisions about technology fall to people who don’t have a technology background.

“So I’d recommend those professionals have a look at the National Cyber Security Centre for its advice to schools – it’s written in non-technical terms, with none of the sales spiel you might get from some vendors. Also, there’s a really useful infographic on cyber breach trends from Information is Beautiful.

Although the infographic I’m thinking of focuses on the private sector and ransomware – which is only one kind of cyber breach – it does give a clear visual portrayal of what’s happened in 2020 and 2021. And it’s interactive, linking to some good sources and articles – which is useful for schools that may not have dedicated cyber security teams.”

TS: “Yes, I think both us at AdEPT and, I’m sure, our Bam Boom Partners are big fans of infographics in terms of explaining and demystifying technology. Information is Beautiful is a great one for schools generally, too. I’m sure their infographics would go down well in classrooms – especially for maths lessons!”

BR: Back to the topic at hand, are there any other ways some older finance systems could be holding schools back?

TS: “Yes – but to answer that question, I think it’s important to consider who in a school now uses a finance system. So, while bursars and finance teams may be the main users, these systems are now used by business managers and senior management, as well.

“And as finance systems have attracted a wider range of stakeholders, the role of finance has also changed. In the past, it tended to take a ‘rearview mirror’ approach – looking back at the organisation’s fiscal performance for the past year, reporting what happened retrospectively.

“But now, many schools want much more than that. Knowing their financial data is a great source of information, they don’t want to wait until set times to make decisions when it’s too late to act.”

RP: “Yes. And this is true of finance and accounting in other sectors – organisations want their financial function to play a bigger role in the day-to-day choices and help shape the organisation’s future. The problem is that many older finance systems were built for that ‘rearview mirror’ accounting, but not for this kind of forward thinking. Advances in technology first pioneered in large enterprises such as AI, Machine Learning and Cognitive Services have filtered down to small organisations – providing capabilities to predict, focus on outcomes and support users rather than just provide a retrospective system of record.

“That’s not to say all finance systems are inadequate. Most of them give you graphs and tools to help your decision-making. But should you want to manipulate and analyse your financial data in unique ways – and what school doesn’t – it can be tricky.

“For example, some of our clients report having to spend lots of time manually fiddling with exported spreadsheets and files just to get answers to their questions – not exactly helpful for a school that wants to be more proactive with its finances.”

BR: From what you’ve described, there seems to be three main challenges concerning school finance systems: 1) integration with legacy systems; 2) cyber security and 3) the changing role of finance as a business function. If that’s agreed, I’ll look at how we’re helping schools address these challenges…

Introducing Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Cloud – and a new partnership – to help your school to improve its finance function

There’s every chance you already use Microsoft applications in your school. For example, you might use Word, Excel, and PowerPoint as part of Microsoft 365, which was formerly called Microsoft Office. And you might have added remote teaching tools to that collection during the pandemic. But alongside Microsoft 365 is a suite of other business applications, including finance – which can be of great help for schools.

That suite is called Microsoft Dynamics 365. And as the name suggests, it shares the same ‘DNA’ as Microsoft 365, which means if you’re confident using Microsoft 365, you’ll find Dynamics 365 a breeze.

Additionally, just as Microsoft 365 has different packages for different organisation sizes and needs, so too does Dynamics 365 – and the package that might be of interest to your school is ‘Business Central’.

It’s a slimmed-down version of the full Dynamics 365, offering a selection of cloud-based applications geared towards finance and related areas. Schools typically choose this package for the following benefits:

・Integration with other systems: as discussed above, this is a real draw for schools. Business Central’s compatibility with Microsoft 365 saves a lot of time and hassle when working across systems.

・Familiarity and ease of use: similarly, since Business Central’s interfaces and features mirror Microsoft 365, staff tend to take to it quickly, saving time and expense on training.

・Impeccable security: as a major technology company, Microsoft invests heavily in security and continually innovates in this area. See, for example, this news about Microsoft doing away with passwords (which can be hacked) in place of more sophisticated methods.

・Continual investment: unlike other vendors, Microsoft does not subject its customers to ‘version lock’, which happens when you have to pay for a software update. Instead, you pay a flat fee for licensing, knowing that your applications are always up to date.

・Grows with your organisation: many technology companies talk about being ‘scalable’, but don’t explain what that practically means. In the case of Business Central, one example of this is its application programming interface (API), which is open, unlike those from competitors. Business Central’s API is rather like a set of instructions that allows third-party developers to build niche apps to integrate with the software. This means you’ll be able to use vetted third-party apps as ‘plugins’, so you can customise the platform as your school changes, helping you to solve problems in innovative ways.

The best of both worlds

If you work in a school, and Business Central has piqued your interest, then you’ll want to know more about who can help you set it up. As with the schools we already support, you may be looking for minimal disruption, straightforward advice and transparent pricing. Our new partnership with Bam Boom Cloud may be of benefit precisely for those reasons. But first, a little more about us.

Being a company with a long history of working with schools, we’ve found they choose us because we focus on simplifying the complex and intimidating world of IT. After all, many schools do not have enormous IT teams that can act as intermediaries between management and technology suppliers – if they have an IT team at all. A good example of this is our work with Sunnyfields, where the headteacher is the school’s main IT person.

At the same time, we believe finance systems should be designed primarily for professionals like business managers – not IT professionals – and supported by people with the same background.

And that’s why Bam Boom Cloud is such a great choice. It’s a technology company founded by financial professionals, for financial professionals – so if you have a finance or business management background, Bam Boom Cloud will talk your language. And combined with our technology heritage, you’ll get the best of both worlds.

Additionally, when we form partnerships with other companies, we do just as much vetting as you do when you look for a supplier. With Bam Boom Cloud, here’s what stood out for us – and what might matter to you, too:

・The Bam Boom Cloud team pride themselves on being ‘educators’, not salespeople. They don’t have sales targets, do not rely on selling unnecessary extras, and instead focus on giving the best service possible.

・The team has many awards, especially from Microsoft – including the rare honour of having won world partner of the year three times over. To give these awards, Microsoft regularly tests individual employees, because, after all, it’s individual employees who you deal with – so it’s the expertise of individuals that counts.

・Bam Boom Cloud specialises in Business Central. And as such its processes have been refined over many years, meaning they’re transparent, methodical and efficient. So you’re in safe hands and kept informed at every step.

・Bam Boom Cloud’s KickStart package is especially valuable for schools. It’s designed to get you up and running on Business Central within a week, minimises downtime, and has a clear pricing structure and straightforward training.

What’s next?

You’ll find a wealth of information on both of our websites referenced above. But hopefully, this blog has given you a useful introduction – and the next step is discussing your school’s specific needs. You can get in touch with our AdEPT Education team on enquiries@adept.co.uk or 01689 814700; or you can contact Tim, Mike or Robert directly through LinkedIn:

Tim Scott, Chief Commercial Officer, AdEPT

Mike McEwen, Director, AdEPT Education

Robert Pope, Chief Commercial Officer, Bam Boom Cloud

Written by Ben Rogers

Group Marketing Manager at AdEPT

On call: the changing role of telephone systems in post-Covid general practice

While every one of your patients is unique, there is one big concern that they all share – and it affects every member of your team, every day.

It’s the challenge they face when calling for an appointment – and all that goes on behind the scenes to respond to that call.

Of course, as long as phones have been in practices, they have been both a blessing and a burden. But the pandemic has only compounded this, making your phone system less of an item on the long-term technology agenda and more of a critical priority.

Official figures bear this out. For example, one study by the Royal College of General Practitioners found that during the first lockdown of 2020, more than 70 per cent of GP consultations were through phone and video – a complete reversal of life before the crisis, when 70 per cent of GP appointments were face-to-face.

Although this dramatic U-turn demonstrates the importance of telephone systems and internet connectivity in practices, the figures will probably come as no surprise to you. After all, the only constant in healthcare is change – and you were at the front line, supporting patients through the pandemic and seeing these changes with your own eyes.

But the difference with these enormous shifts is how, due to the pandemic, healthcare has arguably reached the point of no return – described by the College as “the potential to change general practice dramatically and permanently”.

Naturally, technology providers to general practice have a role in helping you recover from the pandemic. But, as this blog explores, a telephone system for the GP practice of 2021 – and beyond – is not a case of ‘business as usual’. Instead, it must address the nuances that have surfaced in light of this extraordinary turning point.

For this blog, I’ll be referring to GPs. But I fully appreciate that all staff – both clinical and administrative – have a stake in your practice’s telephone system.

It’s about much more than inbound calls

Chances are you’ve had to pay a lot more attention to your telephone system over the past 18 months – and that’s an understatement. You might have found yourself wrestling with new challenges – such as needing more phone lines to accommodate more calls. You might also have had to turn to features you never needed before 2020. And you might have looked to other providers for help.

If you did, you might have noticed the same thing I have: providers of telephone systems tend to focus on inbound enquiries. And in doing so, they extol the ways their system can help with the tidal wave of calls your reception team handles every day (an issue which I’ll explore later).

This makes a lot of sense. After all, how you manage the calls into your practice doesn’t only affect staff workloads and morale – it can make all the difference in a patient getting the right help, from the right clinician, and in the right way, too.

But the management of inbound calls is only half the story here. A telephone system for the post-Covid practice must also work for outbound calls, since they’re now a huge part of your day. 

To do this, technology providers must consider the dynamics between the GP and the patient. Namely, phone consultations are great in principle but much more nuanced in practice.

For instance, when a patient gets in touch, it isn’t immediately obvious which kind of appointment is most suitable. This is because patients can’t always articulate their complaint on a call – and telephone triage can only go so far to help in this respect.

Consequently, there’s no guarantee a phone call is appropriate – but it may only be through a GP call that the need for face-to-face consultation becomes apparent. This can be frustrating for the patient and the GP – both of you want to get to the bottom of the patient’s concern in as few appointments as possible.

One way we’re helping practices overcome this challenge is with a telephone system that, with the click of a button during the call, can switch from standard voice to video. Through this system, the patient does not need to install any unique phone apps – but can use their phone’s camera so you can visually assess symptoms.

Of course, you do not rely only on sight to evaluate a patient. Touch and even smell are also involved, as is the unique intuition that can only happen by seeing someone in person. So video calls can be of great help – but only if they work for the real world, where not all calls begin as a video – and not all patients are willing to install more apps.

Outbound and inbound, but not office-bound

We all know how the pandemic has changed how and where we work. You may have been calling patients from places other than your usual desk, including your home.

However, not all phone systems are designed from the ground up for such arrangements – and especially for GPs and patients. While some get the basics right – allowing you to be flexible to an extent – I have found that the devil is in the details where general practice is concerned.

Some of the features that our GP clients look for and value include those that allow them to make calls from personal mobiles, without any compromise to confidentiality and security, or risk of incurring network costs.

Similarly, being able to make calls from a computer is just as important – holding a phone to an ear for long periods can cause arm and neck aches. And, to be a stickler for detail, the ability to control the phone number displayed to the patient – though a seemingly minor point – can prevent the patient from ignoring the call, which in turn can generate more work.

The whole picture of the patient

As a consumer, have you ever called a company’s customer services only to repeat your complaint because the telephonist can’t see your past enquiries?

Often, these awkward calls are not a reflection of the staff. Instead, they result from disparate IT systems: telephony does not ‘talk’ to customer record systems and vice versa. So staff answering the call find themselves flitting between applications trying to see the whole picture while you’re put on hold with your patience wearing thin. Staff may also have to manually update your records after the call, which obviously takes time.

This scenario is frustrating for all involved – and it isn’t unique to the private sector. In fact, in general practice, disjointed systems can have a real impact on patient outcomes – because being able to easily see the whole picture at the point of the call can help in several ways. These include making a diagnosis, assessing medicine interactions and sensitivities, and reassuring the patient that they are being treated as individuals with a unique history.

Consequently, telephony that integrates with clinical systems, such as SystmOne and EMIS, can be of great help. So how about telephony that lets you call the patient through a single click on your clinical system, where you’ve been viewing their records? Or a system that automatically and securely saves call details, including an audio recording, directly into the patient’s records once the call is over? There is a telephone system with precisely these features – and we’ll come to it shortly…

Making inbound calls better for all

Through my professional experience with GP practices, the daily rush of inbound calls can be one of the most stressful challenges for staff. My impression is that managing these surges can often feel like a full day’s work in itself, all condensed into a short and intense period.

NHS England’s findings that four in ten people were reluctant about contacting their GP during the pandemic suggest these surges may have lessened during the crisis. However, given the other exceptional demands of the crisis, I’m not convinced that such a reduction would have made any real dent in your workloads.

One thing I can say with more certainty is that with the return of relative normality, it seems a vice-like pressure on GP practices has emerged. Not only is the NHS ordering GPs to return to business as usual, but inflammatory media coverage has also fuelled patient demand for the same.

As a result, a telephone system that offers smarter ways to manage inbound calls could help ease these pressures. For example, features such as providing a callback instead of making the patient wait on the line at busy times can be of great value to patients and staff alike. Likewise, an automated system that allows patients to book appointments by phone without actually speaking to staff can also ease the surge of inbound calls.

Essentially, good inbound call management is not only about improving patients’ experience but about technology that is just as helpful for staff, too. Not all telephone systems are built this way.

In general practice, technology should augment, not replace

So far, I’ve described how telephone systems must work for life beyond the pandemic. But even though we’re a technology company, we don’t believe that technology has all the answers, especially in healthcare.

I say this because the pandemic has been a painful reminder of the value of the personal touch, underlining some timeless truths of work in general practice.

Firstly, no matter how sophisticated technology becomes, there will always be patients who want to, can only, and should, be seen in person.

Secondly, despite the age of ‘digital transformation’, it is in the interests of everybody’s physical and mental health to ensure people get out and socialise. And that includes routine trips out.

Thirdly, people working in your practice – from the reception team to senior partners – did not choose to work in healthcare only to find themselves spending every working minute stuck on a phone.

And it’s for these reasons that we don’t regard technology as a panacea. Instead, we look to help general practice with systems that will save time, increase efficiency, improve patient experience and boost staff morale. But to do all these in the most simple way possible – for the benefit of people, and not to replace them.

Introducing Surgery Connect, from X-on

With the points in this blog in mind, we have recently joined forces with X-on, the company behind Surgery Connect, a telephone system specially built for GP practices.

When forming such a partnership, we look at vendors with the same fine-tooth comb you use when evaluating technology providers. So as well as the unique benefits of Surgery Connect that I’ve touched on above, it’s worth highlighting a few other reasons why X-on stands out:

・Being cloud-based, Surgery Connect can easily grow to meet changes to your organisation. For example, if you open new practices with traditional telephony, you might find it tricky and more expensive to add extra phone lines. As cloud telephony doesn’t rely on physical technology in the same way as conventional phone systems, it doesn’t pose this problem.

・At the same time, X-on has given extensive consideration to practices’ concern about the security of cloud technology. So Surgery Connect has a raft of security accreditations, including ISO 9001, ISO 27001, ICO data compliance, and NHS data security standards, including HSCN compliance.

Furthermore, the system has a triple level of contingency. The cloud data is encrypted and stored in three UK sites, meaning it runs 24/7. A traditional telephone system, with on-premise technology, cannot make this kind of guarantee.

X-on is also an approved Crown Commercial Service supplier, with partner access to the RM3808 ‘Network Services 2’ framework’.

Surgery Connect has an intentionally simple pricing structure. What you pay for is what you get – with no hidden costs. And all aspects of your plan are bought together in one simple bill – because you need a telephone system with lots of great features, not lots of paperwork.

Support is designed for the modern practice, particularly in light of the extended opening hours you may now be offering. It is available 24/7, and critical issues are resolved within an hour at most.

And what about AdEPT?

As you’ll see from the X-on’s website and the links below, the company specialises in communications technology for general practice. So what about AdEPT?

We’re an independent technology company with a long history of working with the public sector. So as well as helping GP practices like yours, we also work with the NHS and other health and social care organisations.

One example of this is our work in Kent, where we upgraded the internet connectivity for the entire county’s NHS, hospitals and GP practices. We also work with Great Ormond Street Hospital, having migrated all of its legacy network to the new HSCN. And more generally, we help more than 250 GP practices with their individual technology and telecoms needs.

Additionally, like X-on, we are an approved Crown Commercial supplier. We are accredited on eight of the 13 lots of ‘Network Services 2’, RM3808, and on three of the eight lots of ‘Technology Services 3, RM6100.

With all this in mind, the partnership between X-on and AdEPT means you’ll get highly specialised advice, technology and support, but also with a close eye on the bigger picture of public healthcare – a real breadth and depth of knowledge.

I hope you found the information in this blog useful – and if you have any questions, do get in touch. You can find me here on LinkedIn, or can call on 0333 4002490 or email enquiries@adept.co.uk.

Further reading

・Why X-on is different: more about Surgery Connect.

・Words from your peers: other health professionals’ experiences of Surgery Connect.

Answering your questions about Surgery Connect.

・Ensuring your team is confident with Surgery Connect: easy-to-understand training materials.

Written by Tracy Jackson

Divisional Sales Director

New AdEPT partnership launches with telephone system specially for GP practices

12 October 2021

As one of the UK’s leading providers of telephony and communication services in the primary care sector, AdEPT supports more than 800 GP surgeries maintaining vital links between staff and patients.

Always looking to innovate and provide new services, AdEPT is pleased to announce a new partnership with X-on that will enhance the existing portfolio offerings with the addition of Surgery Connect, a cloud-based healthcare phone system specifically designed for GP surgeries.

AdEPT has responded to the changing demands and requirements in the sector, recognising:

1. The need for a more flexible approach to how patients communicate with their surgery

2. The need for staff to work from any location

3. Support for video consultations

4. Instant access to patient records and

5. Better access for patients.

AdEPT’s experience in the primary care sector alongside the Surgery Connect platform fully ticks all the boxes and delivers a comprehensive solution to GPs.

AdEPT Sales Director Tracy Jackson says: “We pride ourselves on supplying solutions to the primary care sector that help the Practice provide the best patient access possible.

“We are excited by the addition of the Surgery Connect cloud-based telephone system to our portfolio which enables us to offer a fully integrated solution that seamlessly integrates the medical records system and the telephone, offering better patient access and efficiency for the surgery”.

X-on Managing Director Paul Bensley adds: “Following more than a year of dramatic change in patient care delivery and technological development in primary care, we are pleased to be partnering with AdEPT to provide our flagship solution to ease the significant current pressures on GPs and practice staff.

“Partnering with AdEPT will help us cement the position of Surgery Connect as the leading digital communications platform designed specifically for general practice.”

Find out more

Improve call handling, patient satisfaction and employee efficiency with Surgery Connect from AdEPT

Written by Ben Rogers

Marketing Manager