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.”

Written by Ben Rogers

Marketing Manager

It’s not easy to synchronise remote teaching platforms with school databases. Until now.

30th September 2021

While schools have widely adopted remote teaching platforms during the pandemic, they have also found creating user accounts and keeping them up to date to be a real challenge. But a new service from AdEPT Education is set to change this.

Schools that have adopted remote teaching platforms over the past 18 months have found the platforms don’t easily synchronise with their existing databases, creating additional and time-consuming work for staff already facing the exceptional demands of the pandemic.

Although they are not new, two of the most popular platforms – Microsoft 365 for Education and Google Workspace for Education – have proved hugely valuable, seeing widespread adoption during 2020. But synchronising them with a school’s Management Information System (MIS) has posed some challenges.

For schools, an MIS is its central source of data. It includes everything from student and parental contact details, as well as medical records to exam grades and attainments. Much of this information is also required to keep remote teaching platforms up to date. What class is the pupil in? How old are they? Who is their form tutor? Have they just joined the school? Who has left?

This information must therefore be recorded in a remote teaching platform to ensure teachers are remotely teaching the right classes, and pupils are attending the right virtual lessons.

But schools have been manually processing these records – creating Google and Microsoft user accounts and updating them based on the data in their MIS. Not only is this time-consuming, it also carries the risk of keying errors – and means the data in the remote teaching platform is only as up to date as the last manual entry.

Consequently, AdEPT Education has built a new synchronising service – Nimbus Sync – which can save schools lots of time and work in managing this data across systems. Once set up, it can synchronise the MIS with the remote teaching platform in minutes, and continue to do so in the background.

The service draws on AdEPT Education’s close relationship with teachers and education professionals, as well as its work throughout the pandemic, which includes helping more than 500 schools to set up a remote teaching platform.

It also reflects AdEPT Education’s expertise in remote teaching technology, as one of only a handful of government-approved companies qualified in both the Google and Microsoft platforms.

AdEPT Education MD David Bealing says: “We are very proud of the software that we develop – and Nimbus Sync is our latest offering that will save schools countless hours in setting up and updating their pupil and staff details. This will, in turn, allow schools to focus on what they do best: helping our children to learn, grow and thrive.”

David adds: “It’s easy to set up Nimbus Sync – we’ve designed it with schools in mind. It doesn’t require on-site work, meaning there’s minimal disruption to timetables, can be set up at a time that suits schools, and installation costs are reduced. It also means that even the remotest schools – those in areas affected by digital inequality – can benefit from Nimbus Sync.

“Additionally, as the service is built to integrate with Microsoft and Google, it will help the huge number of schools that use these platforms – a number that is likely to grow.”

Based on a survey of 2,555 school professionals between 25 November 2020 and 29 January 2021, the government says 59 per cent of primary schools and 89 per cent of secondaries had introduced a remote teaching platform during the pandemic.

These figures reflect AdEPT Education’s own experience of working with schools – they are often at the forefront of technology adoption. But now relative normality is returning, schools may be looking to address the challenges that were less of a priority last year – and Nimbus Sync is one way to help with that recovery.

AdEPT Education CEO Phil Race says: “This is great example of our mission to deliver affordable, beneficial, scalable, deployable and dependable software and services specifically for UK schools, and we are very excited to bring this latest great solution to the market.”

To find out more about Nimbus Sync, schools can email enquiries@adept.co.uk or call 0333 4002490.

– ENDS –

Notes for journalists and editors

This announcement has been released by Ben Rogers, Head of Marketing, on behalf of AdEPT. For more details or to arrange an interview, contact Ben on 01689 814700 or ben.rogers@adept.co.uk.

The work of AdEPT Education

AdEPT Education has more than 30 years of experience in providing managed services, IT support and solutions to the UK’s schools. Through this work, AdEPT Education helps more than 2.2 million people across some 4,000 schools – and it does so with services built specifically for schools, such as:

WebScreen – giving students a safe online environment.
WebScreen is a service that gives schools control over their own internet filtering. Schools can configure and create their own block lists, and filter content based on individual student requirements, time of day, IP settings and other contexts. The service filters more than one billion access requests from schools each day.

eAdmissions – a digital platform that lets parents, guardians, schools and local authorities apply for or manage school admissions.
Used by every London local authority, as well as Surrey County Council, the eAdmissions service allows parents and guardians to apply for school places online, manage their applications and stay informed of progress. It also helps schools and councils administer these applications – greatly reducing the time and paperwork involved in this process.

In the latest round of applications the service notified the parents and guardians of more than 131,000 primary and 109,000 secondary school students about their new school place, with some applications being completed on a PlayStation!

Written by Ben Rogers

Marketing Manager

The TUC partners with AdEPT and chooses Nebula to improve its network flexibility and resilience

30th September 2021

AdEPT Nebula demonstrates its success as the TUC joins 635 customers on the network

One of the largest trade union federations in the UK has appointed AdEPT Technology Group to transform its IT.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has partnered with AdEPT to bring more flexibility and resilience to its IT, with AdEPT Nebula at the heart of this transformation.

It means that TUC staff will benefit from technology that is more flexible across locations and for new offices, more resilient to change, and more competitively priced. This, in turn, supports the TUC in its mission to improve working lives for everyone, through representing and campaigning for 48 member unions and 5.5 million working people.

For AdEPT, the new partnership reflects the growing demand for its Nebula service, having been launched in 2018 and attracting 635 customers to date.

It incorporates a number of distinct elements – all brought together to meet an organisation’s specific needs. This means every Nebula project is unique –and it is this quality that impressed TUC CIO Simon Parry.

He said: “Nebula for AdEPT was a unique selling point and a differentiator in enabling the TUC to address its business continuity objectives. It made the proposition from AdEPT extremely compelling.”

Delivered on time and within budget, the project turned the unique needs of a unique organisation into one unique solution.

Before working with AdEPT, the TUC had applications running in a data centre and from on-site servers. As a result, it wanted to bring this together through a new infrastructure that combines antivirus, web filtering, firewall and data backup services. It also needed to integrate Microsoft 365 – including Teams and Teams telephony – which the TUC had already been trialling.

Additionally, all of this needed to be covered by a protective service for patching and updating the TUC’s infrastructure – and done so in a way that works for the TUC’s large user community.

It is unique needs such as these where Nebula comes to the fore, thanks to its convergence of IT, telecom and voice services in one environment. One analogy for this is a charm bracelet – Nebula has a core thread of network communications, to which a range of services can be ‘hooked on’ and connected, like charms. These include:

・Security services such as firewalls

・Hosted and virtualised software such as MIS, a school Management Information System – and Sage, for accounting

・Hosted communications such as IP Office, a telephone system from our partner, Avaya – and Ericson LG, from our partner, Pragma.

It can also coexist with other applications, whether running from on-site servers or the public cloud, such as Microsoft 365. Similarly, through Equinix, it can connect to other public cloud services – including Azure, AWS and Google.

Additionally, Nebula reduces costs for customers, in a similar way to an insurance comparison site, by providing a range of competing options from AdEPT partners.

At the same time, AdEPT continually invests in Nebula to improve bandwidth, switching speed, computing power, memory and security, and to innovate new services. 

For example, in FY21, the computing capacity within Nebula increased by 192 cores and 2TB RAM, with internet traffic crossing the network increasing threefold, reflecting the importance of Nebula to customers.

During this same period, AdEPT added new services and toolsets for cloud migration, as well as a hosted MIS and cloud-based voice service.

With further investment planned to bring more applications into Nebula, and a fully staffed 24/7 networks operations centre, the Group is focused on expanding Nebula’s capabilities and improving its performance even further.

Nebula falls under AdEPT’s cloud-centric strategic services operations, which has seen revenues grow by 8.5 per cent to more than £25 million.

Written by Ben Rogers

Marketing Manager

Introducing Nimbus Sync

There’s no doubt that there has been a massive rise in the use of digital education platforms in schools, and there are some incredible statistics that illustrate this. Worldwide there are now more than 170 million student and educators using Google Workspace for Education[1] and over 100 million students using Microsoft Teams[2].

This mass-adoption was of course accelerated by the pandemic. A topic we’ve written widely about in several of our other blog posts, particularly in regard to the Department for Education’s (DfE) platform provisioning programme – which interestingly is responsible for a staggering 2.5 million of these accounts.[3]  

It’s clear from the research and school feedback that adopting these platforms have been extremely beneficial for schools, but they of course bring with them a number of challenges. With the new academic year starting, the focus of this post is to talk about one set of these challenges: keeping the data in these platforms up to date.

Though not new solutions for schools, when the pandemic hit many schools did not have the capability to provide remote learning, and so almost overnight, schools had to make massive changes. This is shown by some statistics released by the DfE that show a staggering 86% of primary schools surveyed, introduced, increased or upgraded a learning platform to set and receive pupils’ work in response to Covid.[4] There was no time for planning. Schools had to be reactive to ensure teaching and learning continued.

Now after all this time has passed, and the crazy year schools have had, how many of these platforms have not yet been updated for the new academic year? How many students are without accounts, or arguably worse, how many leavers (including staff) still have access to data on these platforms as their accounts haven’t been disabled? Or perhaps, how many schools have gone to the great effort of manually updating their data in these platforms over the summer? After all, they can be time-consuming and difficult to administer – requiring technical expertise.

What is needed is a simple, cost-effective, secure and time-saving solution to automatically keep school data up to date in these platforms. A solution that removes the inconvenience, or the technical expertise required, to create accounts when new starters join and disable accounts when people leave – whilst also ensuring that things like Classrooms/Teams and group memberships remain current.  

Hence AdEPT Nimbus, our new product family of in-house developed solutions that simplify the sharing and management of school’s data with, and access to, third party applications.  Nimbus Sync, the first product to launch, solves this problem by being the simple and easy way for schools to sync their MIS data into Google Workspace and Microsoft 365.

This is an area we have a lot of experience in. Not only are we Google and Microsoft partners, but we also currently provide Google Workspace and Microsoft 365 syncing services to over 900 schools. Historically we’ve only been able to offer these services to a limited number of schools with specific connections. With Nimbus Sync, we’re able to help any school in the country.

Using our experience, expertise and school feedback, we’ve built upon what we were previously able to offer, to provide a single portal where schools can configure the sync from start to finish – whilst benefiting from a whole host of improvements, enhanced functionality and customisations.

Setting up the sync is easy. School simply set up the import of their MIS data to us (if they are not one of the 3000 schools that do this already) and then configure the export of data to Google and/or Microsoft – which includes the automatic provisioning of accounts, Classrooms/Teams and groups. Changes made in their MIS are then automatically updated in their platform. It’s really as simple as that.

Leading the development of Nimbus Sync is our Head of Software Development Manuel Cristelo. He said: “We’re really proud of the work on this project. Nimbus Sync was designed as something schools can set up and then forget about, so we believe it’s going to help save schools a lot of time and have a great impact. We can’t wait for schools to get their hands on it and are looking forward to developing more enhancements to Nimbus Sync in the future, as well as the other products we have planned for AdEPT Nimbus.”

Nimbus Sync is an affordable, beneficial, scalable, deployable and dependable service specifically for UK schools, and we are very excited to bring it to the market from September 2021. Find out more at nimbus.adept.education or give us a call.  

[1] https://blog.google/outreach-initiatives/education/google-workspace-for-education/

[2] https://www.windowscentral.com/microsoft-teams-reportedly-used-100-million-students

[3] https://dfedigital.blog.gov.uk/2021/02/12/digital-education-platforms/

[4] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/996470/Education_Technology__EdTech__Survey_2020-21__1_.pdf page 39

Written by James Ing

Product Manager

Your organisation invested in IT to adapt to the pandemic. Now what?

How to get more out of your Microsoft products and services

Working in IT, I have always found it interesting to look back at past predictions about technology to see if they’ve come true.

For example, back in 1975, Bloomberg’s Businessweek magazine ran an article that predicted the future of the workplace. It drew on the views of George E Pake, who led research at Xerox, and included his description of the 1995workplace: “I’ll be able to call up documents from my files on the screen, or by pressing a button.”

Mr Pake was clearly on the money. And since that time, with the widespread adoption of computing – and then the internet – the world seems to have become obsessed with making predictions about IT and technology. Perhaps never more so than over the past year, with the number one topic being the enormous changes to workplaces brought about by the pandemic.

But there is a drawback to this kind of discussion. By virtue of being office based, IT experts often fall into the trap of focusing all their thinking on offices, offering recommendations for people sitting at desks, in front of computers.

If the past year has shown us anything, it’s that those who aren’t at desks in front of screens – those working in schools, in healthcare, in public services – that they are all critical to our lives and our economy.

Consequently, while discussion about remote and hybrid working is important – and we ourselves have shared a lot of guidance where this is concerned –  it’s just as important that we in IT keep in mind that not all organisations are able to simply adopt ‘new ways of working’.

And so, we should also help those who have bought new technology as a result of the pandemic to make the most of those investments, irrespective of where their staff may be based. This is especially true with those areas of the public sector mentioned above – or indeed smaller businesses with limited IT resources. If this sounds like your organisation, then read on.

Microsoft Teams: a springboard to much more

One thing we can say with certainty about IT in the age of the pandemic is that there has been widespread adoption of video conferencing, across all industries. For example, between February and June 2020, usage of Microsoft Teams grew by 894 per cent.

I am drawn to this statistic because I am AdEPT’s Microsoft Product Manager– and one of my responsibilities is to ensure we have a comprehensive, up-to-date understanding of Microsoft products and services – and how they might benefit your organisation.

Through this work, I have seen a distinct pattern emerge over the past year and I believe it’s something that will resonate with many organisations, perhaps even your own.

Lots of organisations have either adopted the free version of Microsoft Teams, or have added Teams to their existing Microsoft 365 plan. In either case – and with the more pressing demands of the pandemic – a lot of those organisations are yet to realise the full potential of their new setup.

In other words, many organisations aren’t getting their money’s worth out of their new, or newly-enhanced, Microsoft products and services.

The good news is there are lots of emerging ways you can get more out of Microsoft, or build on what you already have. Here are a few of them.

1. Microsoft Power Platform

Just like Microsoft 365, Power Platform is a collection of applications. Among them are tools for analysing data, building low-code apps and even launching and running your own chatbots. The applications include…

Power Automate and Power Apps

Have you ever wished you could automate a task in your work? Or had a great idea that could improve your organisation but have fallen at the first hurdle because you need a software developer? If the answer’s yes, then you might like Microsoft Power Automate and Power Apps.

As their names imply, these products allow you to automate repetitive tasks – or use low-code tools to build your own app. You can find examples of Power Automate ‘flows’ here, and apps built with Power Apps here.

A good example of this comes from one of our clients, publicly-owned Barnsley Premier Leisure (BPL), which wanted to improve how it handles gym equipment faults and eliminate the paperwork involved in the process.

Working with us, and by using Power Apps, BPL’s IT team built a simple app for staff. With it, an employee scans the barcode on the equipment, which in turn brings up a choice of faults to report, and once submitted, automatically emails a support ticket to the equipment manufacturer. The app has saved BPL a lot of time and paperwork, making the process much easier to track and manage.

Power BI

Once upon a time, data analysis was a dark art. To do anything meaningful with your organisation’s data, you likely had to have specialist skills and spend many hours in Microsoft Excel, Access or similar software. Even then, the spreadsheets and graphs you produced were often only snapshot in time and didn’t integrate easily with other software. Those were the days when the idea of having a live dashboard of business data was just a pipe dream.

(Interestingly, a Google Trends graph suggests the whole world has become more interested in ‘dashboards’ over the last 15 years – and I suspect that has nothing to do with the things in the front of our cars!)

Then in 2011, Microsoft launched Power BI – the ‘BI’ standing for ‘Business Intelligence’. It’s an application that allows you to take your business data and turn it into graphs and charts, including your own live dashboards. Notably, it’s designed to be extremely easy to use – and not restricted to data specialists. One fantastic example of it in action is these live Transport for London graphs, which represent the demand for public transport in the city.

Another example comes again from our client, BPL. With our help, it now has an extensive set of live dashboards which it regularly uses to make decisions based on various data sets, like staff levels and customer demand. For example, staff noticed a rise in bookings for yoga classes, but with a finite amount of yoga instructors in the area, they were able to quickly ‘switch on’ more classes in pilates – a similar activity – rather than turn customers away and, in turn, miss out on revenue.

Other Power Platform applications

I mentioned that there are other applications within Power Platform – some of these represent differences in deployments, such as being based in the cloud or on your desktop. But one other that might be of interest is Power Virtual Agents, which is an application for building your own chatbots. Many organisations are looking to support their customer service teams with such bots – but as a big topic in its own right, that’s one for another blog!

2. Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central

If you’re already using Microsoft 365 in any capacity,it might interest you to know that Microsoft offers a suite of applications for various business functions, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM).

This collection is called ‘Dynamics 365’ and, as the name suggests, it has the same foundation as Microsoft 365 software, such as Word, Excel and Powerpoint. At my last count, there were 22 applications within Microsoft Dynamics 365, spanning everything from customer records to supply chain, finance to project management.

So, what do our customers make of it?

Interestingly, we’ve found that some of them have been under the impression that Dynamics 365 is only suitable for large businesses. Although it now uses it, BPL was one of those customers – in fact, when we mentioned it to the IT manager, he joked that he’d only heard of it being used by Formula 1 teams with lots of money.

If your organisation is in a similar place – you can see the appeal of Dynamics 365 but have concerns about costs – then you might be interested in one of its variants, Business Central Cloud.

Built with smaller organisations in mind, Business Central Cloud offers key Dynamics 365 applications with an emphasis on finance – covering accounting, sales and supply chain. Crucially, it’s cloud-based, meaning it can be used on any device with an internet connection, which is obviously good for flexible working.

Many organisations start with Business Central Cloud with the view to using it for accounting purposes, but it offers much more than this – and as it integrates with Microsoft 365, many choose the platform to avoid the time and hassle of learning entirely new systems.

We’ve recently joined forces with Bam Boom Cloud, a Business Central Cloud specialist. One of the many reasons we’ve decided to do this is because organisations are often, understandably, intimidated by the prospect of adopting major new systems – they can see the benefits, but worry about being without crucial systems during the transition, how staff will take to the new system and that the process could negatively affect their customers.

Bam Boom Cloud has a solution for this – its fast-track process promises to help your organisation make the switch in as little as seven days, including staff training. Bam Boom Cloud also only focuses on the products and services that you want – and will not pressure you into unnecessary and expensive extras. We take the same view with our own customers.

A good example of how this works is with Bam Boom Cloud client, ilke Homes. A modular housing developer, ilke Homes was relying on paper and spreadsheet records, but was quickly outgrowing this setup. It needed a new system, but couldn’t afford lengthy downtime, and wanted something that would work across multiple sites, growing with ilke Homes’ own continued growth.

Choosing Bam Boom Cloud’s KickStart offering, ilke Homes quickly started realising the benefits of the switch to Business Central Cloud. It found cashflow was improved, processes worked more efficiently, and the business was liberated from a system that was holding it back.

What a case study like this doesn’t necessarily show is the people behind the work. We’re as choosy about our partners as you are about your own IT partners – we vet our partners just as you would. Similarly, Bam Boom Cloud has gone through extensive assessment by Microsoft, winning Microsoft 2021 Partner of the Year for Dynamics 365 for Business Central, having been a finalist in 2020, and the winner of the 2019 awards.

Beyond these examples

The examples above give just a small taster of how you could make more of Microsoft products and services, especially in the wake of the pandemic when organisations are looking for ways to move forward with minimum disruption.

You may be wondering why I’ve not mentioned prices – often the most pressing question. The reason I haven’t is it really depends on certain criteria – for example, some of the tools I’ve mentioned may be already available to you through your organisation’s Microsoft plan. Your organisation size, or the number of users, may also be factors – as could being in the private or public sector.

There are fixed costs involved, however, so it’s relatively straightforward to determine an approach and a price that is tailored to your requirements. So the next step is to assess your own organisation and answer any questions you may have through a no-obligation chat. You can get in touch via the contact details below. But before that, here are a few more articles that may be of interest, with my interpretations.

Microsoft’s findings in relation to hybrid working, based on its 2021 Work Trend survey:

• 73 per cent of workers want flexible working to continue – but note that 67 per cent are craving more in-person time with their teams. As I alluded to above, the debate about home versus office working needs to be more nuanced than fixating on those two extremes.

• Through the same survey, it found time spent in Microsoft Teams has more than doubled – no surprises there – but this likely explains why we’re now craving face-to-face contact with colleagues.

Independent consultancy Forrester found the switch to Microsoft 365 for Business brings 163 per cent return on investment for small businesses:

• Looking at how the pandemic affected SMEs, Forrester found that Microsoft 365 for business was especially beneficial when organisations needed to shift to remote work, highlighting security features and the ease-of-use for IT managers to set up.

Cloud infrastructure spending continued to grow in 2021, found market intelligence firm IDC:

• Spending on cloud systems increased 11.6 per cent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020, suggesting that more and more organisations and industries are starting to realise the benefits of cloud.

Forbes: the use of low-code is on the rise, suggesting it’s becoming increasingly popular:

• Gartner predicts that in the next three years, more than 65 per cent of all applications will be built on low-code.

Microsoft’s Get On 2021 campaign is set to help people build careers in technology:

• This five-year campaign aims to help 1.5 million people build tech careers, including people who want to upskill their existing work, as well as IT leaders who want to improve their career prospects.

Education: Microsoft survey of CIOs and heads of IT in the UK education sector found that they did not want to accrue ‘technology debt’:

• Surveyed in October and November 2020, these professionals said that while they had prioritised short-term solutions to address immediate needs, they now recognise that further digitalisation must be driven strategically.

Want to see how you could get much more out your Microsoft setup? Get in touch today

I hope you’ve found this blog useful and interesting. If you’d like to find out more, you can connect with me on LinkedIn, or call me and my colleagues on 0333 400 2490, or email enquiries@adept.co.uk.

Written by Jess Woods

Microsoft Product Manager

AdEPT & Bam Boom New Partner Announcement

AdEPT adds Bam Boom Cloud Ltd to its partner ecosystem, continuing to strengthen its capability in Microsoft applications and cloud services.

With a core discipline in Business Central, Bam Boom Cloud expands AdEPT’s Microsoft 365 Dynamics credentials providing customers with expertise in cloud-based finance and accounting systems.

Gaining specific recognition at Microsoft’s Partner of the Year awards, for three years running, Bam Boom Cloud brings a wealth of experience to this fast growing segment of the market. Whilst Microsoft 365 Dynamics addresses many aspects of an organisation’s business processes from customer relationship management to operational workflow management, the adoption of cloud-based accounting systems is taking off and Microsoft’s Business Central is well-placed for organisations of sub 500 employees.

As a significant provider of Microsoft services to customers, this new partner relationship will provide fixed priced Dynamics 365 Business Central deployment to AdEPT’s customers looking to make the move from outdated on-premise systems to more flexible and cost-effective cloud delivered solutions.

Supporting all organisations in their digital transformation journey, AdEPT customers can confidently migrate to a modern, future-proof cloud accountancy system in a structured and phased manner, bolting on new features as and when they are ready.

For AdEPT this is another innovative addition to their existing diverse portfolio of services, giving their 12,000+ customers an additional pathway to a new, improved cloud-based financial management system.

Quote from Jess Woods, Microsoft Product Manager:

Bam Boom Cloud have built tremendous credibility in this market and have a great, simple proposition for businesses adopting Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central.  They’re also great people to work with, which is the secret recipe for any strong partnership. We’re really pleased to bring this partnership to our customers. Exciting times ahead!

Quote from Vicky Critchley, CEO of Bam Boom Cloud:

“We’re so excited to be partnering with AdEPT and offering our pack-based approach to their customers. We’re huge advocates of the partner-to-partner approach and we know AdEPT are a perfect partner for us. Business Central enables businesses to transform their ‘back office’ finance & reporting just like they have done with AdEPT’s other Microsoft offerings. We can’t wait to help more SMBs move forward on their digital transformation journey.”

Written by Sami Malik

Marketing Campaigns Manager

Phil Race: “my CEO Today Award is a reflection of AdEPT as a whole“

Earlier this year, our CEO, Phil Race, won a prestigious ‘CEO Today UK Awards 2021’ award from CEO Today Magazine. It follows a seminal period in AdEPT’s history – one where we’ve helped businesses and organisations get the best out of their connectivity and ICT to rise to the colossal challenges of the pandemic.

I spoke to Phil Race about the award and what it means for him, AdEPT and our customers…

Why do you think you received this award – and how does it relate to AdEPT as a whole – and our customers?

Phil Race (PR): “Although the award has my name on it, it’s truly a reflection of the whole AdEPT team, not me. It’s a recognition of the performance of our people, our great culture, and of how we’re integrating our acquisitions.

“Obviously it’s fantastic to be recognised in this way – but just as important to me is the immense rewards I get from the positive feedback from our clients and our team day-to-day. I see my role as getting the best out of everyone in AdEPT – from my direct reports, but in some ways more importantly those across all of our offices in the UK. I’d like to think I do this in a highly driven, but supportive way – and that might be a factor in why I’m receiving this award.

“I think the award also reflects how we’ve been helping our customers through the past 12 months – the work we’ve done to give our customers different ways to communicate, reliable connectivity, high-performing ICT wrapped with help and support, has been incredible. For example, we’ve helped doctors move to remote diagnosis; we’ve supplied tablets to care homes; and we’ve helped more than 500 schools move to digital education platforms for remote teaching and learning – these are particular highlights of the past year for me and all of us.”

“We’ve helped doctors move to remote diagnosis; we’ve supplied tablets to care homes; and we’ve helped more than 500 schools move to digital education platforms for remote teaching and learning – these are particular highlights of the past year for me and all of us.”

You mentioned AdEPT’s acquisitions and your role in bringing together those companies. How are you doing that?

PR: “We are a consolidator, and we’ve been acquiring and integrating companies continuously for many years. During my tenure we’ve bought a number of companies that are now part of the AdEPT family. Our success in doing this is because we appreciate the human side of acquisitions – it’s not just about the finances or the customers. We need to appreciate the personal aspirations of the team who are part of the acquired business and ensure we alleviate fears, appreciate ambitions and nurture people through what can, for some, be a stressful transition.

“I’ve been in businesses that have both been acquired, and that have been the acquirer, so I have a lot of personal experience that I can bring to bear in these situations. I think this really helps when making acquisitions, and the subsequent integration work for everyone involved.

“We set clear goals, we ensure everyone is kept informed, we create a coherent integration plan and we make sure everyone sees the logic for what we are doing; it means that our decisions are given both context and meaning.”

The pandemic has kept us all apart from each other – so how has this affected your work in bringing together the companies and people?

PR: “One thing that’s really important to me is open and honest communication, frequently. For example, once a month I write and share a newsletter, covering our news stories, our work and where we as a business are going. And it’s not about sugar coating everything – it’s about being transparent and approachable. We call it Carpe Diem! (inspired by the Dead Poets Society film), it means ‘seize the day’ and is one of my core philosophies: you only get one life.

“I make a point of sharing the whole picture – the good and the bad. It’s about treating staff as grown-ups so we can come together and solve our challenges and those of our customers.

“This has been even more important during the pandemic. Over the past 15 months we’ve had staff working from home, on kitchen tables and in bedrooms – so regular communication has been especially important. Being open can help employees alleviate the stress of feeling like they’re in the dark.

“Obviously we’re an AIM-listed company so there’s some things we can’t share for legal reasons, but as much as possible it’s about sharing the strategy with everyone. I do this formally once a year in an all staff briefing, but for me it’s a continual dialogue – I never want any employee to feel intimidated by my job title and communication is always two-way thing.

“I think this ties in with something I’m often described as: a solver of puzzles. Obviously problem solving is a big part of work in technology, but it’s true in my position too – solving the puzzles of conflicts in resources, of changes in the markets, of new technology. Doing this is my passion – not to turn up and get paid – but to get up in the morning and solve those puzzles – Covid-19 has been a huge puzzle to solve, and I think we’ve done it pretty well.”

Do you think this ‘problem-solving’ nature is mirrored across AdEPT?

PR: “Yes, definitely. First and foremost, our employees are always looking to solve our customers’ problems. We always keep in mind that the world of ICT is complicated and confusing, with lots of discrete areas of technology – and that’s a big part of how we approach our day to day work – solving our customers’ problems.”

“Our employees are always looking to solve our customers’ problems. We always keep in mind that the world of ICT is complicated and confusing, with lots of discrete areas of technology – and that’s a big part of how we approach our day to day work – solving our customers’ problems.”

Where else has this problem-solving culture come to the fore?

PR: “It feels like a long and different time ago, but back in 2019 we took on the Three Peaks Challenge and it stands out as an example of our culture. For me, being there in the rain and the dark with my colleagues was a fantastic personal achievement but also especially valuable because I believe in leading by example. So, whether we’re facing the challenge of climbing a mountain, or the challenge of helping our customers through the pandemic, my role is to be part of the team, helping navigate us through it all.

“I’m also a great believer that we should be a force for good and supporting charities is part of that. But this belief is also shared by our team, so it’s a great way to engage with every part of the wider team, helping in two-way conversation as well as the integration of new companies and offices. I can’t wait for the next charity challenge when we are allowed out again.

“Many of the charities we support have a very personal meaning to our staff, so it’s important for me to get involved. And being a judge on the bake-off fundraiser we ran in our Orpington office had a few tasty perks, too!”

What keeps you motivated and how do you apply this to your role?

PR: “There are a few I can name. First, without a doubt, solving problems is the biggest motivator for me, and I’m fortunate to be part of a board that challenges and helps me solve them. Next, continual learning – it’s important to never stop learning, especially in the fast-paced world of ICT – I’d like to think that I’m always curious. Third, I’d add that it’s important to be flexible and willing to change – the world changes overnight, as we’ve all seen over the past 12 months. Finally, don’t be afraid to dream big – just as our customers have dreams of where they want to be, we should have dreams, too. Learning constantly and being open to change helps you achieve those dreams.”

Are there any other highlights that stand out for you as CEO in your time at AdEPT?

PR: “Every day there are lots of victories, such as when we help a customer find a solution where an answer wasn’t immediately obvious – that’s a huge reward, and seeing the positive comments from our customers this leads to is priceless!

“The creation of a clear strategy, with the support of the AdEPT leadership team, and our progress against this strategy is massively rewarding. Keeping our business moving forward despite the pandemic has been a huge highlight. We are a very different company than when I first took the reins thanks to a lot of hard work by many people, building on the superb work of our Chairman, Ian Fishwick. I’m very proud of what we are becoming.

“One other highlight is the ‘Tech United’ event we held in December 2019. I can remember it like it happened yesterday. We brought together more than 200 of our customers to share knowledge, experiences and ideas and we were joined by many of our partners as well as Sir Andrew Strauss OBE, who gave a great talk on leadership. Unfortunately, because of the pandemic, we’ve not been able to repeat this which is a real shame. “One of the proudest moments for me was seeing, throughout the day, members of the AdEPT team talking passionately about their specialisms and their professional experiences. It was absolutely brilliant – and fingers crossed, we’ll do that again one day.”

Written by Ben Rogers

Group Marketing Manager at AdEPT

Helping you with smarter, more secure networks

Introducing you to Datrix, part of the AdEPT Technology Group Plc

In April, AdEPT announced the acquisition of Datrix, an award-winning specialist provider of cloud-based networking, communications, and cyber security solutions.

At the time, industry press reported on this ‘game-changing’ development – and now that the dust has settled on the acquisition, we’d like to get behind the numbers to look why this is a gamechanger – and, most of all, what that means for our customers.

I spoke to AdEPT CEO, Phil Race, and Datrix Managing Director, Mark Thomas, to find out more…

What brought AdEPT and Datrix together?

Phil Race (PR): “Our focus is long-term, sustainable organic growth coupled with acquisitions that consolidate our fragmented marketplace. And with that strategy in mind, we have made a number of acquisitions over the past few years. When we do acquire, we look for businesses that are complementary to ours, using a rigorous scorecard to assess, among other areas, if the company can consolidate our offering in a vertical market, is financially stable, has strong levels of recurring revenue and margin, and which will bring enhanced capability to customers. We are also extremely focused on whether the team we acquire has a positive cultural fit.

“With Datrix, this acquisition ticked all the boxes. It’s an enterprise network and security specialist, and it deepens and builds on our portfolio of services in these areas and strengthens our position within the health sector.”

Mark Thomas (MT): “Interestingly, I’d not crossed paths with AdEPT before we started exploring the possibility of selling Datrix. I say ‘interestingly’ because it’s a reflection of how our specialisms don’t overlap. Of course, we work in similar areas, but the products and services we offer are distinct. So as two companies, we’ve got many similarities, but we have different areas of expertise and experience – and that’s what makes this such a great pairing – we fit together like pieces of a jigsaw picture.”

What does this mean for AdEPT’s customers?

PR: “I think more and more, customers are looking for a joined-up service from their IT partners – they don’t want lots of different suppliers to manage. But at the same time, they want those providers to have expertise in a wide range of different areas – and to be able to offer and work with a wide range of ICT product vendors – but do so objectively.

“This is why, with any acquisition, we look to join forces with organisations that have the right mix of services, talent and experience to complement what we offer. But more than that, we want them to be right for our customers.

“One other point that specifically relates to Datrix concerns a survey of ICT professionals we ran last year. We asked them about their experiences of the pandemic and found that cybersecurity and networking were their top priorities.

“This makes perfect sense, since we ran the survey soon after the first lockdown, just after ICT teams had taken on the enormous task of enabling their staff to work from home, overnight. With that business transformation, came renewed concerns about using home networks, cybersecurity of personal devices and the like. As Datrix specialises in enterprise networks and security, this strengthened capability is great news for our customers looking to address this change.”

MT: “Yes – we’ve seen the same themes emerge over the past year. And a good example of where we can help is our partnership with Cato Networks.

“Primarily, it delivers a Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) network architecture for enterprises, especially those with multiple locations and flexibale architectures. But admittedly, that’s a bit of a mouthful – so in simple terms, it means that a  business can control its network and security at a granular level.

“For example, if you have an employee that works partly in the office, and partly at home – you can adjust their individual security settings by location, application, device – personal or business – or other contexts, like time of the day. The technology works by ensuring that the end user has a consistent experience, with security policies being applied in the background – it just runs in the background. For the IT team, the administration sits in the cloud, it affords levels of visibility and control across the WAN that to date have only been dreamed of, and importantly to the internal teams its flexibility across sites, devices and applications provides a seamless experience to both the end user and the business as a whole.

“What I will add is that it’s easy for people like us, who work in offices, to forget that a lot of businesses aren’t office-based and never have been – for example, hospitals, councils, schools, hospitality and retail. For far too long, they’ve had to deal with the challenges of multiple sites and people working in different locations, due to them consuming legacy WAN technology solutions; however by both deploying a CATO infrastructure and combining this with the Datrix managed service overlay, this now allows them to both embrace cloud solutions but with an enhance security posture.”

“With the pandemic and the massive changes it’s made to organisations, has come renewed concerns about using home networks, cybersecurity of personal devices and the like. As Datrix specialises in enterprise networks and security, this strengthened capability is great news for our customers looking to address this change.”

– Phil Race, AdEPT CEO

What makes AdEPT and Datrix unique?

PR: “On our website and documents, you’ll see we stand for ‘Uniting Technology, Inspiring People’, but this goes much deeper than a slogan. What it means is that we bring technology together for the benefit of people, our customers, to help them see what is possible. The latter part of the slogan is about our people, too – we want our staff to be ‘inspiring’, in the sense that they bring different thinking and ideas to our customers.

“And I think that’s one of the things that makes us unique – first and foremost, our staff live for solving our customers’ problems. We don’t have agendas to push particular products or vendors, but instead we always keep in mind that the world of technology is complicated and confusing, with lots of discrete areas of technology – and that’s a big part of how we approach solving our customers’ challenges. We’ve got real breadth and depth of knowledge and expertise, so we’re able to draw on this to provide the right solution – not just any solution.”

MT: “It really is over-stated, but yes, I agree with Phil, it’s our people that make us different. We have a 96 per cent customer retention rate and in that respect, we punch well above our weight compared to the really big players out there.

“Another point – and it’s a passion of mine – is that we make our customers feel as important when they’re not buying anything as when they are buying something. Our service is consistent – our sales staff become account managers, so it’s in their interests to be transparent and open from the outset, to make sure a client always gets the service that they’re promised from day one.

“One other way we’re unique is our agility. In this respect, a lot of companies ‘talk the talk’ but don’t ‘walk the walk’. I say this because a lot of our business comes from customers who are disgruntled with their current vendor – and often their experience is their providers aren’t flexible – they’re not responsive to their day-to-day challenges. With us, if a client has a problem, our first thought is ‘how do we solve this for you’. That’s very reassuring for a client who is in a difficult position.

“On a final note, one other way we’re different is how transparent we are with our clients. We give them access to the same things we see, so they know what we’re doing and can see it with their own eyes. It’s a genuine partnership – not a supplier doing the work but leaving the client in the dark, giving them no choice but to turn to us if something goes wrong.”

“Through our partnership with Cato Networks, we can help a business control its network and security at a granular level. For example, if you have an employee that works partly in the office, and partly at home – you can adjust their individual security settings by location, application, device – personal or business – or other contexts, like time of the day.”

– Mark Thomas, Managing Director, Datrix

As Datrix is new to the AdEPT family – and will be sharing formal case studies in due course – are there any examples of Datrix work that stand out, particularly in relation to the pandemic?

PR: “I’ll let Mark answer this, but I would say that Datrix’s work with the public sector is outstanding.”

MT: “Thank you Phil – there are lots of great examples of our work with the public sector over the years. For example, we support Community Health Partnerships (CHP) with a fully managed wireless infrastructure across 164 sites, providing this service for both their clients and for internal users.

“We also work with a number of NHS trusts, where we provide an end-to-end service, with the likes of the Royal Surrey County Hospital, where we provide a full managed service – covering design , configuration, installation, network, security, with staff on site.”

What’s next on the AdEPT-Datrix plans?

PR: “The next step is integrating the companies – our ’Project Fusion’. But as our clients will know, bringing together companies is not an overnight project. For us, while we’ll be integrating systems such as customer relationship management and human resource management – and we’ll be doing this in a way that maintains and builds on the unique strengths of each company.”

MT: “Yes – it’s about bringing the two companies together in a way that complements each other, building on each of our joint strengths and providing maximum benefits to our customer base. What I’d add is that I’ve already been working in an AdEPT office, and it feels like I’m part of the furniture – in a good way!”

On an individual note, what makes your job rewarding?

PR: “Without a doubt, it’s solving problems. And continuously learning. I don’t think you should ever stop learning, and in that sense, being humble is essential. I’m the son of a plumber and I grew up on a council estate – I hope this grounding stops me getting too big for my boots. Plus, my children are always happy to give me a reality check.”

MT: “I completely agree with Phil on this – it’s solving problems that gets me out of bed in the morning. I’d also say that working in technology and the associated services industry exposes you to a huge rate of change – and I thrive on this. I’m passionate about finding solutions to customer challenges – it’s not passionate about pushing a particular vendor – it’s about seeing through that and understanding where your value lies; more often than not it’s a sum of the parts. And the older I get, the more interesting I find it.”

Further information

Written by Ben Rogers

Group Marketing Manager at AdEPT

Outsourced ICT procurement gets easier with a new framework from the CPC, joined by AdEPT Education

10 June 2021

Flexible and adaptable ICT services have become critical for schools and educational establishments during the pandemic. Therefore, a new framework agreement from Crescent Purchasing Consortium – to which AdEPT Education has just been appointed – is an easier way for schools to procure ICT services that can help in their recovery.

Schools and educational establishments looking to outsource their ICT to help recover from the pandemic can now benefit from a new procurement framework from the Crescent Purchasing Consortium (CPC), on which AdEPT Education are a supplier.

The new ‘Outsourced ICT’ framework, launched on Monday 7th June, has been created specifically to help education professionals to procure everything from remote technical support to ICT project management – and to do so easily, with confidence.

As one of the newly-appointed suppliers, AdEPT Education says the launch of the framework couldn’t come at a better time for the education sector.

“Over the past 12 months, the education sector has faced huge challenges involving ICT. Through that, it has seen more than ever the importance of both reliable and robust connectivity and ICT support services,” says AdEPT Education Sales Director Nick Shea.

“Yet, being able to research, shortlist and assess suppliers in this respect is a huge job in itself. With the pandemic too, more and more education organisations have recognised they need a different mix of support for their rapidly-evolving ICT setups – especially as they have seen considerable migration of services into the cloud.

“Due to this, they need partners that can respond quickly to both traditional ICT support issues and to new, more remote and cloud-based ones, as well as having the tools in place to anticipate problems before they arise.”

It is this mix of reactive and proactive support that underpins AdEPT Education’s partnership with its clients. This is also combined with a flexible, can-do attitude.

Nick adds: “We’ve heard from some schools that lockdown exposed holes in their ICT support. For example, some staff didn’t have the right setup to work remotely. Other schools that might ordinarily have a reliable on-site network found that the same network wasn’t able to handle a large number of staff working at home.

“The difference for us is that we’ve always prioritised business continuity – and we’ve always taken the view that ICT needs are, without fail, complex and changeable. In fact, I’d say ‘change’ should be the biggest focus of anyone working in ICT and I’d say it’s for this reason that flexibility and agility are part of our DNA.

“As a result, when the pandemic took hold, we were able to adjust quickly and continue supporting our education clients with minimal disruption.”

Of course, nobody could have predicted the real impact of the pandemic, and it may only be now that the education sector can start to regroup and look ahead. As it does, the new CPC framework will be of great help.

The agreement has two lots: lot 1 is for ‘Outsourced ICT Services’ and lot 2 is for ‘Outsourced ICT Consultancy’. The former received responses from nearly 30 suppliers and saw the appointment of 10, including AdEPT Education.

Nick adds: “We are incredibly proud of being awarded this place. As you’d expect from the CPC, the application process was highly methodical and rigorous.

“We were evaluated for everything – for example, how we handle initial enquiries, through to our pricing structures, our business continuity, compliance with regulations, security… the list goes on.

“This is great news for the education sector – being assessed and approved in this way saves education ICT professionals a lot of work and time, which is especially important right now.”

Education organisations looking to procure through the new framework will be in good hands and in good company, because being owned and run by the further education sector, the CPC has a real understanding of education – as reflected by its membership of more than 8,000 educational establishments.

As a purchasing consortium, the CPC’s main purpose is to develop and manage procurement frameworks that comply with procurement regulations, making the sourcing of goods and services easier for its members. Those frameworks cover a wide variety of products and services – and the CPC continues to develop this portfolio, while providing specialist advice on best spending practices for the education sector.

Managing the new Outsourced ICT framework is Procurement Officer Lisa O’Shea. She says: “We are delighted to launch this brand-new framework providing education organisations with an education-focused route to market for outsourcing managed ICT services. The framework comes with detailed guides, support and templates making it easy to put your managed ICT requirements out to competition.”

Full details about the framework are available on the CPC’s website. Additionally:

  • AdEPT Education works with schools and educational establishments across the country. One of its main clients is the London Grid for Learning (LGfL), and through this partnership, AdEPT provides network and ICT services (including web filtering and security) to hundreds of schools in London.
  • AdEPT Education has vast experience helping educational establishments move to the cloud, having helped more than 500 schools adopt remote teaching platforms through the pandemic, as part of the recent DfE scheme. Notably, the vast majority of this work was conducted remotely, respecting social distancing and helping schools avoid disruption and downtime.
  • The CPC was created in 1999 as an arm of the purchasing team at The University of Salford. The consortium was developed to fill a gap in the provision of reliable and best-value frameworks for the further education sector. This work proved to be so useful that the FE sector bought the company in 2009, at which point it achieved charitable status. CPC now operates as a not-for-profit organisation, meaning that any surpluses generated are invested back into the education sector.

Written by Ben Rogers

Marketing Manager