Health and Safety Executive
The HSE has become the latest organisation to have their IT department accredited by the National Computing Centre under their IT Department Accreditation Scheme. Michael Dean investigates their journey to accredited status and the benefits realised.
John Gould heads up the Business Services Division of HSE, the health & safety regulatory authority whose job is to prevent death, injury and ill-health to those at work and those affected by work activities, through regulation and enforcement of legislation. The HSE employs over 3,500 people nationally across 33 locations. John’s Division is responsible for managing the real estate and the provision of IT.
Just over a decade ago HSE made the decision to outsource IT through a strategic partnership with Logica with the consequence that HSE now maintains a small in- house IT team of just 15 to oversee contracts and articulate and develop the organisation’s IT strategy.
HSE’s relationship with Logica is mature and despite a few early teething troubles, service delivery and the partnership has worked very well. However, the contract is up for renewal next year and change is inevitable, not least in the capability of the technology available to offer new services and new ways of working. Whilst HSE used ITIL to manage their relationship with Logica, John felt that it was timely to review IT’s performance as a whole prior to the change; he wanted to find out not just that they were doing the right things, but that they were doing the right things in the in the right way, so late last year he took the IT function through NCC’s IT Department Accreditation Scheme (ITDA).
The ITDA is a unique and effective way IT departments can get an independent appraisal of how good they are. The assessment that underpins the accreditation is not a pass/fail audit, it is a consultative process that provides a framework for an organisation to build on its strengths and eliminate its weaknesses. Ideal for HSE’s purposes.
As John said, “We wanted to understand our performance as a whole and put discrete activity into context. We were looking for a structured process that enabled us to see where the real value was being added and ultimately to help prioritise efforts and inform the planning for 2011, so the ITDA was the right tool.”
Following the initial Orientation visit, which lasted a day, John assigned one of his team to collate and co-ordinate the preparation required to complete the assessment. “HSE has lots of documented processes, but these are rarely viewed together”, said John, “the ITDA processes enabled us to view the whole landscape in structured and logical way. This did stimulate a lot of useful discussion across the team, enabling us to look at things from a different, more objective angle.”
Most of the discussion was around the HSE’s relationship with the rest of the business, with the ITDA process stimulating them to think about the right ways to communicate and engage. Part of the process includes an independent survey of customer perceptions and John was pleased to see that IT got a better bill of health than he had anticipated.
“The consultative approach taken by NCC’s Assesor was just right.” said John. “It certainly wasn’t a one way tick box audit. The team found the process rewarding with some viewing the assessment as a chance to show off! It is very re-affirming to get positive feedback from the NCC – that’s a nice, morale building by product of the process. They did very well, but they want to see improvements at review time.”
And that’s where the ITDA Action Plan comes in. Each organisation assessed receives a bespoke Action Plan, based on the conclusions of the Assessment whether they pass or fail. It provides a focus for continuous improvement and forms the basis of the annual Light Touch Reviews.
Accredited status has also done wonders for the IT function’s reputation within HSE. Senior management feel reassured that the function has passed a respected independent appraisal and Logica too have also provided positive feedback to the ITDA. “It has helped us deepen our relationship and create a joint agenda because they better understand what we are looking for.” commented John
John did admit however that process wasn’t just a walk in the park, “You do have to put the work in to gather the evidence, but the process was well run, the assessor tremendous and we have got multiple benefits from a small investment. The more you put in the more you get out! The ITDA made it easier for us to share thoughts and ideas about improving what we do – and we get recognition for a job well done.