How to expand your digital capabilities without breaking the bank

In today’s climate, childcare providers need to focus on lowering risk and maximising profits. Technology often plays a significant part in helping settings to achieve their expansion goals, not to mention being a key productivity driver. Nikki Walsh, senior customer success manager at Connect Childcare, shares her thoughts with NMT

Return on investment – or ROI – is a familiar concept for nursery managers. It’s the financial formula that helps to measure the amount of money lost or recovered as a result of an investment.

It’s a valuable measure that supports decision-making across the childcare sector on a daily basis, and it’s one that should be harnessed when looking at any form of technology expenditure within a setting – no matter where a provider is on their digital journey.

Understand what your setting needs

When embarking on the journey to boost technical capabilities, there are so many options and packages for you to choose from that it can quickly feel overwhelming.

Continuing with the context of nursery management software, unfortunately, a natural by-product of being spoilt for choice by a catalogue of features, functionalities, and add-ons, often contributes to losing sight of what it is you needed in the first place. And this can severely impact the success of the investment – not to mention cause setting-wide frustrations when issues you thought would be remedied persist.

Therefore, the first question you should ask yourself before even looking at any software options is, what are you trying to improve?

By making a note of your biggest challenges and the problems you’re trying to solve in your business, this will help you to evaluate which tool really meets your requirements.

Calculate the ‘value of time’

As a means to understand what your setting needs, it’s important to get an accurate picture of how it is currently operating and how long tasks are taking.

From observations, registers, and managing child/contact records to learning journals, invoicing, grant funding, and communicating with parents, it’s a worthwhile exercise to go write down each task area, outline who completes this, how many hours it takes per week, and then calculate this to get an annual figure.

This is a simple job that not only helps to determine which tasks your nursery needs to prioritise when searching for a digital solution, but how many hours are spent on each area per year – and the equivalent monetary value.

Then, when you’re looking at software providers, use your list of duties and time durations to compare it to how long the same tasks would take in that platform – the technology provider should be able to calculate and share this information with you.

As a result, you – or the provider – can then compare this with your original time calculations and see how much time the digital tool would save you. Again, this can then be converted into a monetary value.

This whole ROI exercise can help to ensure that any decision either for or against investing in technology is backed up by tangible evidence. It should assist in informing you whether the investment would be worth it, both in the short and long-term, and helps to prevent being trapped in a false economy cycle.

Think about the future

While gaining a picture of where your organisation is in the here and now is vital to understanding what you need, it’s crucial not to neglect any future needs. These should also be factored into the conversation.

Understandably, wanting to change everything at the same time is a big risk for your company, however, by trying to anticipate what features you will need in the long term, this will ensure that you choose a tool that can seamlessly meet these requirements – making your investment even more profitable.

In addition, nursery management technology is not only a useful tool for reducing admin time and freeing up resource to spend more time dedicated to child development, but it’s also a key piece of the parental engagement puzzle too.

For instance, if a setting has software which they can use to share updates – via an app – directly on a parent’s smartphone, to notify them about how their child’s day is going, that can be an extremely powerful thing.

Not only does it enable parents to instantly access important child updates, but it allows for greater engagement and interaction between the nursery and home settings too – helping to create a more holistic education journey for little ones.

And, finally, with the use of digital technologies increasing rapidly in society – both in a professional and personal context – software that bridges the parent-practitioner gap can also arguably help to improve parent satisfaction, and consequently, nursery occupancy figures. An undoubtedly important consideration when looking at ROI.