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'I wanted the stakeholders to feel confident and reassured that they were getting the best deal from IT.'

ITDA CASE STUDY: Royal Pharmaceutical Society

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Chris Lord, Head of Information Management and Technology at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society took the organisation through the National Computing Centre’s IT Department Accreditation following a significant demerger. Michael Dean finds out why and discovers the benefits realised.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) is the professional body for pharmacists and pharmacy in England, Scotland and Wales, has over 32,000 individual members and is thriving as pharmacists take a greater role in healthcare. The Society ensures that the voice of the pharmacy profession is heard and actively promoted in the development and delivery of healthcare policy, and that the vital contribution of pharmacy to patient and public health is widely recognised and acknowledged.

Last year saw the biggest change in the organisation of the Society in its 170 year history. Prior to September 2010 the RPS was both regulator for pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and pharmacy premises and also responsible for the delivery of professional and leadership services. The separation of these duties in 2010 saw the creation of the RPS as the new membership and leadership body for Pharmacists with the regulatory function being provided by the newly formed General Pharmaceutical Council, (GPhC).

RPS ITDA certificate

For Chris Lord, Head of Information Management and Technology at RPS it has been a challenging year. As part of the demerger arrangements, IT operations remained with the RPS, so Chris and his team now provide services to the rest of RPS as internal customers and also to the GPhC as external customers.

“It has been a huge challenge,” said Chris, “We now serve two distinctly separate organisations, both of whom reside in the same building. The real challenge for IT is to ensure we meet the expectations of both our internal and external customers, whilst identifying ways of adding value back into the business.”

The IT team of 10 (Desktop Support, Records and Information Management, Network Infrastructure and Applications Development), have had to create two separate infrastructures to serve the staff at RPS who are spread across four regional locations and the 130 staff at GPhC who have a host of remote workers but are mainly based in the same building in London along with RPS staff. Lord who has been at RPS for 10 years and has risen to become head of IT, leads an enthusiastic team, “I encourage personal development and empower the team to generate ideas. We have a genuine open door policy here and we deploy a lot of best practice, but since the demerger I felt it more important than ever that not only should we be following best practice, but our stakeholders should have independent proof that we are doing the right things the right way.”

Lord looked into a variety of accreditations such as ISO 27001, ISO20000 and ISO 9001, but felt that there was no point in working towards an accreditation that didn’t closely map the breadth of their own activities. He was looking for something that was relevant to the circumstances at RPS, added value to the business and would motivate the staff to perform even better. Lord chose to take RPS through the National Computing Centre’s Standard for IT Departments, the IT Department Accreditation Scheme (ITDA). “We looked at the scope of the accreditations on offer, the value and the work involved and NCC’s accreditation suited us best because it provided holistic coverage of our policies and procedures, was good value and highly regarded.” He said.

The assessment scheme which underpins the NCC ITDA examines an IT department’s performance against 103 common controls (Lines of Enquiry), permitting IT departments to compare and understand their own strengths and weaknesses. The Standard covers the key aspects of an IT function; business management, business direction, service generation, delivery and operations and customer relationships – all with a focus on their contribution to business goals.

The ITDA is also an accreditation scheme, so those IT departments that score well are awarded with a recognised accreditation to the NCC Standard. Another feature is the identification of a bespoke Action Plan which helps the IT function prioritise continuous improvement.

“Undergoing the ITDA at a time of significant change was a tough decision.” Said Lord. “Although we were confident internally that we followed best practice, I was aware that not all of our processes were fully documented. NCC Accreditation would reinforce our positives and help us address any shortcomings. We were willing to act on recommendations. Ultimately I wanted the stakeholders to feel confident and reassured that they were getting the best deal from IT. I wanted to raise our game.”

To achieve accreditation IT departments must provide evidence of adherence to the 103 controls, and in order to amass the evidence and prepare for the assessment visit, Lord delegated actions amongst the team and set up a SharePoint repository to file the evidence gathered. “The ITDA was a catalyst for us.” Said Lord, “We needed to show that we were professional and up to the job. We knew we had to go the extra mile to document what we do.”

The effort was worth it. Whilst the Accreditation Day was long, Lord and his team had amassed enough evidence to convince the assessor that RPS had attained the Standard and that staff weren’t just paying lip service to policies and procedures, they are an inherent part of the day-to-day work at RPS. The recommendation was subsequently endorsed by the NCC moderator who said, “All in all for a small team, RPS have demonstrated a professional competency that is delivering benefit to the business.”

“We’ve been through significant change.” Said Lord,” But we now have two customers who feel re-assured that their IT supplier is amongst the best, that IT has the right ethos and that IT strives for continuous improvement. Although we could have said that ourselves, the accreditation speaks for itself. It is hard work, motivational and powerful, but you do have to make the grade, and we did!”

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