24th October 2013

By Rachel Dunscombe

Rachel Dunscombe CIO at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust believes the NHS needs to be more open to private sector influences and technologies. 

In this article she gives the example of implementing Agile Project Management, a way of working originating in the private sector that has delivered outstanding results within her organisation.

Agile Project Management (APM) is a fast and agile working methodology.

It is also rigorous, a combination that offers significant advantages over more accepted ways of project managing IT tasks.

It is different because it relies on the fluidity of the flow of information and communications between members of the IT team.

Moreover it offers IT teams frequent checkpoints that ensure that projects do not go off course by the nature of the rapid feedback loop. 

You could say Agile’s nature is a sprint, then careful reflection and then a sprint and so on.

Traditional project management in contrast can suffer from bureaucratic characteristics, which are stripped out of Agile.

My own practical experience with APM has made significant savings in time and given my teams a great sense of achievement.  Outcomes and standards have not been compromised.

One example that immediately comes to mind is a transition project for 1300 users that was completed with three days, an extraordinary turnaround – one without significant faults.

Agile Project Management is a very intense process.  It is new.  It originates from the private sector. It originates from the games industry and banking to be specific.  It is bound to cause fully understandable concerns.

I am more aware than anyone that IT project management needs to be rigorous especially in the NHS.  We are dealing with delivering patient care and that means we have to be additionally vigilant as well as proactive in the way we tackle IT projects. 

Agile has caused me no concern in relation to these issues.

I should mention that Agile could work in conjunction successfully with other ways of project managing work.

Yet, we need also to balance these concerns with using new ways of working, new influences and indeed new private sector professionals within the NHS to deliver effective IT.

We need to be more commercially savvy, more open to new ways of working and new professionals entering the NHS.

If Agile Project Management works in the private sector, it can work in the public sector.

The ISD network is scheduling Agile Project management courses for the NHS in 2014, so it would be worth learning how this methodology can be employed within the healthcare.

Rachel Dunscombe is the CIO for Bolton NHS Foundation Trust.

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