“When we went looking for a business system, Greentree was ahead of the competition in terms of features, flexibility and support.”
Alastair Richards is the Director of Resources for Future Directions, a not-for-profit Community Interest Company supporting people with learning disabilities and mental health issues. It employs more than 500 staff, supporting hundreds of people living in communities across the north-west of England.
Future Directions started out as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the National Health Service (NHS). It draws its funding largely from local authorities, and its directors decided it would be able to deliver costeffective services outside of the more expensive NHS structure.
When Future Directions split from the NHS, it needed to find a business system that would deliver sophisticated functionality and meet its plans for 25% annual growth, without a big price tag and IT infrastructure. It chose Greentree, hosted in the Cloud.Future Directions helps people to move on from long-term institutional care, into communities where they will be close to family, friends, and can live the life they want to lead, with support.
“It’s a very competitive sector,” Alastair explains. “There are dozens of companies that provide services similar to ours, but the difference we make is in the personalised nature of our support. We have a lot of experience in helping people who have very complex needs – learning and physical disabilities along with challenging mental or behavioural problems.”
Future Directions’ customers (the people it supports) are spread in some 80 different locations across the north-west. Its front line staff help people with day-to-day living, supervised by managers, many of whom are qualified nurses.Alastair has a lot of experience in the community support sector and knew just what he wanted in a business system.
“First up, we needed a financial solution that could manage our cost centres. Each of our 70-80 locations is a cost centre, so visibility of each of those is essential. We needed a system that could be set up quickly and that was intuitive for people to use.
“We do our reporting on a per-location and a percontract basis: how we spend the money, and how many hours of care and support is provided. Our commissioners’ demand reporting regularly on either a per-person or per-contract bases, so it’s quite intensive.”
After looking briefly at Access Dimensions and Sage, Alastair went to a Greentree Partner with whom he’d worked in previous roles. They showed him Greentree.
“I hadn’t seen Greentree before, but it impressed me immediately because it looks more modern than other business systems and has a lot more functionality to offer,” he says. “The level of support we knew we’d get from the Greentree Partner was another significant factor.”Future Directions also needed the system to operate in a Cloud-hosted environment. “From the outset of separating from the NHS, we knew we didn’t want the IT costs, so Cloud was essential,” Alastair explains. “Greentree again had the edge because the Cloud-hosting costs quoted by other providers sent the price of their systems through the roof. Some of them also said they couldn’t provide certain functionality in the Cloud. For instance, one of them said we’d never be able to upload a journal or download a report, which is no use to us.”
The Greentree Partner had Future Directions’ core systems operating within six weeks with additional functionality, including Payroll, CRM, Workflow and WebView, being rolled out in the weeks to follow. However, the engagement won’t end there.
“The Greentree Partner is very supportive,” Alastair says. “They keep offering new ideas. This is great because it keeps driving efficiencies, keeping us looking at the system and what it will do for us.” Future Directions has big plans going forward, including developing clusters of self-contained flats, so customers can create their own lifestyle.
“We’re looking at growing our services by 25% per year for the foreseeable future,” Alastair says. “Greentree is all about keeping control of our organisation while supporting a lot more people in a really great, personalised way.”