I have a directorate of around 50 people that I am extremely proud of, they work hard to deliver some wonderful innovative solutions to quite complex problems against a financially “tight belt”. The structure is quite traditional for any informatics directorate;

  • Project Management function
  • Technology Office (Including Infrastructure, Development and Test)
  • Design Authority (Including Business Analysis)
  • Service Management
  • Business Intelligence Unit

Once every quarter we have an away “day”, its more like four hours than an actual day but it gives the whole directorate chance to get away and work together across disciplines on issues and problems, building relationships and developing solutions. It normally entails a bit of a social side too!

This quarters away day had two key parts, firstly a day in the life of the CIO, it would seem that the team wanted to know what it was like to be me, and a session in the style of the TV programme Dragons Den which would allow groups to work up a pitch on an innovations solution they thought we could bring to the organisation. My Senior Management Team (SMT) acted as judge and we promised there would be a prize.

So, for me the first part was difficult, a day in the life of me, I can’t just stand up and say, jeez, it’s busy! Nor did I want to get into the detail of everything that happens, some days are exciting some days go to plan and schedule (thanks in part to the very excellent PA I have). So I put down my list of things to do and my list of things I worry about, I make a lot of lists, and I used this to try to get across the complex ins and outs of running Information Systems for clinical research in the UK. It seemed to work, not too much “consultant bingo” was one comment and the other was no wonder we are all so busy if you have all that in your head!

Next was to kick start the Dragons Den, we had set aside a good chunk of time with a lunch break in the middle to allow the teams that the SMT created to create their ideas and pitches, we had provided resource to help develop thinking and of course, being an Informatics team there were copious amounts of technology on the desks to help.

At the beginning of this blog I said I was proud of the team, and here is one of the reasons why. They were put in teams they would not normally work in and within 5 minutes there was an intense buzz about the room, they were given tight deadlines and scenarios but jumped into it like men and women possessed, and at the end of the session we had eight original, benefit led ideas that, if we had the time and resource, I would implement into the heart of our business this year. The diversity of the suggestions was remarkable, ranging from portal based learning development tools to Information Security toolkits, quite mind blowing.

But the winning suggestion, and not because it had the trendiest theme, was a BIG query solution, a solution to open up unstructured documentation (to the tune of half a million documents going back to 2006) to enable learning and best practice to be got at from across the process of gaining permission to do clinical research or run a clinical trial. Not only was this at suggestion stage, the pitch was well thought through and was absolutely grounded in the benefit it could release to research in England.

Not just the “dragons” but the entire directorate believed in the solution and could immediately see the benefit, so now we are in the early stages of how to do this, the wining team leading the delivery of this new innovation.

So, the next time someone says to me that IT is complicated; it doesn’t understand the business or is for geeks and techies I am going to insist they come to one of our away days and see a modern IT team in action, a team that understands the business and puts benefits before technology. We have achieved this simply by working together.