Bath and Wells Multi-Academy Trust
The Bath and Wells Multi-Academy Trust (BWMAT), established in 2012, consists of 30 primary schools that are grouped across four hubs in Bath, North Somerset, South Somerset and Taunton. It aims to provide an outstanding education for every child, enhanced by a distinctively Christian ethos.
The Trust had experienced sustained and significant growth and, as a result, was heavily reliant upon Excel to supplement the two budgeting tools that were in use across its schools. Whilst its reporting solution was well developed and provided the information required to run the Trust, with an ever-growing group of schools the time taken to manually populate the spreadsheets was increasing. In addition, there was a huge amount of repetition involved in ensuring that each of the school’s budgets had the correct data and that the assumptions defined by the Trust were accurately implemented.
“We had developed a series of work-arounds that were starting to creak and were at the point where something had to change,” explained BWMAT’s Chief Financial Officer Jason Brown. “We were still confident that the numbers were right, as we had systems in place to ensure that errors and inconsistencies were caught, but the time required to maintain things was starting to hold the teams back. We did not want to have work-arounds in place to catch the issues; essentially we wanted a system that would ensure the accuracy from the outset.”
Jason came across IMP Planner when the Trust was investigating options to solve its budgeting pain-points. BWMAT had worked with the team behind IMP Software for many years through its finance system provider, so was confident that IMP, as an organisation specifically focused on the complex requirements of MATs, could both deliver the system needs and support requirements. After Jason’s initial review, the Trust’s finance manager and four regional business managers had an in-depth demonstration of the software. They were in no doubt that the system would solve their challenges.
“IMP Planner provides a single database solution, which is the way we needed to go with our budgeting tool, and this approach works well with our finance system,” Jason said. “A system for each school was just not working. We were at the stage where we needed to update the National Joint Council pay scale across 30 different databases, which in itself would have been a mammoth task. As IMP can share payscales across multiple schools this change only had to be entered once, which meant it is much quicker and therefore allows far less scope for error. We also have different support staff pay grades across the three local authorities that our schools are in, but IMP deal with this well. We can share budget items such as payscales, grades and Local Government Pension Scheme pension rates across all schools, or a subsection of schools, which makes a huge difference to our overall system administration.”
When reflecting on the implementation of IMP Planner, and ongoing assistance provided, Jason said that the quality and response time of the support team was a fundamental requirement when a new system is adopted and was rightly a key consideration for BWMAT.
“IMP took care of the whole process during implementation,” he revealed. “They have developed automated routines to both extract and combine the data from our old systems, so we had very little involvement and were really pleased with how it went. Any implementation that requires a data extraction from 30 independent databases is a tall order, but the experience the team at IMP have in this area is clear to see. Since we have gone live, the on-boarding support has been second to none. Our three-year budget cycle is a busy time for our Hub business managers as it involves lots of meetings with each of their schools. IMP offers live chat within the system and this has been a real lifesaver when deadlines are tight. Knowing that the IMP support team are there to help when you need it has made such a difference; most queries have been dealt with via chat but they can also launch a remote support session in seconds, which has helped our team so much.”
Jason added that the IMP Planner is “so easy” to use and said he would highly recommend it to other Trusts: “This system is a game-changer. The market has simply not kept pace with the emergence of MATs, so a system that is specifically designed to meet the needs of a MAT has got to be worth looking at.”