Training for change

IT skills consultancy Optimum helps the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement team to create customised training courses and materialsThe NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement has recently undergone a major change programme, to enable it to pursue a more commercial business model. The IT skills consultancy Optimum, which specialises in user focused training, worked alongside the NHS Institute’s team and their implementation consultants, Logica, to understand the organisation and to create customised training courses and materials. The new system aimed to improve resource management and generate income by providing services to NHS England and by also selling products and services to non-NHS customers in the UK and overseas.
Time factor
A central part of making the new business model work was moving away from outsourcing its finance function to implementing its own. This meant re-structuring the finance team, designing completely new business processes and building a system around them, then training all staff and project workers to use it, all within three months.
Tim Reardon, assistant director of finance, said: “We were facing a tight and immoveable timescale to get the new system up and running and we needed to make sure our technical and finance people were free to concentrate on the build. We realised that we needed professionals to project manage the user training on the system.”
The NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement recognised that the new finance system in itself wasn’t the solution to working more efficiently; it was how the staff used it that mattered. If getting users to ‘buy-in’ to the system was critical to success, then the training had to be focused around them. “We had trained our own staff internally to use the previous system but their feedback was that accountants aren’t trainers and if we wanted to get the most out of the new system, they needed professional training on it,” said Reardon.
Optimum designed, developed and delivered role-based courses for all users of the new finance system across several locations, as well as creating a range of back-at-desk quick help cards and reference manuals. James Webb, Optimum’s project manager, noted: “This project involved new staff, new roles and completely new ways of working – NHS Institute had never had an accounts payable function before. So the training design and development really was an exercise in starting from scratch.”
The investment in Optimum’s services was well rewarded. Reardon observed: “We’d set up a working group of non-finance users as part of the change project and one of them said that Optimum’s had been ‘the best training they’d ever been on’.”   
Eleanor Dennehy, the lead Logica consultant working on the change programme, added: “NHS Institute set some very tough standards but Optimum tailored the training to mirror their processes and language, making it as user friendly as possible. The training delivery was very professional and the feedback during the courses extremely positive.”
Optimum held workshops for the project team, the implementation consultants and users to give specific training on additional elements of the system’s functionality that would bring efficiency benefits but which hadn’t been explored previously because of time pressures. As well as delivering role-based training to enable managers, budget holders and requisitioners to carry out their jobs, Optimum also dealt with many of the change management issues that surrounded the project. The training sessions became a forum where people felt able to raise their concerns about the new structure and roles.
“The scale of the changes, both culturally and practically, was huge and very emotive for staff,” Reardon commented. “Because Optimum was from outside the organisation, when people went ‘off-piste’ the consultants could handle these change issues and build confidence, so staff came away much more positive.”
Dennehy noted: “Optimum’s user-focused training was absolutely right to ensure the basic knowledge transfer to allow the system to function was done without inundating users. The ‘business-as-usual’ is a great basis for refresher training.”
Whilst implementing any new core business system is always a highly pressured and potentially risk-laden event, NHS Institute’s experience shows that the right level and right kind of training is a large part of the success.
“Timing and approach were both critical for us,” said Reardon. “Using professional trainers made sure we delivered the project on time and that our staff were well supported at a time of massive change. Using Optimum was a very positive experience. They showed great professionalism and we had really good feedback.”
Optimum is an IT skills consultancy that specialises in highly effective user focused business systems training. Our mission is to bring people and technology together to make change happen. All of our trainers are accredited by The Institute of IT Trainers.

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