It has never been easier for schools to gain clarity and control over their true estate values, thanks to innovative systems like Parago’s School Inventory Manager and Academy Asset Manager. But how have schools’ inventory requirements changed throughout the decade, and what lies behind Parago’s success?

Parago solutions are highly sought-after tools that have seen the company become one of the UK’s fastest growing companies in 2015. After just ten years in business, the Reading-based software firm’s asset management solutions are now implemented in schools throughout the UK, the USA, France, Hungary, Dubai, and all schools across the Cayman Islands.

While the need for a quality asset management solution is universal, there have been particular changes here in the UK to the way schools are run, and these have had a big impact on how schools manage their estates.

Early development stages

Tim Roots, a director at Parago, remembers the general consensus from educational establishments when the company’s software was first developed and released back in 2005.

“Schools needed a system that was easy to use, because the more commercial systems available at the time were very expensive, or just far too complicated,” he says. “A lot of our development cost went into making a really visual, easy to use system.”

Back then, the local authorities were still very much involved in the management of the schools in their regions. So, working with Arnewood School, a secondary academy in Hampshire, Parago began designing and pitching its solution to local authorities.

“In many cases, they would purchase software for their schools which often would never get used,” Tim remembers. “Our main goal was to build software that people wanted to use.”

To achieve this, the visual aspect of Parago’s software was very important, as was its usability. “We realised we had all different levels of user,” Tim explains, “and everyone needed to be able to use it effectively.”

Many local authorities signed up for School Inventory Manager, including Tower Hamlets in London – who still use it today, but by 2010 there were massive changes within the schools.

Switching to the academy program

Throughout the first five years of Parago’s existence, the local authorities in charge of managing multiple schools began to lose their powers. For one, there was the introduction from Labour of the ‘BuildingSchools for the Future’ program, when they said they were either going to refurbish or rebuild every secondary school (and many primary schools) in the country. The plan was eventually scrapped when the Coalition came into power in 2010.

This has resulted in more and more schools becoming academies, and as they became more independent, they were also now more accountable for their own accounts and assets.

“All schools, even small primary schools, have huge amounts of assets that are very difficult to manage on manual systems like spreadsheets,” Tim says.

Two big problems for schools are knowing what they have in the first place, and then having to put all of the assets onto a system. Parago offers a tailored service where it completes the job for you – adding all of your assets to the system, valuing them, valuing entire rooms, and photographing everything.

“What schools need from an asset management system is for the whole room values to be added to specified asset values, providing a true estate value. Before 2010, state schools had the reassurance of local authority backing to make sure they would be back in operation as soon as possible. But now, academies that are not prepared with true estate values are vulnerable when making insurance claims,” Tim notes.

Indeed, insurers need receipts and other forms of proof, like photographic evidence. Also, it doesn’t hurt to have photos yourself, as a reminder of how rooms looked before any theft or damage. The app versions of Parago’s solutions for smartphones and tablets make this documentation easier than ever.

“The first app version came out back in 2010,” Tim says. “Before that, we also suffered from having to use things like barcode lasers, guns and other physical methods that are unreliable.

“Schools had to buy all that hardware. But now that people have wireless devices that they can use for other things, at no expense to the school, all they do is pay a subscription for the product and choose the optional services that they need at no extra cost.”

Asset management in 2015

School asset management has certainly come a long way in the past decade, and so has Parago.

In July 2015, School Inventory Manager was implemented in 28 schools in South Carolina – the company’s first venture into the United States. Parago also recently partnered with Blackbaud, one of the most successful education technology firms in America.

“School requirements are universal, wherever they are,” Tim notes. “It’s not just about assets anymore; it’s about having a system that can also schedule premises work, manage business and employee contracts, and produce detailed reports.”

When contemplating why Parago has grown 43 per cent in revenue year on year since 2010, Tim gives an honest answer.

“Some would say the academy program helped us hugely, and I wouldn’t dismiss that. But ultimately it’s because we have a great reputation and we offer great service.

“Schools don’t just leave testimonials about how good you are, unless you are. We’re thankful that we have such great customers and more than 200 testimonials on our website. After a decade, we still work with Arnewood School in Hampshire.”

Ultimately, though, it’s about the product.

“There’s nothing in the same ballpark as Parago’s solutions, and after ten years we’re still improving it all the time.”

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