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Learning from experience: what makes for a successful IT deployment?

For over 25 years System C has been helping Trusts across the UK to deploy hospital systems on time and to budget.  This experience in putting in both its own systems and third party software has allowed the company to develop and refine a standard deployment methodology. 

Deploying a core hospital system is a major undertaking for any Trust and comes with significant risk. System C’s approach is based on its tried and tested experience, with a commitment to effective partnership and engagement, correct prioritisation of tasks, good resource selection and early intervention to prevent any ‘show stoppers’.

The problem

Acute Trusts that are on the verge of deploying a core hospital system are faced with a significant challenge for several reasons:

  • Infrequent practice – a Trust might only do a large-scale deployment once every 10 years but it needs to get it right the first time
  • High stakes – the project needs to run smoothly without affecting patient care and staff's ability to do their jobs.
  • Increasing operational and financial pressures - the project needs to complete when senior leaders said it would, and be delivered within the agreed budget

The solution

A successful deployment is one that sets out to achieve a safe, controlled and predictable go-live with a prompt return to ‘business as usual’ and maximum benefits released to patient and staff as early as possible.  System C has deployed 23 of its own core hospital systems successfully over the last 5 years, not to mention numerous departmental and child health systems.

The secret to System C’s approach lies in its fine-tuned planning and deployment methodology.  Every deployment has been treated as an opportunity to improve the company’s efficiency at deploying hospital systems and meeting project milestones.  Our methodology can be applied to replacing a single system, as well as to more complex deployments - such as working with a newly-merged Trust to replace multiple legacy systems and operational processes with a new core platform. 

The approach

Trust-wide engagement

The deployment of a new Trust system needs to be approached as a whole-organisation project.  An IT department acting alone cannot deploy a system into a Trust and expect to reap the full benefits.  The organisation will inevitably need to make changes to processes and workflows, and the Trust and the IT department need to work together from the outset to make the deployment a success. 

 

Effective partnership working

There are certainly many lumps and bumps to navigate in the course of a go-live but if everyone is engaged early, is pragmatic and works well together as a team, the deployment is smoother, less stressful and fun.

Early engagement allows both parties to clarify roles and responsibilities and ownership through the project lifecycle to ensure the project proceeds in the best shape possible.

 

Improved resourcing and prioritisation

One of the key requirements of a Trust is that its deployment resources are in place from the outset of the project, and that the staff selected have an excellent understanding of the Trust’s current business processes, existing system(s) and organisational structure. 

The Trust’s deployment team should be made up of experts in their responsible area with the required level of authority to make decisions on behalf of their departments/teams.  It’s also important not to under-estimate the amount of work required and overburden key staff.  Inevitably, people will be required to double-up their roles but the deployment project should be the only additional workload alongside their day job in order to ensure there is adequate resources to meet project milestones.

If all these factors are executed well they are more likely to contribute to the deployment getting off to a promising start and maintaining the same energy throughout the duration of the project.

 

Avoid common show stoppers

System C’s experience has highlighted common areas that can prove to be a show stopper if they aren’t given the attention required:

  • Data migration – it is never too early to start data migration to prevent a backlog of data entry. Since the start of 2014, System C has completed 13 Medway data migration projects, migrating 357,959,621 records with a 99.98% successful load rate. 
  • Staff training – keeping a close eye on training and spotting any gaps in the groups of staff and percentage of staff trained can prevent a training issue halting a project in its track.
  • Reporting – moving to an automated returns process, direct from live operational data, can cause significant reporting differences. These need to be understood as early as possible in the deployment process.

 

Track record

System C’s 23 core Medway deployments were all delivered successfully and on time, with 70% of these sites taking 12 months or less from start to go-live.  Deployments vary enormously in size and scope. They have included Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, one of the country’s largest Trusts, providing services to over 2.5m people and with 1,700 beds.  University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust is another large teaching hospital and Medway user, with 9,000 staff and a population of 350,000.  At the other end of the scale are the smaller, specialist trusts, such as the Christie NHS Foundation Trust, a leading expert in cancer care.