Maximise NDIS Plans, Participant outcomes, get paid and profit
We want to start with a warning that this article uses commercial language, which can cause offence. We are the first to be offended when profits are placed before people but we cannot avoid the need to focus on commercial imperatives in the NDIS.
We have been consulting to businesses since the NDIS began and we know for sure that nothing is simple in the Scheme, it’s a disruptive, uncertain and difficult mother. Amongst all this volatility and confusion, we are seeing many providers miss a key approach to viability and NDIS success. There’s a way to increase revenue while also ensuring better Participant outcomes. The key is to help Participants get the best Plans possible, improve Plan spending and ensure you get paid properly.
So, if you have already done a truckload of work on costs, it’s time to focus more on revenue. This article is the first in a series on this topic; future articles will provide more depth on these issues.
The Plan: Revisit Revenue
1. Assist participants to get the best plans possible
Grow your existing customer spend.
It’s not just about whacking on an “NDIS Pre Planning Information Session’, that’s so 2015. As Brent Woolgar and Sally Coddington point out, supporting Participants to get better Plans is a highly sophisticated approach that involves strategy, education, evidence, expertise and maybe even a little advocacy. We are seeing way too many Participants get under-funded plans that leave them very disadvantaged. We also consistently see Participants that are better supported get better results. Better Plan outcomes mean more potential money from your existing customer to spend on your services. Who doesn’t want that?
2. Match your services to Plans
Increase your revenue by 34% without more clients – want to know how?
The last NDIA Quarterly Report showed that 34% of available funding (already in Participant Plans) is not being spent. So, increasing revenue is not just about getting the dollars into Participant Plans, it’s also getting the dollars spent. It is not ok that after waiting so long, many Participants still cannot get access to the full range of reasonable and necessary supports they need. Providers are missing huge opportunities to provide services that capture this underspend, but they need be smart and flexible enough to spot the opportunity and then provide the service. And please! It’s not about shoe-horning what you currently do into the Price Guide. You are not an ugly step-sister and this is not a glass slipper. Think Lean Start Up, and if you don’t know what that means, it is time to learn. It is a business development loop that encourages business to Build, Measure and Learn, moving through the cycle as quickly as possible.
3. Know Your Price Guide.
Work out where you need to go.
In many organisations we are seeing the wrong folks doing the wrong jobs. We’ve got accountants driving service changes and we’ve got senior managers who think knowing the detail of the Price Guide is beneath their pay grade. The Price Guide is the NDIS roadmap to opportunity. It tells you what services you need to develop and which ones to avoid, but only if you know how to navigate it. Don’t delegate this expertise to technical experts, don’t give the map to someone who cannot give directions. Our advice is senior management should sleep with the Price Guide under their pillows. Seriously.
4. Optimise your business processes
Get paid for all the work you do.
The NDIS requires way more than adjusting to new paperwork and new interfaces. We are seeing lots of disability services losing their precious (low) margins through failures and errors at many points along the path to getting paid. Intake, service bookings, service agreements, costing, rostering, invoicing, and portal interface are just a few of those points. Fee for service doesn’t only mean that we need to account for every staff hour; it means that consistency and accuracy in information gathering, data entry, record keeping and communication become critical to business success. Leaving support items off a service agreement, describing a support provided inaccurately on an internal document, or making an error on the roster can all mean the difference between profit and loss. To get these processes right every time, your systems and workflows need to function simply and efficiently.
5. Job design & skill development
Ensure you have the roles and skills needed to succeed.
New NDIS business processes require high levels of accuracy, literacy, numeracy and attention to detail, as well as the ability to comprehend budgets, multiple funding streams and NDIS pricing guidelines. These are not traditional frontline staff skills. Many staff require skill development and a lot of support as they grapple with new ways of working. It is also important to look at the way some roles are designed, and whether it is realistic to require, for example, a staff member or team leader to be able to accurately enter complex information in a highly distracting environment, especially if they are also simultaneously responsible for direct support and/or staff supervision. Our experience is that distractions are the number one cause of data entry errors. Can team members work undistracted when they need to?
6. Develop a values based commercial culture
Address the (commercial) elephant in the room.
There’s still too much fear of commerciality in our sector. Until we can embrace the financial bottom line, we either ignore it (at our peril) or we outsource it to people who know nothing about Participant outcomes. To run a sustainable business, we need to marry commerciality with the right values. We need to address staff fears of being commercial and work with them on why this does not mean they have to give up their values.
People work in the disability because they want to make a difference. We can tap into this intrinsic motivator by engaging with staff about what it really means to focus on better outcomes for people with disability in the NDIS. DSC has developed the framework of a values based commercial culture and its six components as the foundation for this sort of engagement. What does it mean to be:
These components form a strategic approach to promoting a culture that is focussed on getting the best outcomes for Participants (values based) while delivering revenue with a sustainable margin (being commercial). You know you are on track when decision making is driven by both value for money and great outcomes for Participants. When everyone cares about costs, efficiency and effectiveness.
Way too many organisations are compromising their organisational cultures by being overly focussed on cost reductions as the only way to survive in the NDIS. At the same time, they are leaving significant amounts of money on the table and Participants are being disadvantaged. We have been saying this since the start and now have the evidence: the organisations that do well in the NDIS are focussed on getting the best outcomes for Participants and have a commercial approach to their work.
So that’s the plan. Your priority should be to revisit revenue in 2019 and focus on Participant outcomes. It’s that simple and that complex.
Everyone's a winner, baby, that's the truth - Hot Chocolate, 1978