NHS Business Services Authority launches digital strategy

NHS body’s digital strategy aims to change culture, practices and processes to create an environment where people can do their best

The NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) has launched a digital strategy, focused on why it needs to deliver services, rather than what it is going to deliver.

The strategy does not set out what technology and products the NHSBSA plans to implement, but rather why it is undertaking work, and how it plans to deliver better services for its users.

“Our digital strategy is not defined by the services and the products that we deliver to millions of users every day,” the strategy said. “We don’t mean a concentrated effort to deliver robotic process automation (RPA), artificial intelligence (AI) or blockchain across our services or any other hype tech of the moment. We may adopt some of these technologies, they may even be a by-product, but they are not our strategy.”

The strategy has five strands, including people, which the organisation’s digital directorate sees as its biggest strength. It wants to support the grown of its team, and has moved away from a traditional hierarchy structure and adopted a “matrix management approach”.

The strategy said: “As we have grown, we’ve identified the need to invest in the future by developing our people in line with their aspirations and that of our organisation.

“To support this, we introduced structured development time, allowing each member of the team half a day personal development time per sprint to explore and expand their knowledge and capabilities.”

Another strand of the strategy is designing services to meet user needs. It said many government policies were not designed for the internet era, but that in itself should not stop the organisation from changing the way it does things.

“To design services which do the hard work, so our users don’t have to, we must first understand the needs of our users – not just in the digital directorate, but across our whole organisation and beyond,” it said.

“Digital transformation means designing services based on user needs, making it easier for the citizen to do what they need to do, and reducing the cost for government to provide those services.”

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It wants everyone in the organisaton to understand and empathise with user needs, and to solve this, it is running an “introduction to user-centred design programme”.

The strategy also aims to transform the mindset of investment, and has established a funding model which establishes digital services as “evolving constantly – iterating from first release, live support, through to retirement”. 

The NHSBSA sees technology as “an ally”, and will use it to make the user experience better. “Technology choices will be made by our cross-functional teams,” the strategy said. “They will not be constrained by the boundaries of the present or past, nor will those choices be made through a desire to explore the latest hype technology.

“Choices will be considered and thoughtful, with a clear understanding of the need and impact, and by sharing evidence-based decisions, a standard will be created.”

In a blog post, Darren Curry, chief digital officer at the NHSBSA, said the strategy “explains why we are doing the work we do and how, together with the culture, the practices and the processes we apply to deliver the best services for our users”.

He added: “Our strategy is not a list of what we will be doing – technologies or products. The ‘what’ we do will be flexible and will adapt as we learn more about our services and, most importantly, the needs of those service users.”

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