Alex Osborne

Simplifying government in an increasingly complex world

Simplifying government in an increasingly complex world
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When it comes to saving lives during the Covid-19 pandemic, every moment counts. For doctors and nurses, that means making split-second decisions about treating desperately ill patients. For our political leaders, that means having the right information at the right time to make the right decisions, such as lifting lockdown restrictions and reopening economies while continuing to contain and control the virus.

But all of that depends on having data you can rely on, safeguarded by robust and resilient technology, and developed in partnership with those you can trust to deliver. At ServiceNow, we continue to play a key role supporting the NHS across the UK.

England and Scotland launched new test-and-trace systems at the end of May. These systems are critical to the success of any relaxation of lockdown, helping ensure that any new outbreaks of the virus are contained. Test-and-trace will also mean that any necessary reimpositions of restrictions are highly localised – allowing the majority of the country and the economy to continue operating more normally.

In England more than 20,000 contact-tracers have been recruited – with up to a further 2,000 at NHS Scotland. According to reports, tracers in England identified and contacted 31,000 close contacts in the first week of the test-and-trace system. The recruitment process has been a race against time, and one mirrored in the creation of the supporting processes and technologies that make test-and-trace possible.

Scotland has been taking a slightly different approach to that of England, and ServiceNow has been at the forefront of these efforts – working with NHS Scotland to develop its contact-tracing application. We recently marked our third anniversary of working with NHS National Services Scotland and the strength of our relationship has been invaluable during Covid-19.

Deryck Mitchelson, director of digital and security at NHS National Services Scotland, says: ‘ServiceNow continues to play an integral part in transforming NSS and NHS Scotland. The strong foundations we have put in place together over the past three years have underpinned our response to the hugely complex challenges posed by a global pandemic.

‘Around critical issues such as PPE, ServiceNow has both enabled health boards to swiftly order the items and quantity they need and empowered new supply partners to be able to provide support.

‘Our collaboration with ServiceNow has expanded NSS’s strategic capability to support the health service in Scotland. Our investment in ServiceNow has allowed us to maximise value for NSS while building out a platform that can provide economy of scale and enable rapid deployment across a vast range of use scenarios. We continue to work together to develop and optimise custom applications and business driven workflow. By doing so we have been able to take legacy manual processes and automate them to improve employee experience and save time and effort.

‘The benefit of our collaboration has been felt profoundly during the Covid-19 pandemic. It has allowed us to more effectively deliver our critical services to the NHS in Scotland under the most challenging circumstances.’

Contact-tracing also provides considerable and complex challenges. From the moment a report of possible symptoms is received, the tracing process has to capture the details of that individual, distribute a testing kit and then begin the often laborious process of making contact with anyone that might have interacted with them. Ensuring that all of this information is recorded and that cases are managed efficiently is a significant task – even more so given the speed with which everything has had to be created.

For NHS Scotland the priority has been streamlining the development and implementation of the application as much as possible to ensure seamless integration with their test-and-trace contact centre.

Given the scale of the challenge of creating, managing and maintaining the contact-tracing system, complex software issues are the last thing anyone wants to be concerned with.

This is where ServiceNow comes in. Our digital workflows are managing the service delivery layer of the test-and-trace application – ensuring that any issues can be resolved autonomously. Not only does this keep the flow of information from users moving, it also means that distractions for the contact-tracing team are minimised – allowing them to get on with the far more important work they are tasked with. By taking advantage of technology that has been designed specifically to deliver digital workflows that simplify complexity, NHS Scotland has been able to massively accelerate development of their test-and-trace application. In fact, the service delivery layer has been developed and delivered in a month.

This example serves to highlight that, even in the most extreme circumstances, government does not have to build solutions from scratch with custom code. Quite the opposite.

When it comes to software solutions so much of the hard work has already been done. By capitalising on ‘plug and play’ technologies, public services can accelerate time to value and focus on the important work of delivering services, rather than getting bogged down in software development.

Dealing with the Covid-19 crisis continues to be an extreme challenge for everyone – governments and citizens alike. But as our test-and-trace application example for NHS Scotland shows, trusted technology partners are helping governments to respond to situations quicker than ever before.

In the short-term, enterprise-ready technology is allowing citizens to move on and carry on with their lives while we continue to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.

But in the longer term, closer collaboration between government and enterprise tech providers offers a model for simplifying the delivery of government services – a model that can go a long way to making the world of work, work better, not just for the NHS, but for every public service.

Alex Osborne is UK Head of Public Sector & Regulated Markets at ServiceNow