- Organization Name: ALARA Qld Limited
- Website: www.alaraqld.org.au
- Organizational size: 150 staff plus volunteers; 650 clients
- Location: Ipswich, Somerset and Lockyer - Queensland
- Service offered: ALARA provides high quality, flexible and responsive support services for people with a disability and their carers
- System implemented: ALARA implemented Attaché accounting and payroll software and integrated it with existing client management system, TRACCS
ALARA QLD Limited is a not for profit, community based organisation that provides a broad range of innovative and responsive services for people with a disability and their families. They provide services in the Ipswich, Somerset and Lockyer regions of Queensland.
Since 1991, ALARA has worked with people with a disability, their carers and the community to design and deliver services and supports that assist people to live at home, strengthen their natural support networks and assist skills development and enable people to achieve their personal goals.
ALARA’s commitment is not only to provide quality services the value add to the lives of the people they support but also the communities within which they work.
ALARA provides state-funded disability services, but is also funded by Community Care and HACC and performs private care work. They employ one payroll officer (who also works on other things), one person in accounts receivable and they have a finance manager who also looks after computers, transport and property matters. An external organisation manages and supports their IT, though one in-house employee works in systems support, making sure all the systems continue to work well together. This role also includes finance and accounting functions.
Why did ALARA need a new system?
ALARA already had a client management system (CMS) they were very happy with. They are using TRACCS, a system developed by Adamas Corporate Solutions in Western Australia. They wanted to integrate their rostering, payroll, statistical and finance systems with their CMS to reduce double-handling of data and increase the organisation’s efficiency. Their options were either to stop using TRACCS and buy a new system that did everything, or find a system that would work well alongside TRACCS.
How did ALARA choose a new system?
ALARA was very happy with how TRACCS worked for their organisation, particularly because it was a good match for their mixed funding model. TRACCS allows the organisation to produce a ‘needs index’, an important tool for home and community care. For organisations whose work is primarily state-funded, other solutions might prove better.
The entire organisation was also very comfortable using TRACCS, and there was a great deal of legacy data saved in the system. Given all of this, ALARA decided to find a finance/payroll/HR package that would integrate with the system.
ALARA approached Adamas Corporate Solutions for advice on systems they knew worked well with TRACCS. The TRACCS developers provided a list of systems they recommended, and ALARA refined these to a shortlist. They then trialled each of the systems on that list to determine which would work best for them.
ALARA also sought the help of their IT support organisation in selecting a system. They have an ongoing relationship with a local IT company who manage all their hardware and software installation and maintenance and do the majority of their support. That organisation also helps ALARA plan its IT strategy. They meet annually to assess ALARA’s IT situation and what they will need to meet future goals. This IT strategy is then used to inform the organisation’s capital budget, the order in which they enhance their current system, and decisions about what systems to maintain and which to abandon. The IT support organisation was very helpful in determining which system would best meet ALARA’s needs because they have a comprehensive overview of ALARA’s current IT situation and their goals.
After the evaluation process, ALARA elected to implement Attaché General Ledger, Payroll, Fixed Asset, Suppliers and Receivables modules. This was done some years ago. More recently, the costing module “PowerLink” has been added. This will allow a significant reduction in cost centres in the chart of accounts (simplifying the general ledger) and capturing the various reporting attributes needed at the transaction level.
Challenges and benefits
All the software used by ALARA is regularly updated, and generally an update will stop the systems working smoothly together. When this happens, ALARA’s internal systems support person (who works in finance) will look into where the problem has occurred and will provide TRACCS or the IT support organisation with detailed information about what needs fixing.
The major benefit of implementing Attaché alongside TRACCS has been the reduction in double handling of information. Some of the people ALARA supports may be funded through up to five different grants and funding sources. This funding has to be allocated to services for the client within the client management system. This information then has to be attached to the relevant staff person and their relevant billing rate and any co-contribution the client pays, and this data informs the billing system within Attaché. Once the support is done and verified this information feeds payroll data for the staff into the finance system. Statistical reporting for management purposes and the various funding agencies is done from the TRACCs system. The system also generates monthly statements for clients letting them know the support they’ve received, and it provides an itemised invoice of any amounts they have to pay. The system can also invoice other organisations as required. Thanks to the integration of the two systems, all of this data need only be entered once, increasing internal efficiency and delivering access to critical business information. The next phase in development is converting hardcopy rosters and timesheets into an electronic file that field staff can amend and send via a mobile device back to TRACCs. This will save approximately half a full-time position.
Lessons learned and tips for other organisations
ALARA has found that training is vitally important to get the full benefits of the system. Without investment in keeping staff skills up to date, the investment in IT is wasted; training is definitely necessary if they’re to manage the workforce requirements of the NDIS. They have also found that it’s beneficial to give staff a good overview of what the organisation does and of how other staff members and sections use the system. Once you understand how your data will be used by other people, the importance of data integrity becomes obvious. Having an overview of the organisation helps staff get the most out of a new IT system.
They emphasise that installation is not the final step in the process of implementing a new system. Maintaining data integrity is absolutely vital, so ALARA runs regular internal audits to turn up errors in data. By continually checking the data is right, that people are setting up clients correctly and that everyone is properly trained to do their job, they can minimise problems and maintain efficiency.
They also suggest that getting some customisation of a new system may be helpful. ALARA made a few tweaks to Attaché to make sure it did as much as it could for their organisation. They emphasise that there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong system for each organisation, but that this configuration works for them.
For their next technology challenge, ALARA will be looking at replacing their printed rosters with a system for mobile devices. Web portal access by staff and clients is also high on the priority list. They are currently investigating the policy implications of making this IT change.