I have been asked to present at a summit of CIOs (http://www.ciouksummit.com/) later this week on the subject above and therefore thought it would be of use, and hopefully of interest to get some of the ideas down on here.

What our organisation needs is the ability to provide interoperable systems, link legacy systems to new shiny systems, and utilise open data standards and capabilities. We have tried to use that word open in a different way by opening up our data to information managers across the research eco-system, allowing them to create open queries that can be shared across the organisation, and therefore providing the catalyst for service improvement.

For those that visit here often you will know something about the systems we are deploying and the legacy we are trying to improve upon, but for new readers and to allow us to take stock of where we are I wanted to try to gather my thoughts on where we are going and what we are starting to achieve.

First a note, this is not an advert for our suppliers, we have however gathered a selection of suppliers around our delivery that are today helping us to make a difference. We have a strategy of not having an enterprise wide supplier and trying to seek out the best systems for each need we have. Our critical infrastructure is a mixture of Oracle and Microsoft and recent additions of Linux, which whilst giving the infrastructure team a headache it does mean we have the most appropriate solution for each of our systems.

We have effectively created our own private cloud solution that is scaled appropriately, it is not the size and capability of going to Amazon or Google but provides us what we need and allows our hosts the University of Leeds to provide a high level of support to the business and provides our system suppliers the ability to deploy systems on to our own infrastructure.

The information systems themselves are a series of integrated modules rather than one solution size that fits all. The entry point into our systems is a solution known as CSP. This is a bespoke system using Oracle platforms. As a solution it provides workflow and reporting support to the NHS as it works through the process of achieving permission to deliver clinical research at a local level. However there is no way we could describe CSP as ‘cutting edge’, when it was built the horrible phrase bleeding edge probably applied as the team tried to shoe horn the most benefit out of new Oracle sub systems, whereas now, two years later, it delivers what it needs to but doesn’t utilise all of the possibilities of the infrastructure it is landed upon.

The next module along the work flow is our new Central Portfolio Management System (CPMS). CPMS acts a central spine for all data collected about clinical research, it has work flow elements integrated to CSP and our other sub systems and will, once live in late January, be the central system for performance management data of clinical research. It is this system that we are changing our Information Systems strategy around, changing users into fans and ensuring that we achieve an organisation that can make the most of its data and the volume of capable users.

Underpinning these two systems is the Reference Data Service (RDS). The RDS is a simple idea realised, the ability to master and expose reference data relating to clinical research in the UK. What has been fascinating about the development of the RDS though has been the external interest in having system to system access to it. This is an interest that has caught us all on the hop a little but one that we can satisfy through the industrialisation of the RDS. Having large organisations from the Life Sciences industry building connectors to the RDS so that they can consume data about structures of the NHS, researchers, resources and even the UK terminology will make it easier for research to be done in the UK, making this truly ‘cutting edge’ in our world.

The system that started us on the path to innovation and the one we pin any conversations about ‘cutting edge’ development and the ‘open organisation’ to the most is the Open Data Platform (ODP). ODP is a series of Apps available from the new NIHR CRN App Centre, the apps associated to ODP are those that allow varying levels of access to the information we collect and enable the user to apply business intelligence tools to the data to develop insight that is gathered from the information we hold.

The infrastructure in place for the ODP enables the organisation to utilise a dispersed capability to develop new apps that can then be used across the UK, delivering specific data based insight into research and enabling the work force to build solutions that meet needs as quickly as the technology can be adopted.

The App Centre itself will, in 2014, become the front door to the tools the organisation has deployed and enable SMEs involved in research in the UK to surface their innovations to clinical researchers, business intelligence leads and perhaps most importantly public and patients interested in clinical research.

A development in pilot today is the ability to surface disease specific trials directly into clinical systems and disease pathways within these systems. Doing this will prompt and enable the clinician to offer access to the clinical trial at the point of care directly to the patient, in theory this will enable a change to the landscape of access to clinical trials, the pilot will provide us with the evidence and  therefore the impetus to do this across a wider care setting.

We are becoming an open organisation through the systems we have developed and how they facilitate a change to our culture, information systems are a facilitator or supporting agent to culture change, if they are the catalysts then I would not be sure that they will become imbedded in our business. Information Systems shouldn’t be the reason for cultural change to occur, becoming an open organisation is the need of the organisation, the innovation of systems merely facilities this being possible.

The speed we build and adopt new systems has improved significantly over the last two years and that enables the reaction times of the organisation to adopt new technology where there is an identified business need that brings about an improvement to the service we offer, in other words business led change using technology to adopt change at speed.

Exactly where we want to be!