Blog posts written during 2016

Formatting your data for import into Ava advanced agency web system

Thursday Thursday, November 24, 2016 by Administrator

Importing your data into the Ava advanced agency web system

When you are importing data from an existing system, the data will be in the order that it is exported or copied from your existing system or systems. Whist there are a few standard obsolete or obsolescent systems, there are many that are based on evolved Excel spread sheets. Put simply there are an almost limitless number of variations in the way data can be layed out for us to import.

If you are replacing your existing system with our more modern, reliable and feature rich software, you will be happy to know that we can import data from any system and even combined systems that don’t talk to each other well.

Import is always done using excel spread sheet as the intermediary. We both want to keep your migration costs low so here are a few if the mistakes that can push your costs up or delay the migration process.


Ava can store a range of addresses, all these can be imported

For employees (not limited to), home address, full time work address, reference addresses, next of kin address, a limited company invoice address etc.

For customers (not limited to), organization address, main address, invoice address, contact address(es), work location address etc.

Address should be spread across up to five columns with a separate column for the post code:

Address Column Usage


Ava can store a range of employee skills or job descriptions:

Job descriptions, skills, positions, levels of employment.

These really need to be in separate columns with a simple “yes”

Job Column Usage

The same is true for all training and certification data which can be imported. Where the system stores documents or images, these must be uploaded manually.




Excel has the facility to format (display) dates how you like:

We like “dd mmm yyyy” format which is totally unambiguous as far as UK and other (US) date formatting is concerned. Please apply formatting to all date columns. If you format in this style then it is immediately obvious where the data is either ambiguous or badly formatted. Here is a (made up) example of what can happen:


Exported data:


Formatting Dates


The solution is to format by right mouse clicking on the highlighted cells you want to format. Your actual experience may vary depending on the version of excel or other (Open Office etc.) spreadsheet software you are using.

Formatting Dates 2


You will get the format option box

Formatting Dates 3


Select custom and type in "dd mmm yyyy"

 Formatting Dates 4

 Then click ok to apply this format to the selected area. You may need to google how to do this if your settings prevent this from immediately happening. If the displayed format does not immediately update, you need to copy the data and then (paste) re-enter the data as values.

New values change when you move off the cell.

Formatting Dates 5


You need to enter dates with forward slashes between the day/month/year. Once again experience may vary from version to version and spreadsheet to spreadsheet.

Formatting Dates 6


Phone numbers


Excel is a pain for phone numbers, at the earliest opportunity it will convert them to a pure number lopping off the leading zero.

As you enter it:

Phone Numbers


As it is instantly displayed in the cell

Phone Numbers 2


But when you move off the cell, this happens!

Phone Numbers 3


So enter phone numbers like this:

Phone Numbers 4


And the result is:

Phone Numbers 5


Matching up data for Employee names from two separate sources


If you have a list of employee names with different information from two separate sources e.g. payroll and booking, because they are separate there is no earthly reason to expect the two to match perfectly. Actually one of the reasons for adopting our system is to avoid the sort of problems this causes.


Here are a few examples:

Matching Names


I know my name is "Pettman" but is it "Tony" or "Anthony" Williams or are there two and they are distinguished by using the diminutive for one of them? Is there a Jon and a John Smith?


Only you know! To help this process, we will carry out this comparison and produce a report of miss-matches, and you can then "clean" the supplied data for us to then do a final import.


We can also import historical shift booking information.


This is a separate cost and we will quote for this on sight of example data.


How long does this take?


Using these processes we can get your site up and running from your receipted order usually within or around 10 working days. This is providing there is always someone available who can clarify any ambiguities as they arise.




Ava payslips RTI, the payroll process and HMRC reporting

Thursday Thursday, November 17, 2016 by Administrator

Ava payslips RTI, the payroll process and HMRC reporting

Some systems boast “seamless” integration of scheduling with various payroll packages. These packages usually come at an additional cost. Ava advanced Agency Web system with RTI generates payslips, P60s. P45 information and Invoices for Limited company employees without needing additional costly software. Of course we also support using 3rd party payroll packages either as an interim measure to facilitate a smooth and gradual transfer to Ava or if you simply just prefer keeping your current payroll system or processer.

Payslips can be printed or automatically created as pdf files and emailed to employees. (Click on the images to see a fullsize version.)


Payslip Image


The RTI submission to HMRC is just a few clicks and our software connects to HMRC and submits your RTI return directly.


Rti Submission


Self-Invoices for limited companies are similarly generated as PDF’s and individually emailed as a single batch to the appropriate respective recipients.


Self Invoice Issue


Most Banks these days accept a single file upload of bank payments. Ava advanced Agency Web system with RTI will generate these files with a single click to be uploaded to your bank by you in a few seconds.


Export Payroll To Bank Or 3Rd Party Software


Or to your chosen 3rd party payroll software using an equivalent process.


It's as simple as that. Contact us now to find out how we can streamline your administration and improve your profitability.



Changing to Ava Advanced Web System with RTI from other systems

Thursday Thursday, November 3, 2016 by Administrator

Changing to Ava Advanced Web System with RTI from other systems.


There are a number of reasons for considering changing to your temp or temporary staff allocation or scheduling system to Ava Advanced Web System with RTI.

  • You currently have multiple packages (payroll, invoice, scheduling, compliance, messaging, CRM, candidate applications, accounting etc.) and they don’t talk well to each other or it is costly in terms of time to get them to talk to each other or keep them talking to each other. Time is Money.
  • Your system has evolved from a sensible simple spreadsheet and it is not easy or growing in difficulty to have increasing numbers of users on one Excel spread sheet. This can often result in double bookings to the annoyance of both workers and customers and of course loss of profit.
  • The support for your existing system is poor.
  • Your existing staff scheduling system’s developers have informed you that your existing system requires an expensive upgrade.
  • Your existing system does not support HMRC’s “Making Tax Digital” or other modern messaging features and there is no upgrade path available.
  • Your existing system is less than reliable.
  • Your staff scheduling software developers no longer exist or declined to develop the system further.
  • Your existing staff planning software is on a server in your office and the server needs replacing.
  • Your existing booking system is on a server in your office and does not offer the modern flexibility of the web.
  • A bit sensitive this one: you have spent a significant amount of money developing a custom system and it isn’t performing as promised or the cost of keeping up with changing needs is becoming prohibitive or is already prohibitive.

    Let us examine the last in more detail. You have developed a system, it was delivered on time, it has no bugs and it does everything you want. So it has mobile devices for communication to your employees which means iPhone, Android and possibly Windows phone and it talks to HMRC and does all your returns. Every year Apple releases a new iPhone, each year they improve it. Each year they update the software that runs the phones (Android are no different). Unfortunately your app may not run on the new iOS. Apple are not alone, you want the system to do your HRMC returns. Well we all know the budget changes the rules on an annual basis. What is less well known is that as developers, we get “updates” from HMRC on a more or less weekly basis. So when you budget for developing your perfect system, be aware that you are aiming at a moving target. You certainly need to budget for continued development and support on a regular basis. At this point you feel hard done by. The system was perfect, on time, in budget but was only perfect for a year and is becoming more and more costly in terms of continued development or features that are no longer usable.

Ava Advanced Web Systems cost a few pounds a day per user and should support each user achieving may be 25-30 bookings per day or may be more. Even with 50 users, the development costs of a bespoke system far outweigh Ava licencing costs. Bespoke developers may be good but in general they don’t have a deep understanding of your business.

There is one problem that may make your upgrade path difficult. Screen layouts are different in different software or spreadsheet packages.

The good news is that Ava Advanced Web System has uniquely configurable employee and customer displays able to mirror your current system and so making your consultant training transition far less painful that it might otherwise be. We can also import your customer and employee data: even historical shift data.

There is more good news: our pay and invoice module has unparalleled ease for setting up complex pay and invoice rules allowing you to improve your margins and get business that requires otherwise “difficult” contractual flexibility. On the other hand if your rules are simple a couple of clicks allow you to apply those rules to any group of customers.

We even do bespoke development at below the market rates.


We are happy to discuss your needs however simple or complex, just give us a call on 01491 845 400 or send us a message with your contact details and an outline of your needs to start the ball rolling.




How to resolve a user not receiving a reset password email

Wednesday Wednesday, October 26, 2016 by Administrator

The problem: a user has forgotten their password.


They have correctly clicked on the "Forgotten your Password?" button.


They have put in their correct user name and not received a "Reset password email"


Here are a the few very easy steps to help you resolve this: support article.




Starting and running a temp staff recruitment agency

Friday Friday, October 21, 2016 by Administrator

Starting and running a temp staff recruitment agency or any other company for that matter!


Life is much easier these days and that can dramatically reduce your costs. There is only about twice as much paper work as a few years ago. Importanty this is at least four times easier to complete and many times less expensive.... We have Tim Berners-Lee and his interweb (love the name) to thank (again)! Where would we be without him? The 20th Century is probably the answer. The good news is that the paperwork is all there for you to download and read entirely for free and complete with only nominal costs.

To save yourself several hundred pounds all you need is an hour or two an evening for a reasonable number days. This should see you being able to start and, or stay well legal and know much more than your potential competitors down the road. Some of this took me years to get to know. The main reason for this was I had an accountant who was supposed to be a friend: as a friend this meant I would happily give him IT advice for free and save him hundreds of pounds (may be more) and he would charge me his standard rates for his services and keep this (the following) knowledge to himself.


There are some legal requirements that companies need to undertake:


Not least when you start to “incorporate” or set up your company and you need choose a name. Choosing a name is often quite challenging: it should not be similar to a major competitor. There are the legal reasons given in the documents below and there are the search engine reasons (how people find your web site). They both pull in the same direction. Google will allways suggest more popular results and if your name is too similar then searches for your comapny will be swamped. The link to the guidance document from Companies House is at the bottom of the page.

The government also wants to know if you are (possibly or likely to be) involved in money laundering activities so from a few months ago the law changed. So you should also know about ensuring that the movers and shakers register as part of your company. People with significant control or PSC to give them their official acronym need to be listed. The links to the documents from Companies House follow.


Useful links: the whys and wherefores of Registering individuals and company details.


Check the availabilty of a company name for free at the governement Companies House web site

Check Domain name availability for free and register it in seconds for a few pounds a year



Companies house guidance for limited companies, partnerships and other company types

Incorporation and Names guidance July 2016 pdf

Incorporation and names web page

Confirmation statement

Guidance: Life of a company pdf

Life of a company: annual-requirements web page

Late Filing Penalties pdf

Sir Tim_Berners-Lee: Inventor of the internet





Over a million pounds allegedly conned out of jobseekers recruitment scam

Friday Friday, October 21, 2016 by Administrator

Over a million pounds allegedly conned out of jobseekers recruitment scam....


In a BBC program due to be screened this evening (Friday 21st Oct: Inside out) by Guy Lynn and Aurelia Allen BBC News:

It is alleged that in a scam going on since at least 2012 probably in excess of one million pounds in "accreditation" fees for non-existent jobs. Moreover, victims went on to apparently innocently recruit other victims. May examples of these events have been reported to "Safer Job" this year

Mr Phillips is alleged to have been carrying out the scam since at least 2012 but denies any knowledge of these allegations….




BBC news web site ‘Hundreds’ of jobseekers victims of 'recruitment scam'

Inside out Programme web site

Safe Advice for Employment and Recruitment




Holiday pay, what should it include

Friday Friday, October 14, 2016 by Administrator

Holiday pay, temp staff, zero hours contracts and pay calculations, employment law


In simple terms the Working Time Directive (WTD) stipulates that employees working unspecified hours (zero hours contracts amongst them) e.g. Agency Workers: should receive payments for holidays in proportion to and in addition to their earnings. This law originated with an EU court ruling which stated that for Health and Safety reasons, holiday pay must be paid on or for days when work did not take place i.e. days off.

British Gas decided this calculation did not include personal commission. The net result is: one of their then employees (of about a thousand who would receive extra payments) has taken them to court.

One of the questions is that: with Brexit do I need to bother with EU legislation? The simple answer is yes, the more complex answer is yes because the government approach to Brexit is to enshrine all EU legislation in UK law at the point of exit. So if it's law now: it will be post Brexit.

Cutting to the chase: On the 8th of October 2016 EAT (Employment Appeal Tribunal) decided that it was reasonable for an earlier Employment Tribunal (In November 2014) to insert wording into the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR) to the effect that commission and other similar payments are to be included in holiday pay.

Financially it’s fair to assume it’s worthwhile for British Gas to further appeal, with a 1000 plus other employees feeling hard done by. They have signified they intend to do this. Furthermore there is quite a backlog of appeals, so this will run and run.

The back ground:

Mr Lock was employed by British Gas as a salesman.  His remuneration package included a basic salary plus commission which was based on the number and type of contracts he persuaded customers to enter into; in other words it was results-based commission and did not depend on how much work was done.  He took a number of days’ holiday to which he was entitled.  However, the remuneration paid to him during holidays consisted only of basic salary. He did not receive a proportionate payment of any commission which had been earned during the working time that generated the associate paid leave.




My computer is slow, can I improve it for free?

Monday Monday, October 10, 2016 by Administrator

Does your computer seem slow (especially on the internet)? Are you connected to the internet using Wi-Fi? The following (non tech stuff) may help you improve your interweb (love that description) experience dramatically.

It's really easy, all about traffic and sitting in a queue.

So a brief word of explanation, no tech stuff.

When you get your brand new Wi-Fi router it will have the “factory default” settings. In other words all routers as supplied new have the same password and other (traffic) settings. This may cause a problems.

Wi-Fi just like your radio has channels: Radio 1, 2, 3, 4, Local radio, Independent local radio etc. Imagine what would happen if all the channels were squeezed into one? It’s the same as a motorway road with four or five lanes but all the vehicles using just one of the lanes. If you are there too, you would be stuck in a queue: horrendous traffic. Just move to a free lane and suddenly your journey is transformed.

Moving to another lane: The same happens with your Wi-Fi, they are all supplied by the manufacturer on the same channel just like a lane in our analogy. You can move to a better channel (lane).

But just like traffic: better look first! “Well I don’t know how to” is probably your response! You can do this almost as simply as turning the wheel in your car to change motorway lanes. Just go to get your android phone and go to Google Play store and type in Wi-Fi Analyser (it’s a free app). Once you download it and run it then you get a display of your local traffic.


 wifi car queue


So what does this display mean? Well it’s a display of traffic against lanes (channels). Probably there are a couple of channels that are a lot clearer than the one you are on.

So what do you do now? Note a clear channel or the ones with the smallest amount of traffic, then phone your broadband supplier and ask them how you move Wi-Fi channels on your router (it only takes a couple of clicks with their help). Now we all know that kids understand these things so a good time to double check what the rush hour is like is when they are home from school: there may be some new traffic at that time of day…so check your channel is still free in early evening rush hours as well.


Oh and while you are at it.. change your default password please!


Happy (and faster) browsing.

Starting and running an Agency, some of the things you should know. Pt 2

Friday Friday, October 7, 2016 by Administrator

Starting and running an Agency, some of the things you should know. Pt 2


One of the most important things is not to spend money you don’t need to! When you do spend money only spend wisely on the things you do need or that make you provide a bettter procuct to your customer from the off. In this part we will look at web sites and finance costs.


Web sites


In this day and age you do need a web site. 

Customers are vital and some (like councils) may not even consider you without a web site.

There are a few do’s and don’ts about having a web site.

  • The first don’t is go to a company and ask them to get a “domain” or “URL” for you. This can prove expensive and it is simplicity itself. By doing it yourself you own it directly and also you have control over it if you fall out with your web designer.
  • Choosing a company and web name. Ideally it should reflect your business so “something” Care or Nursing if you are a care or nursing agency.
  • Don’t choose a name that is similar to a major player. As you probably already know if you do a typo in a Google search, it will offer you “popular” alternatives, so people may never get to your web site if they are just searching.
  • Do choose over com, once again Google is the reason why. Google will offer Dot UK sites over international (DOT COM) ones if you are searching in the DOT UK. So put your thinking cap on.
  • Do check that the name is available: it’s easy: just go to any type in your choice of names.
  • Whist you are at it, search for the names you have thought up. Your site name will cost you about £10 for two years if it’s a dot co dot UK one. Once is yours, you automatically have priority to renew it so no need to go for 10 years!

If you become a customer we will help you with making your site secure at the lowest cost and we will provide the help for free.


Finance costs.


Beware hidden finance costs. These can come in many forms so before entering into an agreement for factoring or other loans ask about the following when you hear the “Headline rate”.

Not all financiers are as duplicitous as the following example, but they do occur.

  • The Headline rate may be “3%” per month on total monthly turnover. Sounds reasonable? So let’s do some easy sums: Say your wages bill is £1000 per week or in very round terms £4,000 a month. So the interest is 3*4000 divided by 100 or £120 per month. Now say your T&Cs say strictly 14 days (it’s pretty usual and you may actually be in the pound seat if you are supplying good staff your customers want). Then actually if you get your invoices out at the beginning of the week and you pay at the end, you may only need a loan for 10 days to cover the cash flow.  This meant that you actually need a loan of one and a half weeks turnover before the invoice payments are in the bank. So £1500 will cover it. So you are paying £120 for a £1,500 loan or 120 divide by 1,500 times 100 for on my calculator 8%! Not so reasonable.
  • There may also be an “arrangement fee” to charge you for giving them 8%. This can be between 1% and 10% and is to cover the costs for “arranging” the loan
  • Survey or Audit charges might be £400 to £1000 pounds to cove the bank checking your financial history (usually a few quid to them), assets and balance sheet. Because these change may be a quarterly to yearly charge.
  • Take on fee (if you currently have unpaid invoices), a straight 2% (really about 6% for the same reason as the Headline rate is understated.
  • CHAPS (clearing house automated payment system) fees is very good for the chaps loaning you the money can be £20 to £30 per transaction, actual costs fractions of a penny in computing power.
  • Trust accounting charge: an amount levied (typically 0.2%) every time an invoice is paid into your account (did we mention this is all computerised? Real cost a fraction of a penny.
  • Charge per Invoice schedule, this is to release funds on the same day that they are paid in: usually 1%. I think we mentioned this is all computerised.

In case you think the last three are all charges for the same service by other names with only slight differences, we would agree.




Earlier article Starting and running an Agency, some of the things you should know

Check your choosen domain name is available here:




How to attach customer documents to employee confirmation emails and vici versa

Monday Monday, October 3, 2016 by Administrator

How do I attach customer documents to employee confirmation emails?


One of the major ways the Ava temp staffing agency web system can save very significant amounts of time for your consultants is to send entirely automatic emails, smart apps and text messages on the consultants behalf to both employee temp workers and customers. This is done entirely in the background as part of the standard employee allocation process.


This will substantially improve productivity and eliminate otherwise unprofitable and needlessly repetitive tasks.


You can attach documents to the confirmation emails sent to employees and to customers.

This is the same as attaching identity or training documents concerning employee to the fully automatic booking confirmation sent to the customer.


There are four simple steps


If it does not already exist: Create the information info items in the Customer, company or department section in the drag and drop info designer.


If it is not already visible, add this heading or item to an existing or new tab on the Customer, company or department drag and drop record card layout designer.


Upload the appropriate documents or their images in the appropriate Customer or department record cards.


Add the entry as an attachment on the email content designer.





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