Which CRM/database to use?

The National Disability Services (NDS) ‘State of the Sector’ report highlighted that the number one priority for NDIS providers in relation to improving their business capability in 2019CRM ready, is ‘Information, communications and tech strategy’, ranking ahead of ‘costing and pricing’ and ‘HR strategy and workforce planning’.

Over the last months, CBB has facilitated a review of some of the many Customer Relationship Management (CRM)/database products on the market that purport to be NDIS-ready, to assist NDIS providers to understand which products should be on their radar.

The final results are currently being compiled and our report will be published before the end of the year. To receive a copy of the full report when it is ready, add your details here.

In this article we provide some tips for any NDIS provider currently assessing their options in relation to implementation of a single point of truth CRM solution.

Tips to assist you in the process of choosing a CRM/database for your organisation

If your organisation intends embarking on a project to assess, short-list, choose and implement a CRM/database, here are some tips to assist you in the process:

  • Be clear on what you are trying to achieve: is it back-office efficiency (including rostering), customer outcomes measurement, compliance with legislative obligations etc. Any CEO of a not for profit NDIS provider organisation will likely be asked by the Board to present a business case that will require a full assessment of costs (including implementation costs) and benefits.
  • Sign up for as many free product demos as you can, and include at least a couple of frontline workers in the demos. It is one thing to choose a product that works for management, but it’s arguably more important to choose a product that frontline workers will find easy to use; you know the old saying, “rubbish in, rubbish out”.
  • If you don’t have an in-house CIO, IT Manager or Business Analyst, bring one in on a temporary basis to manage the requirement articulation, product selection and implementation.
  • After you have finalised your mandatory evaluation criteria, ask your short-listed vendors to submit a written response, scoring themselves using a very clear scoring criteria, just as insurance against any over-promises regarding standard functionality.
  • Be realistic about the time you will need to spend to transition from your old systems to the new CRM. Key pieces of work during implementation may include:
    • Assess the pros/cons of adopting the product’s standard functionality, which may involve amending your existing business procedures to fit. Be wary of extensive configuration and customisation where it isn’t going to add value to your customers. This can affect future product updates, complicate any future changes and add to your ongoing costs. It is better to focus on the required outcomes, rather than trying to replicate current processes that may not be efficient.
    • Document any system interdependencies so that the vendor is made aware of other in-house systems that will need to interface (talk) to the new CRM system such as the finance/billing system.
    • Prepare a detailed project implementation plan prior to signing a contract with the vendor, so that both parties are agreed on the steps and timeframes and also who is responsible for what.
    • Make sure your implementation plan includes testing the new CRM to ensure it meets requirements as specified to the vendor. Also make sure that your contract is clear on who will pay for bug fixes during the testing phase, in the period post implementation and in the longer term.
    • Cleanse historical data and transfer to the new database. Ensure your implementation plan includes checking of the data post transfer to ensure that it has been transferred correctly and records have not been corrupted.
    • Include a back-out strategy in your implementation plan, to be used in the event that the implementation does not go smoothly and you need to revert to the old CRM. Make this the responsibility of the vendor so that they can prepare accordingly.
    • Ensure your implementation plan includes a provision for some post implementation support, so that the vendor is aware they will need to be promptly available should any problems arise.
    • Involve your staff (the CRM users) when documenting your requirements for the new CRM. Staff should also be involved in the testing process, as they can easily identify what is not working, or missing.
    • Assess hardware requirements including portable devices and server capacity.
    • Provide comprehensive training for frontline staff to ensure that they optimise functionality of the new product.
    • Provide training for management to ensure they understand how to use reports and performance dashboard metrics.
    • Train/educate customers to ensure that they get maximum value from the customer portal (where applicable).
  • Ask the vendor for referees, being NDIS providers that have undergone a very recent implementation. You want to talk to referees who know NDIS inside-out. When you talk to referees, some of the questions you may like to ask include:
    • What product/s were you using previously and why did you decide to change?
    • How many products did you assess?
    • Why did you choose this product, and which products ranked second and third on your list?
    • What are the three biggest issues you experienced during implementation?
    • Have you surveyed frontline staff and customers as to whether they like the product? If not, what feedback have you had in relation to usability?
  • Talk to providers that are using the product that weren’t put forward as referees. Salespeople will rarely introduce you to someone that has had a troubled experience with implementation or use of their product, but you may learn a lot from a quick chat with such organisations.
  • Ask vendors the question, “When next we meet face to face, can you please show me a copy of your product development road map?”. (Note: vendors would be highly unlikely to give you a copy of this, but shouldn’t have any issue in showing it to you face to face.)

To receive a copy of the full report when it is ready, add your details here.

Brendon Grail

Brendon Grail
NDIS Transition Lead Consultant
Email: bgrail@cbb.com.au
Phone: 1300 284 364


NDIS Quality and Safeguards Framework: Best practices for preventing compliance toothaches

Just like the recall letter for a dental check-up NDIS providers in SA and NSW have recently received their letter from the NDIS Commission outlining the start date for registration renewal. TheNDIS quality application for renewal will involve a self-assessment followed by a field audit conducted by a NDIS Commission-approved NDIS quality auditor.

While some providers are already expected to start the process by October, others are due for their check-up in 2019. Most providers are aware that the new Quality & Safeguards Framework has introduced a list of requirements however we have noticed some misconceptions about compliance which we aim to brush away:

Misconception # 1: You only brush your teeth when you see the dentist.

Continue reading…


Supercharging your customers’ NDIS goals

Over the next 18 months while NDIA struggles to catch up with the delayed NDIS roll-out nationally, we expect that the quality of formal NDIS plans being generated by planners will continue to be mostly sub-standard, simply because planners can’t afford adequate time to facilitate thorough planning.

What to do?

Well, in NSW and SA, NDIS providers are already compelled to prepare a participant ‘Support Plan’ in relation to the services they are providing, per the NDIS Commission’s Practice Standard Core Module Part 4 section 19. The Support Plan must support achievement of goals as described in a client’s NDIS plan.

We suggest that this is the perfect opportunity to address any shortcomings of the NDIS plan, and to get to know your customer better by working with them to prepare a good quality plan for the services that you will provide them. Naturally your support plan will need to link to the all-important funded goals in the NDIS plan, but this is an opportunity to go much further and breathe life into the NDIS participant’s life aspirations.

What does a good quality person-centred plan look like? A good plan will articulate SMART goals, something we see only occasionally in NDIS plans. Continue reading…


Seven key actions to deliver the NDIS sustainably

Prof Bruce Bonyhady is Executive Chair and Director of the Melbourne Disability Institute, an inter-disciplinary research institute at the University of Melbourne, and was the inaugural chair of the NDIA from 2013 to 2016. As one of the original architects of the NDIS, Prof Bonyhady still holds true to the founding principles, which are becoming somewhat lost in the face of a very challenging implementation schedule. Prof Bonyhady spoke at a recent CBB event for disability service providers in South Australia. Here are his recommended actions that governments should take in order to get back on track and deliver the NDIS sustainably, many of which are aligned to the conclusions of the Productivity Commission Review of NDIS Costs, published late last year. Continue reading…


NDIS: not business as usual – NDIS invoicing and payment requests

On 19 July the NDIS announced changes to the provider and participant portal.  Providers and participants will now be able to edit, or immediately cancel, service bookings. If the provider rejectsNDIS invoicing and payment requests a revision, a reason or explanatory note can be posted.

These are major improvements to NDIS service bookings which we discussed in the second instalment of this three part series. NDIS processes are constantly evolving. It highlights the need for providers to stay up to date and to readily adapt their processes and procedures. Ensure staff roles are clearly defined – who keeps abreast of NDIS changes, who updates procedures and who communicates changes to staff, and potentially to your clients?

In this third and last instalment we discuss NDIS invoicing and payment requests for your service delivery. We also give ideas on how your organisation can create a focus on continuous improvements to your NDIS business processes. Continue reading…


NDIS: Not business as usual – Part Two

NDIS service bookingsWhen setting off on the NDIS journey it is tempting to pretend that it is business as usual without thinking whether your organisation and customers are fit for travel and what’s the best way to get to the destination. In our first instalment in a series of three we discussed how to support your customers for their first NDIS planning meeting and how to ensure timely plan implementation for the NDIS services they would like to purchase from you.  In this second instalment we give guidance on NDIS service agreements, service bookings and record keeping of your service delivery. Continue reading…


NDIS: Not business As Usual

As the NDIS rolls out providers are urged to transform their business processes and systems. The move from block funding to payment for hours of service provided requires good preparation, NDIS: Not business as usualorganisation and commitment. Registering as a NDIS provider is only the first step. New ways need to be developed, trialled and adjusted as part of your NDIS planning to interact with your customers and the new way of funding.

We have identified ten steps along the NDIS customer journey that you must take when your customer becomes a NDIS participant and selects you as a service provider. Continue reading…


NDIS Overheads

In our last two instalments, we explained how to calculate gross margins and net margins for each of your NDIS service lines, and discussed non-chargeable time and how to minimise it. We’ve left the most challenging subject until last – NDIS overheads.

The reason this subject is difficult is that the longer you’ve been in business and the bigger your organisation size, the more difficult it will be to squeeze or remove overheads.

The unfortunate fact is that current NDIS providers of core supports who have transitioned from block funding to NDIS funding will probably be bleeding cash, for three reasons: Continue reading…


NDIS $ margins

Our ‘ex-accountant’ Brendon Grail shares some of his Activity Based Costing knowledge, in accessible terms that are relevant to NDIS.

Retail businesses understand (and are arguably obsessed by) their gross margin for every product on the shelf. Alas, we don’t meet many NDIS providers who can quote the percentage margins for each of their NDIS services.

In the world of tight, capped NDIS pricing, we suggest that every CEO and CFO should have those figures top of mind. Boards are also likely to be increasingly interested in this subject if they see balance sheet runways (i.e. the number of months of operating costs they hold in current assets) shortening.

The question we often get asked by disability providers is, how can we calculate margins without going through a complicated activity based costing exercise?

Here is how in four easy steps: Continue reading…