- 17 July 2020
- 56 min read
How Can Care Providers Implement Technology Successfully?
In his latest podcast - Episode 11 - Liam Palmer chats with Sarj Radia. Sarj developed industry leading software, Access Care Compliance and is keen to see the world of Social Care embrace technology.
Topics covered in this podcast
Welcome to the Care Quality podcast.
Meet the leaders and innovators, with myself, Liam Palmer.
This is the second of a series of interviews around technology.
The first was with Richard Macintyre back in January.
This episode is with the tech entrepreneur Sarj Radia.
I'm so pleased we finally got to get this complete and published.
I met Sarj around six months ago through an introduction from Samuel Barrington of CIA Associates.
Sarj was very generous with his time.
We did have several meetings.
His experience in creating a marketing technology to care is quite broad, and I wanted to really capture that for you, our listeners. I think it shows.
I think it's a really strong episode, and I do hope you enjoy.
Sarj is the founder of C360, now known as Access Care Compliance.
This is a software solution to help care homes and care providers improve their CQC ratings.
The Access Group acquired the software and business in 2018.
What I think is fascinating about Sarj is that he moved into the social care market in 2014.
He saw a need, created a solution, marketed it successfully, acquired significant clients, and then sold the business on.
For me, that's a real care tech success story.
Sarj will be sharing a bit about his background in software prior to moving into social care, as well as some reflections on the experience of developing and launching the software and the business.
Without any further ado, very well welcome to you Sarj.
How are you doing today sir?
Very well, thank you Liam.
Thanks for having me on the podcast.
Really great to be here.
Really appreciate you giving your time, Sarj, to share with us and talk to us about your successful venture moving into care tech.
Just tell us a bit more about it.
3.29 How Sarj Developed The Idea For The C360/Access Care Compliance Software
Sure, social care obviously at that time, back in 2014, was a new area for me.
I got talking to some providers that I knew, and they were telling me a lot about the challenges they were having within sort of compliance, governance, running of their operations, all the paperwork that's involved, especially because the CQC at that time were really ramping up the key lines of inquiry, where a sort of new governance framework that was coming in, and the paperwork levels were just increasing and increasing.
Doing all of that work manually is quite a difficult thing to manage alongside giving care to those that are being supported.
We identified a requirement in improving those processes, and allowing providers to manage quality assurance, conduct audits, manage action plans, and really provide effective evidence to the CQC in a very seamless way.
Came up with the idea for C360 on the back of that as a governance platform specific to social care.
It was a real learning curve for me.
There's an awful lot of complexity involved, but ultimately the end goal is quite fulfilling in making sure that the quality levels are where they need to be in this sector.
Obviously that's of key importance.
Then it was acquired by Access Group, as you said, in 2018.
5.15 What Does C360/Access Care Compliance Do?
Just a thought Sarj.
Obviously there's a whole software technology behind all this, but can you explain for the listeners that are not massively tech savvy, I suppose, how does that actually work?
Is it passive?
Is it just a recording system, or does it actually improve ratings?
How does using software on compliance improve compliance, in a nutshell?
It's really about evidencing all of the great things that are being done.
It's about being able to evidence where you've identified issues as a provider, and then evidencing what you've done to resolve that situation.
Now, if you imagine doing that on paper, it's quite difficult to record all of that information, but it's more so difficult to analyse that data to see where the hot spots are, to evidence that it's not a recurring issue.
Because you can't aggregate that data reliably enough when it's all on paper.
It's one thing recording that information, carrying out those audits, recording those action plans, but it's a whole different thing in taking that information and trending it, and analysing it, and seeing where issues are, having reminders.
It's almost lifting that rich information off the page and letting it shout out at you to tell you where you've got things to do, to make it easy for you to evidence all the things that you've been doing over the last two, three, four, six, 12 months.
It just cannot be done on paper. That's what software systems do really well.
It's less about getting the information into a system, that's easy.
It's easy to capture information on paper.
It's easy to capture information on mobile apps.
It's the bit that comes afterwards that really adds the value, and that's in unlocking that data, identifying recurring issues, being able to evidence the quality of your operation with the click of a button.
Being able to have dashboards that show everybody throughout the organization where the issues are, but also where things have been resolved, without having to rely on folders, or lever arch files, or sort of shared folders, shared drives, which can be quite complicated to manage.
I think we talked another time, didn't you say that there's a series of...
Whilst I don't sort of actually promote any solutions on the podcast, because I want to sort of maintain that neutrality, I think it's important to drill in a little bit so people can understand what we're really talking about with a compliance solution.
What does it look like, what does it feel like?
Am I right in remembering that you said that when you had some mock inspections within the software, that when the ratings are quite comparable to the CQC.
Was that right? Did I remember that right?
I mean, it allows you to carry out mock inspections for sure, using a sort of software framework to take you through the mock inspection process.
Depending on how you as a provider manage those mock inspections, if you do enough of them you will see parity between the CQC's ratings and yours, as a provider.
It's not something the software does itself.
The software takes you through the process, produces the reports, but obviously the opinions on how a provider is performing against the key lines of inquiry is very much that, it's the opinion of the provider.
It's not the opinion of the software system.
Yeah. No, that's clear. I mean, certainly as a registered manager many times myself, staying compliance so that as and when the CQC does come in, that the records are robust enough, and as you said, that there's follow through.
I think it's a really interesting and relevant development you've done there on compliance.
That's really good for the industry, to be fair, and for registered managers, isn't it, because it's helping us having sort of management information at hand.
That's really fascinating actually.
9.55 Sarj’s career journey
Okay, so I think we've dipped into that a little bit.
I thought it would be helpful for our listeners who might not be able to conceptualize what compliance software might look like, so thanks for that Sarj.
Perhaps we could go back a bit then into your sort of story, I guess a little bit about your career story that makes you the person you are as an entrepreneur.
If it's all right with you, do you want to tell us a bit about your sort of formative experiences and family experiences with businesses and stuff like that?
Would that be okay?
Yeah, as a young kid, I was always involved in my father's business.
He came over from Uganda when he was 21.
He had a good job, he had a couple of good jobs actually, before starting on his own.
He worked in a bank, in a quite high level manager position.
Ultimately with his family coming over, he needed to look after them.
His brothers were a lot younger than him.
He felt the best way to achieve that was to set up a business that they could all work in and help out with, so he set up a green grocer's shop, sort of northwest London, that went very well.
The neighborhood really took to that.
My dad opened up a few more more shops, again in northwest London.
A really exciting time for him.
He turned his hand to more of a sort of wholesale distributor type role within the fruit and veg market.
I got to participate in that, I got to see that grow.
I spent a lot of my time there.
I spent weekends helping out, even evenings sometimes when there was a lot going on, school holidays, summer holidays.
Right. Okay. Sure.
Most of my time I guess was spent in the business, and it was great.
It was great to see the dynamics of running your own business and how that can become a success.
It stayed with me, went and did my levels.
I don't think I was most academic person.
You can't sit me in front of a stack of textbooks and expect me to read them and memorize them and sit exams, but I do like problem solving, and I always wanted to go into business.
I always wanted to have my own business.
I tried the university thing.
I studied dentistry for a while.
It just wasn't taking me to where I wanted to be.
I made a few bad choices in my academic sort of part of my life, but ultimately figured out where I wanted to be.
Started looking into the IT sector.
Worked with some really exciting companies, like Accenture, and Vertex.
Did a lot of work for the Olympic Games, which was really exciting, which took me into my first company.
That's really how things began as a software solutions company providing systems for the Olympic Games, and then local authorities.
That was a great time in my life.
Sort of first business, and that grew further.
I joined forces with my old bosses from one of my previous jobs, and it went great.
13.20 Understanding the DNA of a successful entrepreneur
Yeah, perfect. Thanks Sarj.
That's a brilliant point of history, and I certainly enjoyed it, and I've enjoyed talking to you thus far, trying to understand the DNA of a successful entrepreneur, and in particular the DNA of a successful entrepreneur in tech.
Would it be all right to sort of drill into a couple of those sort of steps Sarj
For the sake of the listeners, to sort of help them to understand, how do you build the knowledge and experience to be able to develop and launch a software solution from scratch?
Yeah, there's no sort of rule book on this sort of thing.
I spent a lot of my time reading autobiographies of other entrepreneurs, especially in the tech space, trying to learn from their mistakes and successes.
Ultimately nothing really prepares you for this sort of thing.
It's just I think the old saying, if you're passionate about something, you will stick with it, and you will persist even through the most difficult of times.
You will learn from mistakes, I think that's what gets you through it, that persistence, that passion.
The passion comes easier in the social care sector because you can see the tangible differences that you make to the people being supported.
It really is just passion, and persistence, and being able to learn from mistakes.
Software development isn't something I know.
I'm not a developer.
I'm not a computer programmer.
I do have ideas.
I am passionate about making a difference and inspiring people to help me on that journey.
Those are the kinds of things I guess a founder entrepreneur does.
They bring the right people in the room.
They have the ideas.
They believe enough in those ideas to push them forward even when there are people who don't agree perhaps.
There are many times when I was demonstrating the software application in its infancy, and people either didn't get it or didn't see the need for it.
You can sometimes get to market too early, or you can go to market too late.
Timing is always crucial in these things. If you are too early, you have to decide whether you're going to stick it out and wait or sort of pivot and try something different.
For me, we were certainly a little early.
16.08 Planning a career
Sarj, okay so you worked in the family business, and then obviously deciding what to do.
Your uncle was a dentist, weren't they?
Do you want to tell us a bit about your first sort of efforts at planning your career and your next steps?
Yeah, my uncle, as you just said, is a dentist, and I was quite inspired by that as well.
Very difficult at that age coming out of A levels not really sure what you want to do.
I took to dentistry as an idea, although my uncle told me at the time it probably wasn't the best thing for me.
I thought that it's what I wanted to do.
Got into dental school, but unfortunately very quickly figured out that he was right.
It really wasn't for me.
Just it wasn't satisfying that entrepreneurial sort of nature that at the time I didn't know I had.
For me at that time it was about doing something that would make the parents proud.
It was about following in my uncle's footsteps perhaps.
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What do YOU think?
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How long did you do that for Sarj?
I was in dental school for three years.
Decent time, yeah.
As I've said to you, I'm not your typical academic who will sit in front of a stack of textbooks and will enjoy or succeed at doing exams particularly well, because the interest just isn't there.
It's not really creative enough.
I sort of left the dental school and went to Cass Business School in London.
That's a well regarded school.
Yeah, financial risk management, and that was great.
That definitely ticked a lot more boxes.
Again, the academic side of things just isn't really me, I guess, in many ways.
Doesn't rile you up. Yeah.
There was a really interesting internship program that was offered as part of the course at Cass Business School.
That really interested me, getting out there, getting some real world experience.
There was a company, Accenture, who's one of the world's largest IT consultancies, who were offering a really interesting intern program for a year.
I applied, thousands of applicants, and only a handful of places, I think there are six or seven places.
I really enjoyed the process.
There's a whole assessment day.
They really get under the hood of you and ask you lots of difficult questions.
You've got tasks you need to complete, and do presentations to senior staff, and all sorts of things within a day.
It was all time constrained, but it was a lot of fun.
Lots of problem solving involved to understand whether you've got what it takes to be a part of that company.
I think you can see where this is going.
Yeah, for sure.
19.09 Getting Into The Field Of ‘Solutioneering’
I did quite well, and I was fortunate enough to get a place.
I embarked on that internship and it was a lot of fun.
I loved every minute of it.
There was obviously the learning aspect you benefit from.
There was a social aspect to working with colleagues.
It ended in me being offered a permanent long term position on their grad scheme at Accenture, which is quite a sought after thing in itself.
It's a very back office type role.
In my time at Accenture I realized exactly what I wanted to do.
I wanted to get into what you could say is ‘solutioneering’.
Finding solutions to problems, scaling them, implementing them, and really being a part of that process, as opposed to being back office, being an analyst, helping others do that.
Which again, isn't something I wanted to do.
I was quite clear about that, and I was fortunate enough to be offered a role in business development with a small software company who were really doing some great things.
Providing software to councils.
Surprisingly to Accenture, I rejected the offer on the grad scheme, but I went with this small software company, and it was fantastic.
Again, loved every minute, every day.
Really got to be a part of I guess the solutioneering side of their business.
Working with development teams.
Ultimately implementing technology into really complicated environments at local authority council level.
That sort of grew into other roles.
I got head hunted a couple of times within other software companies as well.
It was giving me more and more of a flavor of entrepreneurship, albeit under somebody else's umbrella, which is great.
It's a safe place to do things.
It's a great place to learn.
Can I just back up a second?
Because I just thought it was really fascinating what you said.
You had your internship, you did that well.
You got the Willy Wonka golden ticket of, "We'd love you to join us", then you turned it down.
What is that?
Is that confidence, or is that kind of feeling that you know where you sit, role wise?
What do you think that was?
Because there's a lot of confidence to turn down what would be a dream job at the time, in your 20's, right?
It was definitely the latter.
Knowing exactly what I wanted to do, and having a passion for it.
Knowing that I didn't want to just sit in a back office environment, not really adding tangible value.
I wanted to be there doing the deal.
I wanted to be there conceptualising the solution, solving the problem, and putting my stamp on something.
That was it.
I knew that's what I wanted to do, and I knew that the grad scheme at Accenture wouldn't offer me that.
It was a great role.
I mean, the questions I asked at Accenture was, how long would it take me to get to a position where I can fulfill this goal?
They said, "Some people never really get there. It's very few. At least 10 years, and you'd have to get to partner level".
Which is a very difficult thing to do.
It's a 10 year journey.
Yeah, for sure.
You're in your mid 20's I guess at that point, or something, so...
Yeah, it's a 10 year plus journey, which is fine if that's how you want to start.
I found another route to doing something quite similar.
Within sort of two, three years I was talking to partners within the small software company I took a role in.
I was then having meetings with those partners, conceptualizing, solving problems, and coming up with solutions with the likes of Accenture, and IBM, and so on.
It was fantastic.
You can learn a lot more in a smaller environment sometimes.
It is hands to the pump.
You get to try a little bit of everything.
23.49 From Selling Software To The Olympics
You did about seven years business development, selling software.
How do we go from there to this Olympics and parking solutions?
Can you tell us a bit more about that?
Because that sounds interesting.
Yeah. The Olympics were coming to town, and there were issues around safeguarding people's sort of lives around the Olympic parks.
Making sure there was minimal disruption to those people living around the Olympic venues.
Making sure they can park outside their house was one of those issues.
It sounds really simple and mundane, but actually can have a really negative impact on people when they get home from work and they've got nowhere to park, or the roads are blocked for cars, and that sort of thing.
Some of the people I knew were getting quite heavily involved with the planning of the Olympic Games, and we just got talking about some of these issues and came up with some ideas around digitalizing parking permit processes.
Taking paper out of the windscreen.
Automating the enforcement of those parking permits, and how we could do that with the least number of staff, and at minimal costs.
My solution was obviously IT based.
Reducing staff head count, and having things called virtual permits tied to number plates.
Working with the DVLA to get that information.
It was quite a groundbreaking thing.
It had never been done before then.
That started to build momentum, that concept, and ultimately ended up in a tender process, and I decided to set up a company and go for it, really push that out.
I managed to set up a company.
I subcontracted with the likes of IBM, Experian, we got DVLA involved, and won that tender.
My first sort of tender.
It was, again, a really exciting time.
Not only was the project working with the Olympic very exciting, but the fact that it was a new technical concept was really exciting too.
We had a limited time frame to implement all of that because the Olympics are coming to town and they're leaving when they're finished, so you've got to get it done.
There's no pushing things back.
None of that really.
Again, great challenge.
Fantastic contract to have as my first contract for the Olympic Games really, in my first business.
That sort of grew, so after the Olympic Games that grew into solutions for other local authorities and councils, in a similar way, around parking permitting, that sort of thing.
I left that business in 2014 to set up C360, the social care software company.
Yeah, got it.
I mean, so there was a market and very specific, time sensitive opportunity with the Olympics.
After having done business development for a while, you capitalized on it, thought you had a solution for it.
Went for it, did a big pitch against big tech companies, won it.
Put yourself on the line in every sense as an entrepreneur.
Was successful in winning it.
After the Olympics passed, then that kind of morphed into doing something similar for government.
Then once you'd done that for a bit, you were ready for your next challenge, and then it was social care.
Is that about right?
Yeah, that's right.
27.34 How Sarj Got into Social Care And The Genesis of C360/Access Care Compliance
Yeah. Okay. Perfect.
All right, so that brings us kind of to the genesis of C360.
Do you want to talk us through a bit of kind of how did you get into social care?
What made you think that the timing would be right?
Did you know some people?
Where did that come about Sarj?
Yeah. I got talking to some care providers that I knew, and they were explaining the challenges around working in social care as an operator, as a provider.
Specifically around the paperwork involved.
There's all the care planning.
There's the rostering, the employee management.
Then you have the CQC coming through with this new key line of inquiry framework, and you have this rigorous inspection process that was coming through, published ratings.
It's a pretty challenging time for providers to get their head around all of that.
Obviously that was all being done on paper.
People were trying to self-inspect and sort of stay one step ahead of the CQC on that framework basis.
The paperwork involved in auditing in any business can be quite vast.
It's not just getting those audits done, it's then doing something with that information afterwards that would be very challenging on paper.
I couldn't believe that providers were having to do this stuff manually on paper.
You just wouldn't stand a chance really, unless you have enough people in the business to do these things.
On the back of that decided to come up with an electronic auditing action planning system to help them with that process.
A way to intelligently manage mock inspections, and work your way through key lines of inquiry.
Also, then all the other audits that you've got to do.
You're focused monthly audits around control, health and safety.
Okay. Very good.
All of the great things you need to be checking to ensure quality of care.
That's really where the idea came about, is digitalizing the entire process.
What were your sort of steps in that first year?
From understanding the need to having some sort of, was it a beta version or something to sell.
How did you do that?
You make it sound quite simple.
It took me awhile to really understand the problems, because providers themselves weren't sure of the best way to handle this.
It really was a lot of listening.
Talking to providers, understanding what their end goals are, and coming up with something that works is actually quite a difficult thing to do.
Everyone had a different way of approaching quality and governance.
There was no one size fits all process around this, which I guess is understandable, for sure.
It was a real steep learning curve.
Not only did I have to come up with ideas and solutions around tackling those problems, but making sure it was done in a way that would be easy for care managers, senior carers, carers, right up to directors of care businesses to use and absorb.
Challenges around finding the right development teams, the right coders.
We definitely got that wrong a number of times, using perhaps not the right level of skillset within the coding teams.
Being a one man band, not having a project manager, and an account manager, and people to help analyse the concept.
It was a real steep learning curve.
Not only learning about social care as a sector, about an operation as a provider, delivering care, but also getting the right people in the room to build the technology was also a bit of challenge at the time.
It definitely took longer than we'd envisaged, and boot strapping this basically without any funding made that all the more challenging.
It's like I think I said earlier in my conversation with you.
If the passion is there and you're dedicated to the goal, then you persist and you find ways around things.
I think I've always been quite good at that, it's finding solutions to problems, whether they're my own problems or somebody else's.
Just sticking with it until it's solved is what got me through those early years where things were very difficult.
There wasn't any income coming in from this.
There wasn't funding in the early days.
It was just me, myself and my beliefs really, and luckily the beliefs of the providers I was working with that this is something that needed doing.
They really stuck with me through the ups and downs of it all, and they ended up putting some money in.
They ended up putting some funding in, and then taking it to the next step, and then putting a bit more, well quite a lot more funding in so that we could really start rolling it out across other providers, which is what we did and which is what got it to Access Group.
Right. Okay. Yeah, so quite, as you said, quite a series of steps.
Getting support from different sides to actually get it over the line.
It's quite an achievement, isn't it really?
Something you should be proud of actually.
Yeah, I am definitely. I've learnt a lot from it, especially the time at Access Group.
Yeah, I think it was a great experience.
Yeah. Fantastic. All right, well thanks for that Sarj.
I think that was really insightful actually, and I've certainly learned a lot speaking to you, and I'm grateful for you disclosing part of that story and part of that journey of entrepreneurship with the listeners, with myself, so that we can understand what it takes to be successful in this area.
33.58 Developing And Launching A Solution
Sarj, do you want to talk to us about what you learnt about the sector from developing and launching a solution?
Yeah, absolutely. In a way it reminded me of my early years, implementing technology into local authorities, or council environments where everything was heavily paper based and very little software being used to manage the most important of processes.
I think unfortunately this sector just, I think as we all know, hasn't been given the TLC it needs.
Care providers have been left behind many other industries that have far more technology available to them.
Care providers are still operating with manual sort of antiquated systems.
I guess individually those systems work on their own, but when you want to put it all together, and you have all these rigorous processes that have to be adhered to, it means that providers just cannot be as agile as they need to be to deliver care in today's environment.
I think care providers are fantastic at caring, it's very natural to them, but they just don't have the time or the head space, perhaps the funds, to do it the way they really want to do it, to do it the way they deserve to do it as care providers.
I think that's my sort of biggest reflection on the sector when it comes to the adoption of technology.
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What do YOU think?
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We can all see that's changing, it's changing massively.
I think this unfortunate crisis that we're in right now with COVID-19 is exacerbating the problems, but identifying the importance of software and technology.
I think it's almost proving to be the catalyst to many providers adopting technology.
Yeah, it certainly does seem that way.
I mean, I share your sentiments.
I worked in logistics and project management for a while now in retail.
Quite honestly, the tech around barcoding and monitoring of workflows and processes, I mean that's been there for 20 to 40 years, hasn't it?
As you said, the COVID does seem to have brought that into focus.
36.30 Embracing Technology
I was talking to directors of a midsized care home provider, and they were saying they already had some tech embedded into the company around care monitoring and stuff like that, and what a difference it made working from home being able to do that.
It just highlights how solutions like this can leverage people working together, and all sorts of things, can't they?
What's your thoughts and reflections on the sector embracing tech and working remotely?
Well, remote working is now becoming more widespread, not just within this sector, but all sectors.
I think we all talk about the new normal now and what that might be.
Remote working is a big part of that.
Yes, we all need to get together and collaborate, but there's an awful lot that can be done without needing to travel.
It's important to understand that there are some things that we should never replace with technology, and will never substitute face to face time with staff, with your teams, but remote working has its place more so now than ever before.
Being able to get at data information within multiple homes or branches without having to go there I think is important, incredibly important.
Care needs to be more transparent.
Managers shouldn't see technology as a threat anymore, but as an enabler to them getting that information quickly, reliably, in an easy to use manner, without having to physically visit a location and thumb through information.
That when you do end up going to that location, as you will need to, when you do end up going to that care home, when you do end up going to that branch, you have the information already.
Perhaps 60%, 70% of that information already at your fingertips, so that the work you do when you get on site is even more meaningful because you've got this hybrid model of effective, efficient remote working and really effective face to face time when you do get out to do that other element of your role.
Yeah. I mean, I just think it's just so relevant.
As a registered manager myself, I remember some years ago having visits from a regional manager director at the time, and it was just so subjective because this information was missing.
It was all about, what do you feel about this, and what do you feel about that?
My opinion on this is this, as you said, it wasn't backed up data, so they weren't particularly effective or objective visits, and therefore the reports weren't particularly good.
I think you're really onto something there.
It's adding an information baseline, isn't it?
That when you do do the visits you've already got a decent set of metrics, a decent set of reliable information that points towards trends, that points towards things to look at.
Then that visit can be more targeted, can't it?
There can be more value from it.
That sort of thing.
It's about giving your managers, it's about giving carers the autonomy to do what they need to do, without the micro management.
Because if you don't have access to that information, the basics even sometimes, then you have to start asking for that information, or your carers, your senior carers or your managers have to start reporting that information up to you as perhaps a regional manager or a director.
There's a lot of, perhaps micro management is a strong term, but there's a lot of to-ing and fro-ing in getting that information.
What if you could release that process so that the conversations you're having are less around micro management and more about the macro management, the helicopter view.
The letting carers get on with what they do really well, and you absorbing that information seamlessly through software platforms so that where you're really adding value is in the more important areas of the business, of the care operation, of the delivery and quality of care.
Less about the fine detail.
You've already got the fine detail.
You already know where things are.
Let's talk about next steps.
Let's talk about actions we need to take.
Let's talk about how we can do things better.
Let's talk about how we can get to outstanding.
Let's not need to talk about where things are going wrong or why they're going wrong.
We kind of have a view on that already.
Let's talk about next steps.
Let's talk about how we can improve, and scale, or grow the company, or recruit the right team members.
We're not focused on the small processes, the day to day anymore.
Does that make sense?
Yeah, it does.
I mean, it's hard to put into words.
I think when I reflect on running a sort of large residential nursing home without tech, and then you've got your kind of layers of staff.
You've got your seniors.
Then you've got sometimes a unit manager or a deputy.
Then if things happen, what's actually happening on the day goes through two or three layers.
It's almost like Chinese whispers, the message goes up and down.
A lot of the focus is on simply running the service in a safe and compliant. Whereas when there's software underpinning key functions, and I've found this in running a service with some well designed software, the software keeps track of the information, and everyone can see that information.
Then the conversation moves to, "Right, we've got this information. What are we going to do about this or about that?".
Rather than just tell me what's happening, because you can see what's happening because people are feeding into the software.
I've found that therefore the benefit is not the software, per se, it's that the software takes care of some of that day to day stuff, and it allows you to pinpoint where to intervene.
It shows you what parts of the care delivery, or what parts of the service are not functioning right now.
Whereas without that tech, it's very subjective.
You just have to talk to all the different layers of people, and information just goes slowly up and down through conversation.
I think it moves the conversation, and it gives a better focus, doesn't it?
Yeah, absolutely. It absolutely does that.
It frees those people on the ground to delivering care, as opposed to constantly reporting, going through paperwork, filling in forms, as opposed to delivering care.
That's what software is good at doing, it's good at freeing you up to do those things that really matter to the people you support.
Yeah. Excellent. All right.
I mean, in terms of care providers and their sort of relationship with tech, what would you say the main reasons to move from paper to tech?
Because in lots of services this is the issue, isn't it?
It's kind of, we've got our tried and tested paper care plans, paper everything, it works.
We've even got some good CQC ratings.
Why do we need to move to tech?
What would your compelling reasons be?
I think providers respect and understand that technology provides a better way.
I think there's also this concern around the effort needed to implement, and that's a valid concern.
It's not all just plug and play.
Every provider is different, for obvious reasons.
If we look at the benefits, there's obviously the efficiencies, the time efficiencies, the operational efficiencies, the transparencies it provides across the organization that allows you to scale as a business, if that's the ambition of the company to do that.
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What do YOU think?
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You can't scale with manual processes.
You can't get those efficiencies off paper.
You certainly can't get the transparency across the organization when you're doing things on paper.
Because if information is locally held on site in a file, you can't get at it, you can't collaborate effectively enough.
I think the compelling reasons to move to technology are well known now, I think it's well respected.
I think what's happening now is the next part of that equation.
We've ticked the box, we understand we need software.
The thing now is the how.
How do we now implement this?
What do we implement?
What's the best thing for us as a company?
What do we need to look for?
I think that's the bit that we really need to help providers with.
46.15 The Barriers To Adopting Tech
Okay. Sounds good.
I mean, tell us more.
What do you think their biggest barriers are to adopting tech then?
If now that people are kind of, we know we need to do tech, we know we need to invest in it, we know that that can make our organizations and the care at a local level better.
What do you think the biggest barriers are?
Yeah, I think it's firstly understanding that software isn't simply just something you buy off a shelf and plug in and play.
It's not that sort of tool.
It is a tool, but it's not that kind of tool that you can go and buy off a shelf, plug in, charge up and use as you might your traditional tools that you use for DIY perhaps.
It's more than that.
It's a solution that has to fit your business.
It has to take into account the way you work as a company, as a provider of care.
I think budgeting is one of the biggest barriers, accurate budgeting.
Really understanding what it takes to implement that technology.
It's not just buying that piece of software and signing that contract.
It's understanding that you've got to put the right amount of financial support against the implementation.
The project management of that solution takes time, it takes people in your organization to spend time away from perhaps their day jobs, but also maybe, if you're a larger provider of care, having a dedicated project manager will cost money.
That needs to be budgeted for.
Budget for the correct amount of training that's required.
Also, have a look at your entire operation.
Don't just think about that one point solution, whether it's a care planning system, a meds management system, a compliance system, a rostering and scheduling system.
Don't just pick one part of the puzzle, consider it as a whole.
Consider your operation as a whole, and think actually it's not just one solution we need here.
We need a stack of solutions.
You may implement them at different stages of a lifecycle, but the entire budget needs to be considered.
Because there's no point implementing one part of that puzzle, and forgetting about the rest, because at some point you'll need to do it all.
It's no good just going for the quick win and implementing one piece, one solution in one point in time, and not considering the rest.
You need to think about it as a whole.
You can obviously break that up to suit your budget so that you're implementing it at different times, and you're not drawing on too much of budget at the same time, but ultimately it needs to be an all-encompassing, holistic solution that you're going for.
The investment in time required from your team is key.
The software team that you work with will have support teams, they'll have a team to help you train up on the product.
They'll have an implementation team that can help you through that process.
As a provider on the other side of that table, you need to have the right budget, the right project management, the right implementation methodologies, and invest your time as a provider.
I think it's those things that act as a barrier.
I think that's the biggest barrier.
49.50 How Can Care Providers Implement Technology Successfully?
In terms of, I mean we obviously talked before about mid to large sized care groups, and their sort of forays into tech.
What do you think would help mid to large sized care providers do successful implementations of tech?
What would help them with that kind of implementation part?
Is it some knowledge?
Is it an approach?
Any thoughts, because you said your ops directors and up are usually so focused on care delivery, aren't they?
It's very hard for them to put aside the time required.
What advice would you give them?
I think sometimes it's easy to put these things off because you're very busy.
You've got projects going on.
There might be a refurb.
You might be acquiring a new location.
There's always so much going on, isn't there?
The truth is there'll never be a better time.
These things, yes, they take up a significant time, but there never will be really a better time.
It just needs that planning perhaps.
It needs a team to be clear about what the goals are.
What is it we're trying to achieve here?
It's engaging the right people within those teams to go on that journey with you, and make sure you've got that buy in from everybody that needs to be involved, whether it's a home manager, your caring team, whether it's your branch managers, whether it's the regionals.
Everybody needs to understand what's going to happen.
You can set clear expectations around time scales, on expectations of your team, because they will need to get back to their normal day jobs outside of this project.
They need to understand what's needed from them in what time scales.
Very focused planning.
Not going for the cheapest option available either.
Sometimes it's tempting to go with the lowest priced solution, but software's complex stuff.
It's not just buttons you're pressing on a computer.
There's the training that goes along with it, the right support teams, the right implementation.
I've learnt the hard way how to make sure that stuff is done well, and how that stuff can go wrong quite quickly.
I think not going for the cheapest option is obviously important.
Consider the support and training that comes with it.
Think about where that product is going, ask about the roadmap of how they're developing their software and where they are going as a company.
Does it fit alongside your goals as a provider?
Don't expect, as I said, this business to business software implementation, don't expect it to be like the off the shelf software we use in our day to day in our personal lives, like Facebook, and camera apps, and our phones.
Yes, you will use a phone to use some of these care applications, but it's not the same sort of thing.
There's a lot more involved.
It's got to fit alongside your current processes.
What you really need to do is review those current processes, make sure you're happy that those processes will still stack up and be effective once you digitalize those processes.
Really you can't just plug in this software application.
I think in terms of advice to providers who want to implement more technology, I'd say do go out there and get advice.
Do speak to others that you know that have implemented technology.
Don't just do what your industry friends are doing.
What's right for them may not be right for you.
Get references of other businesses that have implemented that software, really speak to them and understand what worked and what didn't.
No one's going to get it right first off.
It is interesting to understand where things could become better.
I think the software market here is still young, so do look around.
Evaluate that software supplier.
Don't be worried about looking at startups as well as the larger companies. Everybody's doing something really interesting right now.
Write down the key things that are causing you pain at the moment.
Don't be afraid to focus on the basics and perhaps tackle things a little later on in the journey of implementing this software.
I think what's also quite key is, it sounds quite trivial, but make really good notes of the conversations you're having.
Set key, trackable milestones for your team and the supplier as well, so everybody understands what your expectations are, and everybody understands where the conversation has come from and where it's going.
It's often very easy to forget in the excitement of doing this work what was agreed perhaps, and what your expectations are.
I think that's really important as well.
Yeah, perfect. These are obviously quite complex things, aren't they Sarj?
Liam: This is probably our fourth, maybe fifth conversation trying to distil all of this complexity into some sort of succinct answers, and I think you've done a brilliant job with that, so thank you.
There is naturally a bit of overlap between things we're talking about, but they're complex.
They're complex problems, aren't they, that we're sort of proposing solutions to.
As you said, the implementations are, there's a bit more to it than people might think in terms of if you're going to implement a fairly significant software solution, as you said, you need to look at your processes, not just implement the solution.
That needs discussion.
That needs writing down processes.
That needs, there's a bit more to it than it first looks.
I think that's really helpful that you've explained that.
I mean, moving on then, if we may, what advice would you give to a care group looking to implement software that we haven't covered already Sarj?
Well I think, if I do reiterate some of those points, but it is really about putting the team in place.
Yeah, go ahead.
On your side of the fence, that will have the time, and they have the tools to work with the software team.
Software teams will do all they can to help you, but ultimately you've got to do your bit in it because no one knows your business better than you.
I think being very clear about time scales, so the expectations can be met.
I think take the time to listen to the software provider if they push back on your time scales, they'll have a good reason as to why, and I think that needs to be understood, so that again, expectations are met and there's no disappointment during the process.
I think ensuring you've got buy in from all members of the team, involving the right people, not just within senior management, but also those on the ground, those that will be using the software.
Really understand from them what they need so you can build that in.
Also, when you roll it out, if they bought into that software solution, they're going to give it their very best shot, and you're going to start off on the right foot with that level of engagement where you need it to be.
Don't try and do it all at once.
Don't try and push the rollout across all locations if you know as a business that's going to be difficult.
Don't be afraid to phase that rollout plan, start off small and scale it up.
That'll give you the ability to learn as you go, to be a bit more agile in your process of implementing the technology.
Don't do the big bang because software, it takes a long time to build, but it can take even longer to change once it's gone live.
Once it has gone live, those changes can't be done overnight.
There's a very strict and rigorous process about implementing changes in software.
You've got to test it before it's released.
You've got to make sure it's fit for purpose.
You've got to go through multiple iterations of testing within software before you push it live.
There's never a better time to implement changes than before you've actually gone live.
Trialing things in a phased way is definitely a better approach.
Be cautious of anyone that claims to be able to build functionality quickly, or change it quickly, or do something overnight, because it's not really realistic in the real world.
Definitely don't rush it.
58.59 Embracing New Ways Of Doing Things
Yeah, I think we talked about this before, didn't we?
Because you were saying about how you could essentially work with a client and they may feel that their particular group of X care homes are so particularly special, and yeah the software's pretty good, but if you could just add this, and add this, and add this, and add this.
How that adds to cost, adds to complexity, and that provider should be aware that in many ways customising a really complex piece of software is maybe not great use of the project and finances.
Is that about right Sarj?
Yeah, because there's another part of the equation to consider if you try and get something bespoke to your needs.
It's expensive to develop software, for one thing, to do it right and to make it scalable.
If you get something done that's bespoke to you as an organization, the software company has to be able to sustain that piece of kit that they've made for you.
The only way they can really do that is to have other providers use that same piece of kit, so that they can all contribute to its growth and success.
If it's not sustainable, the software company won't be able to support that bespoke work, so really consider what it is you're looking for and whether it's really going to make a difference, and whether it's sustainable going forward.
I mean, I think we've done, deliberately, quite a deep dive into the world of technology, how to create a business that adds value in the sector, what you learnt from it, and some really useful reflections for providers out there.
As we said, at different stages of digital maturity, and knowing they need to do something, but where do they start?
What are some of those key considerations?
I think you've answered that very comprehensively.
Is there anything else that you want to say, Sarj, before we close this part?
Very grateful for your time.
Yeah, I think don't be afraid of technology, it's there to help, embrace it.
It will make lives better.
It will make lives easier for sure.
Definitely do your homework.
There's a lot of interesting things happening at the moment.
There are really interesting software providers out there who are very passionate about this sector.
I think if you find the right one for you, work with them, and you'll definitely get there.
It's a great journey to be on, so best of luck.
If there's anything I can do to answer any questions, be happy to do so.
Thanks again to Sarj Radia.
I really enjoyed that episode.
I wonder what stood out for you.
What stood out for me was the importance of timing, and of problem solving skills, and also the sense of ownership, and relentless pursuit of success that's required for entrepreneurship.
If you do want to reach out to Sarj, you can find him on LinkedIn.
I've got another episode focused on technology in the wings, so more to follow shortly.
In the meantime, thanks very much.
Let me know in the comments your thoughts on this podcast and Sarj's career journey - let's chat there!
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