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How Parago is helping Aspire Academy Trust become futureproof

Based in Cornwall and incorporating 21 primary academies throughout the county, Aspire is a leading multi academy trust (MAT) that’s still on the rise. With a vision that includes an aim ‘for every academy to be, or become, outstanding and remain so always’, the members of Aspire are dedicated to enabling each of its mainly small to medium-sized rural academies to truly excel, both now and in the years to come.

Peter Bradburn is Aspire’s Director of IT and Communications and as such, he is instrumental in ensuring the MAT has an asset management system it can rely on to grow alongside it. Here he explains what motivated Aspire’s move to use our Academy Asset Manager software and how it has helped them in ways both expected and unforeseen.

What do you feel are the unique challenges faced by Aspire and the academies within the Trust?

PB: “The main challenge we face is to organise our academies in an effective way. Some academies have been a part of Aspire for four to five years, others for only a few months, so there’s varying levels of work to do in order to ensure that their premises are compliant across the board.

“Where we have team members working across different sites, communication is also an issue – we want to be one big team regardless of where people are located. Each of our academies had different, paper-based approaches and solutions to data management in the past, so there are the challenges of adopting an online system that everyone can use.

“We know software is a large part of the answer to these challenges, or more to the point, having a centralised system.”

Aspire was using an IT and inventory management system and a separate Helpdesk ticketing system before coming on board with Parago, what made you decide to look for new software?

“Initially, we weren’t looking for a complete asset management solution at all, we were shopping around for a premises management system. We’d been using our existing IT and Inventory system for five years, as well as a helpdesk system for IT and premises management.

“It was actually the extra functionality of Parago’s Academy Asset Manager that made it stand out; it had everything we were looking for in terms of helpdesk ticketing, compliance, workflow from problem to completion, tracking, visibility and transparency and improved communications between teams, plus it was cost-effective. That and the fact that the premises management element is still evolving and being added to all the time.”

What was it about Academy Asset Manager in comparison to other systems that made you decide on it?

“We looked at a few different asset management systems and what Parago offered that the others didn’t was a superior level of flexibility. It seemed that other systems do a good job at what they do, but their scope is limited – they do a limited job well. They allow you to record compliance and record outstanding jobs, but really that’s it.

“With Parago, there’s lots of different types of data we can record against different types of assets, it gives us ability to get insight and power from the data that we hold about our assets and our premises. Having lists of things is all well and good, but you need a better platform to be able to manipulate that data and report on it so that it can better inform decision making.

“Plus, the fact that Parago fine-tune the system to meet our premises management and compliance needs is something we simply didn’t have before. That’s been one of the main drivers for us choosing the software.”

Was the software easy to implement across the Trust?

“So far, yes. We’re still going through the implementation phase, but we’ve found the software straightforward to use, so much so that we haven’t had to take Parago up on any training yet. Having said that, the Parago team have been very helpful over the phone with any queries we’ve had, the after-sales support has been excellent. There’s also been a lot of continuity – it’s the same people who helped us pre-sales as are now helping us post-sales.

“All in all, the Parago team have been very ready to understand our needs as an organisation, to help us craft our Asset Manager system to work for us, and also to take on board our suggestions for future developments.”

In what ways has Academy Asset Manager improved the way Aspire works?

“It’s still early days, but very soon all of our premises team will be operating with a mobile device out in the field. This will give us real-time, continuous feedback to the central helpdesk system, updating jobs that need to be done and ensuring that routine checks and tests that also need to be carried out are easy to administer and recorded on the system straight away.

“We’re hoping to see significant time-saving in terms of paperwork. There will still be a paper trail but we’re now able to concentrate it within the system, recording documentation against what’s happening so that when we’re audited, the full paper trail is in one place to prove compliance.”

Has Parago software helped Aspire in any ways you weren’t expecting?

“We purchased the software very much with premises in mind, but we’re now using it for elements of our IT management too. For example, we’ve just been sorting through a huge pile of IT waste and it’s helped us to have a better workflow regarding disposal of these products. This certainly wasn’t on our brief when we purchased the system, but actually it’s been really helpful to us.

“Once the system is more embedded we’ll be doing more on the mobile front, making the most of the fact that our team members have a device in hand that will notify us immediately when things need doing. What’s more, once we’ve got lots of data in the system we’ll be able to identify trends, such as things that continuously go wrong. Data reporting will also eventually help us to form centralised procurement and budgeting too.”

Aspire will continue to grow with the addition of new academies in Cornwall. Do you feel that Academy Asset Manager will develop with the Trust and support this future growth?

“Yes, absolutely. Aspire is a big organisation and we need to ensure that companies we work with are happy to be in a relationship where they listen to us, and that we’re not just stuck with a static, off-the-shelf product.

“With Parago, we can bring our experience of running a MAT to the table to help with the continuous development of the system- to meet our needs and those of others. This ability really inspires confidence, as technology develops and changes so quickly. We’ve even been involved in the beta testing for the new premises management Android app before it’s completely rolled out.

“There’s a software refresh from Parago every month or two, and many of the things added to the system are as a direct result of feedback from clients. The fact that the team is so personable, willing to take constructive feedback and to have a partnership with us was one of the biggest factors in our decision to go with Parago. It’s been a very positive relationship so far, long may that continue!”

Would you recommend Parago to other MATs?

“Yes. I think Parago offers a neat complete asset management solution to multi academy trusts; combining IT and premises/estates management, the helpdesk element and the compliance side of things as well. Bringing it all into one place makes life easier for a vibrant and busy trust.”

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