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A ‘single customer’ approach to knowledge sharing and procurement

A guest post by Sophie Rawlings, Head of IM and ECM Programme Lead, Department of Health’s Estates and Information Services

Our Estates & Information Services (E&IS) team’s project to give our Department of Health (DH) teams as well as colleagues in Arm’s Length Bodies (ALBs) and Non-Departmental Public Bodies (NDPBs) more affordable and easier-to-use collaboration capabilities is gathering pace and scale with now over 5,000 registered users.

The collaboration service – part of the DH’s shared service programme giving staff and partner bodies more cost-effective ICT infrastructure and team working capabilities – has not only seen our E&IS team carry off the 2015 UK Cloud Awards Digital Marketplace prize, it’s also helping us realise a ‘single customer’ approach to partnerships and commercial activity. 

What we were looking for was an affordable and agile collaboration platform that could be easily adapted for online project management, communities of interest, supporting governance boards and policy development working groups.   

In May 2014, we procured INOVEM’s Kahootz software via the Digital Marketplace (previously the Government G-Cloud CloudStore), branding it as ‘DH eXchange’ – a new external collaboration service for the department. The DH eXchange tool is ideal for closed, task-based teams working across organisational boundaries to share information and ideas, seek input on draft documents, manage data returns and stimulate debate on policy proposals. Mobile-enabled, DH eXchange can be accessed from any device, including tablets and smartphones. It’s secure and accredited for managing OFFICIAL information.

INOVEM was able to provide us with a consumption-based ‘Active User’ licensing model from the outset. This enabled pay-as-you-use cloud service, which can be procured for as few as ten users and can be grown or shrunk as demand requires. The company also worked with us to devise a methodology treating DH shared service partners as a ‘single customer’, avoiding double-counting of users accessing more than one DH or ALB site.

This simplicity of charging also enables the service to be adopted by the DH and partners without miring any of our teams in additional work to disaggregate costs and apportion cross-charging. This agreed model ensures price transparency and simpler cost monitoring as projects are scaled.

Looking at user uptake, our E&IS team has set up more than 130 workspaces (including the National Information Board and the Ebola Communications Network) with over 5,400 registered users in around ten months. The service has proved popular with our staff due to both the ease-of-use and functional richness of the tool, as well as the speed of set-up and the responsiveness of the support.

The shared service agreement’s ‘active user licensing’ is already delivering value for money. According to Kahootz’s own estimates, the innovative licensing agreement has saved DH itself in the region of £100,000 per year to date. So far the Health & Social Care Information Centre, Public Health England, Professional Standards Authority, NHS Trust Development Authority and Health Research Authority have also taken up the service under the DH shared service programme’s umbrella contract. Between them they represent an additional 1,000 active user licences to date and so far have delivered estimated total savings of around £30,000 per year.

The partnership model’s flexibility came into its own when helping DH’s team to procure and deliver the community networking platform for the Centre for NHS Procurement Efficiency (CPE) launch in May 2014, which saw all the platform set-up aspects completed in 15 days flat. With around 3,000 registered community users, CPE is fast becoming the home of learning, networking and knowledge sharing in NHS procurement.

Traditional procurement and IT development approaches would have rendered the CPE’s ambitious delivery timeframe impractical, but the cloud service’s flexibility meant that our team could easily adapt it to the CPE’s functional needs to meet the tight deadline.

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