“We only put the boxes on the desk and the cables in the wall!”

If I had a penny for every time an IT Manager said that to me, then I would have 76p! But seriously, the days are gone when IT “just” puts boxes on desks and cables in walls. Yes, I know that putting boxes on desks and cables in walls is a big task itself – networks are complex, PCs need standard images, performance is critical, mobility is important and so on. But if that is all that IT is going to do for your Trust then you might as well outsource it (and many have). Cables and boxes are commodities and deserve to be bought from the cheapest source, just like paper clips and pens. They do not generally impact directly on patient care.

What IT really does is enable, or lead, change. In many Trusts, IT has taken the lead in the misnamed “National Programme for IT”. We all know it wasn’t an IT project even though they labelled it IT and gave it to the IT department to manage. Luckily, IT Directors across the NHS knew that the technical elements of it were pretty easy (IEv6, Java and Smart Cards) with Data Migration being the only complex workstream from a technical perspective. The real challenges came in changing processes to use the new applications. For example, what made a RiO deployment successful was engagement with staff, excellent communication and good focused training. None of which is normally associated with core IT service provision.

Of course some IT departments have always known this and have always had a “change lead” type role, who works closely with the Medical Director and service leads. But now even more have learnt that IT is not about cables and boxes but about people and processes. Don’t let the new role of IT as change-enabler get lost, don’t slip back to the old days of just putting cables on desks and boxes in walls (sic). Keep the profile of change lead and keep changing your Trust to deliver better, more efficient services, as this will have a greater positive impact on patient care.

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