In the education sector Kykloud is enabling multi-academy trusts to centrally manage multiple assets and develop lifecycle strategies across an entire portfolio in conjunction with built environment advisers, Navigant.

Ormiston Academies Trust (OAT) is a not for profit multi-academy sponsor with 29 academies across the country. Established in 2009, it is still a relatively young Multi Academy Trust (MAT) which has grown considerably in five short years to become one of the largest in England and Wales.

The OAT family of academies is made up of a very mixed portfolio: including primary and secondary schools with very different features and challenges. From former failing schools to outstanding schools, state-of-the-art facilities to aging and dilapidated buildings, Ormiston’s reach spans from the North of England to the South coast.

OAT recognises that every school and community is unique and therefore does not impose a ‘one size fits all’ approach to teaching and learning. Instead academies are supported to share good practice.
The not-for-profit organisation enjoys great financial security and, as it is run by educationalists, it is well recognised for its high education standards. But one area where OAT itself recognised it was lacking, was in the management of its varied and diverse estate.

Ormiston’s estates team is its newest division and is headed up by National Director of Estates and Technology, James Miller. We sat down with James to find out how they are using technology to better manage their estate.

“As a trust we recognise that each child, academy and community is individual so rather than impose central control we opt instead to empower each academy leadership team to achieve their full potential. This is what we believe sets us apart and it was therefore important that we maintain this philosophy in the management of our estate.

“However, understanding the legal and statutory responsibilities of MATS is pretty complex and requires specialist knowledge, skills and a degree of central control. Working with our appointed consultants, Navigant, we set about working on a strategy for managing our whole estate portfolio.

“We knew we needed a solution that would allow for local autonomy, would minimise unnecessary travel and expenses yet at the same time allow the central estates team to ensure that the physical estate is being managed efficiently and in line with our statutory obligations, whilst allowing us to take a strategic and long term view of investment and expenditure.

“The solution had to be found in IT; we needed something that would help our staff on the ground to assess the condition of our estate at a local level, yet would provide our central team with direct access to the information so that decision could be made on a strategic basis and we could begin to build robust lifecycle plans.

“Navigant, who have been our key built environment and estate advisers since 2011, helping us to procure two batches of nine new build or refurbished schools, mapped out our exact requirements and market tested half a dozen software packages. Kykloud was the only product that was adaptable enough to cost effectively meet our needs and delivered a quick return on investment.
“Designed for mobile surveying and asset management, the software had already been used to survey one third of the Department for Education’s estate as part of the Education Funding Agency’s own condition survey programme, yet to date had only been used by professional surveyors and not by individual schools and academies.

“But the software is easy to use and is intuitive so we were confident that it wouldn’t necessarily require property professionals to extract the information we needed.

“Like most MATS at this time, our most pressing priority is ensuring we are meeting our statutory obligations, so working with Navigant we have customised Kykloud to carry out compliance checks at a local level. Representatives at each school have conducted and recorded the 20 statutory checks with little more than an iPad and Kykloud’s mobile templates.

“As the technology is cloud-based SaaS (software as a service), the data collected can be collated centrally giving a small estates team a comprehensive overview of any immediate work needed, together with documented evidence of us meeting our obligations.

“But for me, Kykloud’s long term benefit lies in its sophisticated asset data base. The mobile software will soon be used to gather data on the condition of our individual properties quickly and efficiently and this data can then feed in to our central data base and used to create lifecycle costing plans, providing an accurate reflection of the cost of refurbishment and maintenance over the next 30 plus years.

“This will give us a far greater and continuously up-to-date understanding of the condition of our estate so that we will now have a dynamic and transparent idea of our future requirements and their cost implications. This will allow us to plan our procurements much more efficiently and ultimately reduce our reactive and planned maintenance costs over the medium to long term. The days of dusting off condition surveys forgotten on the top shelf are gone!

“What’s more, it arms us with evidence to demonstrate the level of funding we require, allowing us to have more informed, data driven discussions with the Department of Education. Whilst competition for funding is tough, it is hard to argue against data driven evidence – so being able to demonstrate that we are making the right investment decisions with the funding we do have while providing proof that there is a real need for new – perhaps centrally funded – investment is essential to building confidence that MATs are meeting the backlog maintenance challenge in the best value for money way.

“OAT was the first trust to adopt Kykloud technology and with the help of Navigant’s strategic guidance and change management skills we have been able to work with the Kykloud team to adapt the mobile solution to ensure that it meets every requirement of a MAT. Given we all find ourselves in a very similar position, facing the same challenges and objectives, we believe we are in the process of creating a product that could be of equal benefit to every MAT estates team.

“Unsurprisingly, as I write this article, I have been informed that other MATs are turning to a Kykloud based solution to more cost effectively manage their estates. I hope others can build on our success and I am more than happy to help in the process.”

James Miller will be speaking at this year’s Academies Show on the 29th April, discussing the management of Estates.