Reviewing the year, something we should all do to reflect on the success and ensure that lessons are learnt from the elements that could be done differently.

It has been a really busy year; a year that we had been promising the team will enable us to be more considered and reflective in the future, although, as we move to the New Year I know the first quarter is at least as busy as 2013 has been.

So, to break down the key elements, I have collated my highlights on a month by month basis, not because these are the biggest achievements, more because they meant the most to me in some way or because they set us up for the next ‘big thing’ in 2014.

January – We left December 2013 with the vast majority of the contract negotiations with Tribal Education complete and some clarity on how were going to go about building the Central Portfolio Management System (CPMS), our new system for managing the portfolio of research across the NHS. January saw us chasing our tails to get the contract signed by the highest authority and the final elements of it agreed, not least of which was the governance subsequently put in place to deliver the system.

In January we also took a road trip to NHS Bristol to see how they have implemented their Local Portfolio Management System (LPMS) to deliver the most clinical benefit. It was on the journey back that the bones of LPMS systems of choice (SoC) were built to ensure that wherever possible the same benefits could be delivered across the entire research network, in a system agnostic manner.

February – The NIHR CRN delivered demonstrations of its Information Systems strategy to the rest of the NIHR and partner academia. The key goal was to provide a ‘show and tell’ to enable the rest of the organisation to try to build on the work done at the NIHR CRN. A lesson learnt from this though was simply showing new ways of working or systems does not drive corporate change; we need to keep addressing this to try to achieve the benefits we think we can across the length of the organisation.

We also were able to complete the design phase for CPMS in February, delivered exactly to the planned date agreed in the contract negotiation stage.

March – A big success for us, with the help of Methods Consulting we were able to submit our NHS Information Governance Toolkit submission for the first time and gain a ‘good’ audit result, one that now sets the bar for all subsequent years and allows us to lead the way in how best practice Information Governance can bring about solid improvement to the research journey.

April – For the first time the Information Managers from across the whole Clinical Research Network came together. Being able to do this in Birmingham at the same time as the HC2013 conference enabled not only a great sharing and learning experience but also an element of team building to begin to be ingrained in the structure. The initial seeds of the virtual Business Intelligence Unit were planted and the solution stage of the Open Data Platform (ODP) and relationship with QlikView started.

May – The Senior Management Team of the Informatics Directorate was in need of some time out to build their vision of how we would deliver the strategy that had been jointly developed. A series of sessions to build the team interactions were put in place, not least of which was the opportunity to do ‘Difficult Questions’ Media training with JRR, an experience that taught the team a great deal when it comes to reacting under pressure and working together to build answers.

May was also the month that I managed to get some time away from the office to put the final touches to our wedding plans on the island of Elvissa.

June – The final drafting of the NIHR-wide Information Strategy was completed and approved by the senior team at Department of Health. The governance was altered to reflect this and the whole NIHR Information group could get behind one direction forward that will bring about the most spectacular advances in how clinical research is done in the NHS.

July – Always the month to get to the music festivals and for the first time in quite a few years the sun was out and festivals could be enjoyed lying back and enjoying the music rather than finding a new way to stay dry! Despite the social side of July it was still a busy month, we appointed maternity cover for our Head of Informatics. The team were also able to go live with the first users of ODP in its very early beta stage, testing the benefit realisation and ease of use of the product in a live environment. The user base however was to ramp up extraordinarily quickly even at this beta stage.

I also started writing this blog!

August – The greatest project of my life came to fruition, getting friends and family all to the white island to be there for our wedding! After a year of preparation and planning all went extremely well with lots of happy faces, smiles and great times had by all. Whilst all this was going on the world continued to turn and innovation in disease specific areas continued to bring about benefits. Stroke research in particular discovered a new solution called Capture Stroke, which delivered remarkable benefit to the end site collecting information on patients involved in trials.

September – A focus on the security strategy we need to have in place was an exciting task for the ninth month of the year. Inspired in some part by the two chapter meetings of the Information Security Forum (ISF) in 2014; the Analogies Project presenting at the earlier one in the year and the September meeting being at the spiritual home of computing, Bletchley Park, gave us some great food for thought and enabled us to build on the work we had completed earlier in the year to work through the NHS IG Tool Kit.

October – The NIHR held its Industry Conference, bringing together heads of research from across many Life Sciences partners. I was lucky to be asked to share the stage with leaders from Industry and our CEO to deliver a presentation on the way in which our Information Strategy was coming together to support each and every partner in the delivery of clinical research in the NHS.

Also scheduled for October was a UKTI-led visit to the States with our CEO. A whistle-stop tour, coast to coast, to show the US-based industry teams what we had done and where we were going. A worthwhile visit that has already seen the development of the Reference Data Service (RDS) move from a supporting solution to that of centre stage as industry partners begin to develop connectors for it.

November – The winter started to arrive, but so much later than normal! An invite to the ISF Congress to present on the security of Open Data was an exciting opportunity. At the time I hadn’t realised I would be following Sir Ranulph Fiennes on stage, nor that I would be quizzed about my thoughts on AOL being exposed through access to open data. However despite this we still had a great amount of interest in the concepts of securely opening up data and how we could do it.

December – The end of the year, normally a time to be a little more considered and schedule the planning for the next year, but not for us this year. The first three months of 2014 are going to be about readiness for new systems and readiness for organisational change. So for Information Systems, team planning for a big bang change of multiple systems as we move from March to April in 2014 was the key task for December. Making sure that everyone knows what they are working on and what the priorities are for each team in the first three months has been key to ensuring that everything is ready for that day when we flick the switch and everything starts to work a little differently.

Summary – It has been the best year I have ever had; every month has brought a different challenge, a different opportunity and new experiences. The challenges have been there all year and we have slowly but surely knocked at each one and started to work out how to deliver against it, and we have still enabled some exciting innovations to happen.

And now we simply look forward to 2014 and all that it offers us, a new name for the team and a chance to continue to make a difference.