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Shared Services - Painful or Painless?
This time last year, the government set out its controversial plans to share data across departments and organisations as part of the Transformational Government agenda. From an individual's perspective, this was good news. Through the sharing and collaboration of data held on individuals, the initiative aims to deliver government services in a more customer focused manner. However, for government staff and IT suppliers, data sharing was viewed as a significant challenge.
A recent QAS survey revealed that, whilst the vast majority of people are bought into the benefits of shared services as a way to improve customer service and internal working practices, there are concerns over the practicalities. 40% of those interviewed see technical issues as the main barrier to sharing data within their organisation, whilst a further 37% cite procedural barriers. It is also essential that all the necessary privacy and data protection safeguards are in place to ensure that personal data is handled, stored, processed and used correctly in compliance with data protection legislation.
As specialists in contact data management, we have helped many organisations kick-start the shared services journey. If you see shared services as a daunting challenge, here are a few words of advice to get you started:
Start at the end
We have found that organisations making the best progress have set out clear objectives at the start, determining the type of data that they wish to share and what it will be used for. Your objectives impact the amount and type of data you need. Knowing what you want at the start will ensure your data is fit for purpose at the end.
Many data quality projects fail because they don't have support from the necessary stakeholders. Education is vital to get everyone on board and explain what's in it for them.
In local government, for example, the National Land and Property Gazetteer (NLPG) initiative was set up to help councils become more customer-focused. The underlying principle is to provide a single definitive address database for departments and systems across all authorities, to cut costs and to improve efficiency/service delivery.
Those councils that quickly identified the benefits of this initiative, and made the project plan part of their corporate strategy, have made rapid progress. Much of the work needed to standardise and update their local address file (LLPG) has already taken place and they can now efficiently contribute to the NLPG.
Take advantage of technology
Once the planning process is complete, software solutions can be used to integrate and share the data held within disparate systems. This can be achieved both internally, across a single organisation, or on a wider scale, contributing towards a national source of customer data.
QAS has worked with NHS Scotland to facilitate data sharing across its many divisions. It had traditionally relied on a myriad of different systems to manage patient address details within hospitals, clinics, GP surgeries and other healthcare organisations. Each of these systems handled address data in a slightly different manner, making it difficult to exchange patient information across the NHS.
QAS provided an enterprise-wide address management solution, encompassing GP and dental surgeries, pharmacies, primary and community care facilities. This project involved address capture technology to validate patient addresses at the point of data entry, address cleaning tools to update existing patient databases, and verification software to screen patients applying for free prescriptions.
By taking advantage of technology, NHS Scotland has now achieved its goal of having a 'common currency to exchange data about patients in a meaningful manner that would improve levels of care.'
On a broader scale, QAS has worked with local government organisations, to help them derive value from the NLPG initiative. Upfront investment in data can seem like a headache at the time. By using solutions such as QAS Gateway, a software tool that enables them to search on and amend gazetteer land and property information, councils can immediately start using gazetteer data across all their different departments. QAS believes that once organisations start using their LLPG, the benefits outweigh the initial development work by more than three to one.
Don't do it alone
Finally, remember that technology alone is not sufficient. Merging data from multiple sources can be a risky process. Our dedicated Government Professional Services team can advise you on the challenges, the implications and the benefits of compiling one source of data efficiently. They can work alongside you or manage the rollout alongside complementary solutions to maximise the time, cost and effort involved. They can also provide a bespoke service to address your organisation's particular shared service challenges.
If you would like someone to contact you regarding any of the areas covered in this article, or you would like further details on how QAS can assist you with implementing shared services across your organisation then please fill in the form below.