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Little Inspirations Day Nursery

Since this award-winning South Wales based day nursery was founded in 2003, it has expanded across six sites, providing day care for over 250 children and employment for over 100 staff.

Learning points

  • Advancements are made incrementally when businesses are becoming more digitally mature: from paper-based, to digital, to a cloud-based integrated software system.
  • Long-term benefits of digital technology can help the expansion and improvement of the business.
  • Short-term benefits can improve the overall efficiency of the business.
Logo for Little Inspirations

Overview of the business

Little Inspirations caters largely for pre-school children, aged six months until entry to school. In addition, the nursery offers holiday schemes for children up to aged nine across all six sites. The largest and main site is situated at Llantrisant, which caters for 90 children daily. Little Inspirations plans to continue its expansion over the coming months, with two new sites opening in Tonyrefail in October 2018.

Superfast broadband adoption

The business adopts differing speeds across the six sites. At the main site, Llantrisant and the Newport site the premise purchases a superfast broadband connection, with download speeds of approximately 30 Mbps. At the smaller sites in Barry and Rhydfelin, there is a standard broadband connection. It is estimated that approximately £750 is spent monthly on Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) voice communications and Internet access across all six sites.

However, at the new site in Penywaun, the business experienced broadband adoption barriers. The nursery had to wait three months for broadband connectivity after the site opened in April 2018. In an attempt to overcome the problems caused by lack of connectivity, a mobile broadband, MiFi device, was purchased. Unfortunately, the MiFi device only allowed for intermittent Internet connection due to a poor mobile signal in the area. The broadband adoption barriers delayed the installation of an integrated software platform for the Penywaun based nursery. In addition, the everyday business processes, such as printing, were also disrupted when no Internet was available.

Little Inspirations information flow diagram

Highlighting the internal and external communication flows of the business.

IT skills capacity

Since the start of 2018, Little Inspirations has invested significantly in digital technology and IT capacities across the six sites. This includes purchasing over £2500 worth of tablet devices for four of the six sites. A further expense will be required in the near future to purchase this equipment for the remaining two sites. Running through these devices is an integrated software platform, allowing the monitoring of business activities (both children and staff) and business processes. It is estimated that across the six sites the integrated software platform costs approximately £1000 per month to maintain, equating to £150 per month per site. The Cloud-based software that operates between the system is constantly updated and adjusted in line with the nursery’s needs.

The nursery employs an external IT company to assist with Internet and data security, as well as technical support and software installation.  The significant investments in digital technologies have coincided with an increased use of IT support. While the business previously conducted its operation largely offline, the move to cloud-based technology means that more specialist and ongoing IT support is required.

Use of digital technologies

Little Inspirations has undergone a digital transformation since January 2018. Having previously operated largely offline, the business has invested heavily in broadband-enabled digital technologies.

Cloud telephony

Cloud telephony (VoIP) was installed across the nursery sites in January 2018. Prior to this, each site had a separate line, whereas the use of cloud-based communication services enables the same network to be shared across the sites. A further feature of the cloud telephony is remote connection via a mobile application, enabling calls from the business line to be made and received when out of the office.

Integrated cloud-based software package

The main digital development is the implementation of an integrated cloud-based software package across the South Wales’ nurseries. These were implemented in four of the six sites in May 2018, including the central Llantrisant site. To maximise the functionality of the software, tablets were purchased and located in each of the nursery rooms.

The tablets are multi-functional. A primary purpose is to log and monitor the children’s activities. When the child arrives at the nursery, the parents or carers are able to register the child’s attendance. Throughout the day, the team record the child’s activities; logging food, sleep and activities. The parents are able to access this real time information, photographs, videos and correspondence through a mobile application synced to the tablets. There are plans to extend the digitalisation of the process further, by switching children’s learning journey to a digital alternative.

In addition to improving the external correspondence with the parents, the integrated system also enables internal communications to be sent. Management can send individual or collective messages to staff members across the nursery sites.

Additional functionality includes the collection and monitoring of children’s ratios to staff, helping when allocating staff across the sites. Forecasting of profit and loss is also a valuable addition based on the accumulation and analysis of data. In the near future, a cloud-based accountancy system will be added to the functions.

Additional digital tools

The business also uses cloud-based data storage (Dropbox) to store business information, including staff hours, rotas and cash flow. Alternative digital technologies are used for internal staff communications, including Facebook and WhatsApp. Externally, video communication (Skype) is used to communicate with IT and web development partners. In addition, a separate cloud-based application is used for HR management, with staff being able to log in and report sickness and book holidays.

Business performance

One key benefit of the cloud-based integrated software platform is an improved quality of service. The changes enable the nursery to provide a real time account of the children’s activities. Before using the integrated platform, these activities were recorded manually and emailed at the end of the working day. At times the information could not be sent. The parents are now able to access important updates, photographs and videos of the child’s activities throughout the day.

In addition to providing an improved service, the digitalisation of these central processes significantly improves efficiency for the business. Taking the main site, Llantrisant, as a case in point, under the old system the four role leaders would complete the 90 children’s written documents. It is estimated that approximately four minutes was spent inputting the information into an email, creating an attachment and sending the file over to parents.  It is estimated that this process would account for seven hours per day of staff time. This equates to over 35 hours in saved staff time every week at one site alone. The business estimates that this saves approximately £56 per day, totalling approximately £13,500 annually. However, these figures are mediated by the heightened expenditure for the infrastructure, which costs nearly £1,000 per month across all the sites.

A further benefit is in terms of organisation and planning of the nursery. By monitoring staff and children’s ratios, staff can be diverted to sites that need additional numbers. Linked to these benefits is the improved internal communications with staff:

When you've got a hundred staff, who are all on different contracts and we're not all in one place, you tend to lose the personal nature of just running one site. So, communication with staff and keeping them informed of developments and opportunities is important.

Manager, Little Inspirations

The additional data is also being used to monitor current, and predict future, financial performance. The profits and losses can be collated and used to predict expected income. This provides the knowledge and confidence to further expand the business:

You can have more visual data in front of you. You can feel confident that any investment you are making is in the right way, as well creating cost savings and time savings.

Manager, Little Inspirations

Little Inspirations is using the digital technologies to bring long-term benefits and allow for the further expansion of the business over the coming years. This is evidenced with the opening of two more sites in October 2018, raising the total number of employees to 125.

The business is also looking to invest further in digital technologies. By October 2018, it is hoped that automated invoices will be generated through the integrated platform, bringing additional time savings. At present, the business individually calculates the invoices based on schedules. Whilst this was an improvement on the previous paper-based system, the next advancement of automation will bring significant savings. All contracts will be inputted into a database on the software, which will automatically generate the invoices to payees’ mobile application.

Beyond the direct business performance benefits, indirect environmental and cost saving benefits are being realised. For example, through the reduction in paper and printing, as well as a reduction in mileage between sites. Instead of needing to travel between the sites to monitor the day-to-day running, the management is now able to use the data derived from the platform to keep up-to-date.