Having spent many months defining a set of detailed requirements for the building of a new Central Portfolio Management System (CPMS), then many more months creating a specification which, through the hard work of our supplier (Tribal Education Ltd), has slowly become our new Information System we are now on the verge of entering the final furlong, testing and go live.

The new CPMS will change the architecture of how research is performance managed in the UK. It will enable real time data to be collected on recruitment, resources and the content of research. It is the first time the Information System supporting the research pathway is truly integrated and marks years of hard work across the organisation to enable information systems to be truly transformational.

If we use the analogy of Sainsbury’s sourcing the perfect Sunday roast chicken; we have worked hard to find the best free range chicken to provide to the research networks. We have secured the best possible recipe from Jamie Oliver and all the extras that need to be added to make it truly delicious. Now we need to work with those that will use CPMS on day one to ensure that they don’t ‘burn’ the chicken, as we won’t be able to get our money back if through user error we don’t implement it correctly.

CPMS will truly be the information system led disruption that is needed, but disruption in the true form of the word doesn’t always have the positive meaning that innovators have applied to it! The implementation of CPMS can not be a disruption to the delivery of clinical research and therefore the planning of the implementation of CPMS is taking on a military-like level of detail and accuracy.

We have no choice but to do what every rule book says don’t do, ‘Big Bang’ implementation. On a given day in the not too distant future our old portfolio information system will be turned off and our new system will become the one true performance management system. That means the degree of planning for that short period of time is significant to say the least. The implementation team has experts in all the required fields, project and programme management, technology and a virtual team of training specialists. The effort that is going in to ensuring that the team are in the right place and the right time is huge. For me as the responsible executive looking on, this builds confidence in delivery.

Implementation readiness is the key to all of this though, not simply the system, but the customers of the new system being instrumental in decision making about go live. Rather than simply pick the next date after testing has been completed we have polled the customer base to understand what the best day to go live is. We were really surprised by the answer. Obviously we knew to avoid Friday afternoon, but we did assume Monday morning. Our customers proved us wrong. The best time for our new system to go live will be a Tuesday afternoon, and mid to late January would be preferred over December. Even more surprising was the notion that there was a preference to not have ‘floor walkers’ on go live and have a more guaranteed telephone support system.

Integration to other systems adds complexity for any implementation, and CPMS is the central integration point for every one of the Clinical Research Network’s systems. To make it even more complex it doesn’t simply replace one system but a series of systems that have integrated workflow and multiple entry points. However, we have built the integration of systems into the delivery from the beginning, both in the technical design and the change management and training elements.

The most obvious impact of the implementation though is the newly available access point for local systems or Local Portfolio Management Systems (LPMS) as we refer to them. The implementation of this element of the programme has been broken into three areas:

  1. Technical turn on
  2. Business process uni-directional development and switch on
  3. Business process for bi-directional development and switch on

By breaking down this part of the implementation into the three areas described above we can ensure that acceptance of business change at each stage is achieved. Breaking this down enables us to ‘chunk up’ the delivery that has a significant impact on the working practices of our organisation. Each step of the way we will be able to check that business benefit has been delivered, to what degree and with what impact. This also has ensured easier business acceptance and that that this change is wrapped in the concept of service improvement rather than change brought about by IT.

Successful implementation of information technology takes three things:  Knowledge of the business, knowledge of the technology & planning.” According to one of the big venders offering us help with implementation, these three areas are essential and are not always well covered.

We have them covered though, and have spent the length of the programme considering these areas and trying, through the efforts of a programme team, to have these areas in hand. The team has impacted upon each of these areas and we are therefore able to keep this implementation in house, working with the delivery partner of CPMS rather than bringing in an external organisation to provide us with assistance.

It’s a sad fact that no one remembers how well a programme solution was designed, tested or built if it fails to implement cleanly.” Wil Cunningham, head of WilPower IT Consulting says, and we have to agree. The prioritisation of the organisation and particularly the teams that service the delivery of CPMS (Workforce Development, Communications and Service Management) can now focus on the clean implementation that Wil describes.

The programme team have asked that we try not to use the ‘D-Day’ phrase, but we can’t help ourselves. In recent presentations we have even taken to using a quote from Sir Winston Churchill, “You are about to embark upon the great crusade toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you!” The delivery of CPMS really is as important as the quote would have you believe. The UK will truly be the most integrated environment for the delivery of clinical research once CPMS is implemented, and for that I am very proud of the team and supplier that are delivering it.





With thanks to James Batchelor (J.Batchelor@soton.ac.uk) for the roast chicken analogy.