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FEATURE FOCUS: MAINTENANCE & DESIGN


understand, evaluate and take action on all the risks they face, with a view to increasing the probability of success and reducing the likelihood of failure. Best practice risk management is a vital cog in a well-run school. We operate in an increasingly legislative environment, and in the case of non-compliance or in the worst case, injury or death, there is often the need to proportion blame quickly, and in my opinion, deflect actual responsibility from the actual perpetrators. So, what assistance is available to help schools make the right decisions on fields they have little or no experience in? In order to achieve best practice and thrive, I


firmly believe that now is the time for schools to move away from antiquated systems and embrace digital options and technology. Encouragingly, many schools are doing so already, and with great success. ACMS UK has seen a 300% increase in the number of educational establishments using its Vision software in the last two years. Moving to a digital risk management strategy


can demonstrate real tangible benefits within the school environment: • Better data security: business managers are dealing with incredibly sensitive information. A robust software programme which has the technology in place to store data safely and securely is vital.


• Greater efficiency: paper-based trails and ticking off lists on spreadsheets are still very common in risk management – labour intensive, long drawn and costly. Going forward, schools can greatly improve efficiency by using software which manages all compliance and auditing needs in one place - tracking status, monitoring levels of compliance and flagging up areas of concern. Manual spreadsheets for example, can be completely eliminated.


• Tighter control: reporting functions available within risk management software puts business managers in control of data with auto reporting on a when required basis, for example, informing when audits are due or overdue, and even when documents and certificates are due to expire. These reports also allow managers to easily spot trends which may need addressing, such as which checks and balances are not being carried out regularly, any areas of non- compliance or even potential training requirements. They can also provide the business intelligence to aid purchasing decisions. For example, if products such as emergency lights are failing regularly, could they be replaced with a better product that may be initially more expensive, but over time would save money.


• Budget management: with improved visibility of data online, business managers can also work towards reducing costs. Through digital systems, facilities managers can oversee contractor relationships across different properties at the same time to remain within budget while real-time data collections allow teams to track actual expenses against budgeted or projected ones. For example, Vision, an online hub for managing compliance and auditing, developed by ACMS UK, allows managers to ensure compliance of contractors, with instant access to job progression on site. As a result, costs can be tracked and managed across multiple sites, giving clearer visibility of live costs.


June 2019


Vision can offer tailored solutions built around client need


• Stream-lined reporting: with data at the tip of the fingertips, required reporting (such as the Asbestos Management Assurance Process) becomes a less challenging and time-consuming process. Reports with instant, real time data can be downloaded and shared easily with relevant parties. Facilities are also available to interrogate data to spot further training requirements.


• Enhanced cross-working: multiple managers can, if needed, use the same database and so storing of data, auditing and reporting across school networks and academies is vastly improved with greater consistency.


Barriers to change Of course, barriers to change do exist. Namely, as budgets in the education sector continue to be squeezed, costs are an important consideration. However, in the long term, moving to digital platforms brings much greater efficiency, and brings costs down. ACMS UK estimate that using software, such as Vision, increases overall productivity and efficiency by over 100%, and also allows staff to undertake certain tasks (such as legionella temperature checks), eliminating the need for expensive consultants and contractors. Concerns over whether relevant skills exist


within teams to manage digital platforms are also often flagged. Yet many of the new software platforms for risk management, like Vision, are very easy to use and manage, and in fact are a good opportunity for up-skilling, if required. There may also be a lack of knowledge within


schools regarding suitable software and providers. The availability of computer-aided facility management software has increased in recent years, helping teams plan and manage maintenance requirements, but many do not go far enough in compliance, ensuring that everything in and around the building and offices adheres to government regulations and relevant security standards. Finding software which is able to store evidence for individual compliance requirements is key.


Learning from the retail world – sales v compliance Many high street retailers face similar issues to the education sector - facing harsh budget cuts and having to make a decision between sales and compliance. Store managers, like Headteachers,


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are primarily in position to ensure the smooth running of their shop, but increasingly having to undertake compliance checks, becoming a primary rather than secondary focus. ACMS UK has worked with a number of


retailers to streamline checks and balances, meaning managers are spending less time completing compliance audits. For example, one particular retailer completed their fire log by hand, which was then scanned and sent to head office for data input. A very onerous task. Subsequently, with ACMS UK assistance, the fire log was replicated digitally in Vision software saving significant resource which could be freed up to spend in-store on sales. Vision (an online hub for managing compliance and auditing needs in one place) has been rolled out successfully across a wide range of education settings and building types. The software allows business managers to build up full compliance strategies to manage all aspects of each requirement, providing a central location for all information. This includes tracking task status, monitoring the current levels of compliance and highlighting areas of concern.


Leaner, less prone to errors and quicker Crossing the digital hurdle is ultimately about creating a more efficient school - leaner, less prone to errors and quicker. By supporting business managers to see at a glance where the school is compliant, informed decisions can be made regarding where to spend limited and valuable budgets. Looking forward, this allows a school to remain competitive and to keep up with its peers. It is a way of tackling the big priorities. I believe that best practice risk management


and compliance are at the heart of a well-run school. Now is the time to embrace digital options and create a truly connected workspace to maximise efficiencies and reduce risk. But most importantly – to allow headteachers and teaching staff to do what they do best, teach.


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