DocuWare for Nurseries: Less work, more play
Where should the focus of nursery owners, managers and staff be? On the children, right? From top to bottom within a nursery or nursery group the focus should always be on the children. Their experience, their welfare, their care and development.
That is, after all, why nurseries exist. They’re not just a place a parent can hand off their child while they go to work. Parents want to know their children are getting the best possible care in the right environment. That’s also why it’s such a competitive market in which reputation is vitally important!
But nurseries are also businesses and need to be run as such. Unfortunately this can distract from the main focus, damaging the reputation of the nursery, as administration tasks pile up and the day to day running of the business side takes over.
This is particularly true of nurseries – the sheer volume of paperwork they generate is astounding and much of it has to be securely stored for at least two decades.
The processing and management of that paperwork inevitably takes up the time a nursery manager and other staff should be spending on the children, the nursery facilities and the environment. In the end, it’s the children that suffer.
The solution, of course, is to reduce or eliminate the physical paperwork, streamline the processes to free up valuable time and store the documentation in a more economical and secure way. Which is, of course, where our document management solution comes into play.
How it works
Nurseries generate paperwork and documentation across three main areas: accounts; child enrolment and parent communication; staff and training management.
Nurseries in the UK have an average of around 45-50 children in their care at any one time. That in itself generates a lot of work in terms of setting up payments, ensuring payments are made and processing those payments when they are made.
In addition, there’s the sheer volume of receipts and invoices for day to day purchases like food and nappies, new toys and other items for the children and the ongoing maintenance and development of the nursery itself.
The amount of paperwork flowing through a single nursery’s accounts department, let alone a group of nurseries, makes it a very difficult task for the business to stay on top of everything.
DocuWare simplifies the whole process, automating many of the steps involved, whilst cutting down on physical paperwork. Because it integrates with many existing accounts and ERP packages – Sage, Xero, Quickbooks and SAP included – there’s no need to worry about wholesale changes to the way an accounts department works.
What DocuWare does is automatically pick up incoming invoices (from email, scanner, MFP or simple drag and drop), capture and index the data, check for discrepancies and duplicates, route for approvals where necessary then output the data for import into the accounts system. All of that can be done with the bare minimum of human interaction. Oh, and it stores every document for simple retrieval in the future.
This saves time manually inputting data, chasing approvals and everything else that comes with accounts payable.
We’ve covered in great detail the benefits of DocuWare’s preconfigured invoice processing over the last year or so – it applies equally effectively to nurseries too. This short video explains it well.
Our experience working with nurseries highlights the child enrolment – or onboarding – process as the biggest producer of paperwork in the business. The forms parents need to fill out – from initial enquiry right through to the child’s first day and beyond – mount up and many of them are required by law to be stored for 21 years.
To list just a few…
- Initial enquiry – usually submitted via the nursery website or via email
- Registration form – containing initial information about the child and days/sessions required
- Induction Form – typically very lengthy requiring all vital information about the child
- Permission Forms – usually a series of these covering everything from photography of the child to applying suncream
- Funding Forms – for those eligible to claim childcare support
That can add up to as many as 10-15 forms per child depending on the nursery, many of which have to be filled in by hand on paper by the parent. In many cases that information then has to be manually entered into whichever nursery software is used by staff.
That’s a minimum of 450 forms (some two to three pages long!) for one active set of children, all of which have to be stored for 20+ years. Then consider the turnover of children and a nursery can be handling many children at various stages of the onboarding process at any one time, chasing the required forms, chasing payments and managing start dates, staffing and other requirements.
It’s a momumental task often handled by one or two individuals, taking them away for many hours from focusing on the children.
DocuWare can ease that burden through digital document capture and storage and workflow automation.
Right from the start DocuWare can eliminate all the paper produced by digitising the forms parents are required to complete.
By making them available online parents can also complete them anywhere, at a time that suits them on any device connected to the internet. They don’t have to call into the nursery or wait for the forms to be delivered by post. It is already much more convenient which can only look good for the nursery.
Once a form is completed, it is automatically indexed, so the data can be used for search and retrieval at a later date, and stored securely in the cloud indefinitely. This is key – all documentation relating to a child’s enrolment is secure and instantly retrievable at any time in the future.
Gone is the need to store thousands of pages in filing cabinets for years on end. Also gone is the challenge in finding the paperwork for a child who may have passed through the nursery 15 years ago!
How do forms look to parents? A lot like this…
The background colour can be altered to match brand colours and your nursery logo can be added within the form itself. Of course, all content, required fields and the like can be tailored to a nursery’s specifications as well.
Automation & Workflows
With the problem of paper usage resolved and document storage and retrieval sorted, the next challenge is managing each child’s enrolment process. This is where DocuWare really comes into its own.
From the intial enquiry DocuWare triggers off workflows in the background, automatically routing the enquiry to the right person, often the nursery manager.
He or she will receive both an email notification about the new enquiry and a task is created in DocuWare.
Below is an example of how it could work.
A workflow such as this can be tailored to how any nursery works, of course, with many more steps added, more staff involved and, indeed, entire groups of nurseries handled. With automated notifications and step-by-step tasks created it ensures no documentation is missed.
It also makes it really simple to see what stage each child’s enrolment is at through the use of automatically changing statuses, Lists and a powerful search function (more on this below).
As demonstrated above, one workflow can help kick off another workflow for another department – in this case, the accounts department to ensure billing is set up ahead of time and starts when required.
Finally, once an enrolment process is complete the required child information can be transferred to whichever nursery software is used via CSV export/import (with just a few clicks) or direct API integration where available.
Staff Training & Management
When speaking with nurseries we often find that whilst child enrolment is by far the most paper heavy and time consuming, the tracking of staff documentation is also a big headache. This documentation can include:
- DBS Checks & Renewals
- Training Certificates (ie, Food Hygiene and First Aid)
- Accreditations & Qualifications (ie, Early Years Childcare Level 2/3)
The major issues nurseries have expressed to us are storage of these documents and, more importantly, ensuring qualifications are renewed through well maintained training schedules. Oh, and that the all-important DBS checks are regularly renewed too!
As we’ve discussed already, secure, accessible storage of any kind of paperwork is no issue with DocuWare. In this case, however, each staff member can be given a profile against which their training documentation can be stored.
DocuWare can index the certificates and capture the expiry date (or date of issue), from which workflows can be created to notify nursery management ahead of that date so they can arrange the required training. The same, of course, applies to regular DBS check renewals.
DocuWare is perfectly suited to managing and reminding about staff appraisals, disciplinary actions and other HR functions too.
Let’s have a look at a typical workflow for a DBS check certificate.
It’s a relatively simple workflow that can work not just for DBS checks but any renewable certification you may require your staff to have in their various roles. In fact, with just a few tweaks the workflow can be adapted to handle staff appraisals and, as mentioned earlier, other recurring HR functions.
What it boils down to is that no certifications will expire without action, training schedules are maintained without complicated spreadsheets and nursery management can focus on more important tasks.
Using DocuWare Day-to-Day
So far we’ve looked at how DocuWare works in the background to reduce manual data entry and handle tasks and documentation. But what does it look like to the nursery manager to use DocuWare?
This is the dashboard.
On the left is where documents are handled and on the right is the document viewer. The tabs across the top left provide access to all documents and assigned Tasks. Let’s break those down.
Document Tray – this is where documents are put and kept before being indexed and stored in the relevant filing cabinet. In this case, we’re looking at Accounts Payable and various incoming invoices ready for storage. On the right is the invoice from EE.
Search – here you select the filing cabinet you want to search and are given a powerful search function from which to find the document(s) you need:
There are numerous ways to search by the indexed data. For example, searching in the Accounts Payable filing cabinet gives you the option of searching by Document Type, Supplier, Invoice Number, Invoice Date and many more. So if you wanted to see all invoices from EE betwen 1st Jan 2022 and 31st March 2022 you would choose Invoice In from Document Type, EE from Supplier and select the Invoice Date range. Hit the yellow search button and all documents matching those criteria will be displayed.
It would work in a similar principle for nursery children. The search criteria would be different, offering up Child First Name, Child Last Name and Start Date for example. Whatever data from any document is indexed can be used to search.
Lists – this tab contains, well, lists of documents that match predefined criteria. In accounts it can be something as simple as unpaid invoices. For nurseries, it could be a list of all parents yet to complete their induction forms. This gives the nursery manager a very quick way to see both who and how many are at each stage of the enrolment process.
Tasks – for most nursery managers this is likely to be the most used tab. It contains a list of jobs to do generated by the workflows outlined above. Some may require just the click of a button, some may require work undertaken away from DocuWare to be confirmed when complete.
Looking at the example enrolment workflow above, the very last task is to set the start date. This could be done via a phonecall to the parent, after which the nursery manager would return to DocuWare, find the relevant task, enter the start date into a waiting field and hit confirm.
Tasks can have a number of potential outcomes and this, too, is handled by DocuWare. Here’s an example of a photocopier support task.
Here the options to complete the task are Onsite Visit, Remote Session, Part Required or Keep Ticket Open. Each has data that needs to be entered before the task can be confirmed and the workflow can move to the next stage. Nursery based tasks can be modelled in a similar way.
Folders – these can be created to house similar groups of documents. This could be all documents related to a member of staff or a particular child. Given the power of DocuWare’s search function it could be argued Folders aren’t necessary but they can be very useful in certain circumstances.
Forms – this is where all of DocuWare’s digital forms are kept. In the nursery example, this is where you would find the registration form, permission forms and induction forms. It’s worth noting at this point that forms can be made public (for parents to use) or restricted by permissions to certain staff members, adding a layer of security to internal forms. From the Forms tab a double click will open a blank form or the link can be copied and shared.
The DocuWare dashboard will become a familiar and often used resource for nursery management and staff, accessed almost as – if not more – often than their email. With DocuWare driving the three key areas of a nursery business – accounts, child enrolment and staff training and management – those staff will have much more time to focus on the children. Exactly where their focus should be.
Hopefully this article has demonstrated the power of DocuWare and the difference it can make to a nursery business, whether small or large. There are some key stats you should also know. Our experience in implementing DocuWare into nursery groups has led to:
- A 90%+ REDUCTION in manual data entry
- An 80%+ REDUCTION in paper usage
- A saving of as much as 75 DAYS PER YEAR in man hours
The bottom line is this; DocuWare will free up nursery staff and management to spend more time with the children in their care. And that, after all, is what it’s all about.
Talk to Keeley Travis about implementing DocuWare into your business. Call us on 0161 683 4247 or drop an email to email@example.com