Skype for Business in the NHS

Cultural shift: integrating Skype for Business in the NHS

The UK’s public sector is under pressure to boost its cost-effectiveness without reducing frontline services

Simone Hume, Head of Public Sector at Outsourcery

The UK’s public sector is under pressure to boost its cost-effectiveness without reducing frontline services. The NHS is feeling this in particular – budget pressures and increased service assessments are making many Trusts feel the need to do more with less.

Without cutting services to the public, the most logical starting point to make these savings is around the streamlining of operations, improving effectiveness through improvements to communication and collaboration. In this regard, the cloud can make a big impact. It can offer NHS Trusts flexible communications services which can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection. More and more IT leaders in the NHS are turning to the cloud to help boost their cost-effectiveness in response to budgetary pressures.

Tools like Microsoft’s Skype for Business are viable and attractive options for public health IT managers, enabling them to take full advantage of cloud-based collaboration tools.

Skype for Business streamlines services in two distinct ways. First, it can drastically reduce the need for travel expenses. When only using email, phone calls and post to communicate with a team spread across a wide catchment area, employees often need to meet face-to-face. Travel expense claims from employees can put a strain on NHS financial departments. Conversely, Skype for Business’ virtual meeting capabilities significantly cut the need for travel to and from meetings. Second, the service increases how effectively time and resources are spent. Enabling collaboration quickly, easily and remotely, Skype for Business reduces both time lost to travel and the time taken to remotely collaborate on complex ideas. Clearly, cloud-based communications tools are the ones to watch in the public health sector.

However, adopting Skype for Business or other cloud tools can lead to significant cultural problems within the NHS. The way of working that the cloud espouses is wholly different from the siloed approach previously taken, with many Trusts having no legacy video-conferencing solutions or similar capabilities. If deployed incorrectly, or without a strong adoption strategy, there is a danger of cloud-based communication methods being rejected in favour of less efficient activities that employees are more comfortable with.

Nevertheless, such a move is certainly possible if a Trust manages its cloud rollout strategically. Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust is one public health body that has successfully integrated Microsoft’s Unified Communications (Software-as-a-Service) into a broad section of its workforce. Not having any history with instant messaging or video-conferencing tools, the Trust realised that in order for its staff to fully adopt and use the tool to its best potential, they needed to gradually introduce it into their technology ecosystem. Starting with a small number of users, turning them into evangelists for the service, Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust spent three months expanding its internal cloud user base.

Key to this cultural change was a flexible service from the Trust’s supplier, UK Cloud Services Provider and Microsoft Gold Partner Outsourcery. We’ve supported their transition to the cloud, offering advice and guidance and, where requested, enabling the Trust to rollout the service paying only for what they use, when they use it, facilitating the expansion to their wider workforce.
Simone Hume, Head of Public Sector at Outsourcery

Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust realises that IT tools alone cannot change how people actually work. Instead, they can enable teams and individuals to do things, but sometimes organisation or team issues can stand in the way. Sensitivity to these potential roadblocks have meant that the Trust’s employees now use the new Unified Communications solution as part of their daily workflow. At Outsourcery, we have every confidence that this number will expand rapidly as they continue to rollout the cloud to their whole workforce.

The cloud certainly has many benefits to the public health sector, having the potential to significantly ease budget pressures, boosting return on investment through enabling effective remote collaboration. There are some legacy cultural roadblocks that can slow down a Trust’s transition to cloud-based tools like Skype for Business, but a sensitive and gradual rollout strategy can work wonders in overcoming these challenges, as demonstrated by Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. As they have shown, a total overhaul of how a company communicates internally is needed for employees to use Unified Communication solutions such as Skype for Business to their best potential. However, the benefits completely outweigh the time spent on this process.



For more information on how Skype for Business from Outsourcery can benefit the health sector watch and listen to our webinar where Martin Hutchinson, Skype for Business Project Manager at Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust describes their implementation journey.


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