Cloud computing: Want your tech project to succeed? Then think about the people first

Don't be hypnotised by all that shiny technology when you are working on a new project. Think of who needs to benefit.
Written by Mark Samuels, Contributor

For digital leaders who are looking to make the most of the cloud, Shaun Le Geyt, CIO at Parkinson's UK, has one simple piece of best-practice advice: focus on the people who will benefit, not the technology you're implementing.

"Always bring it back to the needs of the people that you're serving. In my case, that means bringing everything back to people with Parkinson's and understanding those requirements first and foremost. It's about people and processes first, and then the technology," he says.

Every hour, two people in the UK are told they have Parkinson's. As many as 145,000 people are diagnosed with the condition in the UK, which is around one in every 350 adults.

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Le Geyt's focus is on the individuals his charity serves, and he believes too many digital leaders are still seduced by vendor hype and flashy services. Regardless of the sector of operation, Le Geyt says CIOs must make sure they put people and processes before bits and bytes.

"Too many organisations do it the other way around and focus on the shiny thing. The technology might have all the functionality you want but when you come to implementing, you won't know what good look like. So, bring everything back to the people you're serving – always," he says.

Le Geyt joined Parkinson's UK in September 2017 as a consultant and moved into the CIO role in November last year. Le Geyt had previously been an independent consultant for 20 years. The fact he was prepared to shift into a permanent IT leadership role shows he was keen to work for an organisation that's making moves in the right direction.

Parkinson's UK has annual income of about £40m and employs 450-plus staff. The charity has a network of individuals – including advisors and volunteers –  that work to improve the lives of people with Parkinson's. The organisation completes essential work, especially as UK healthcare budgets remain under pressure.

"We bridge the NHS funding gap – we provide a confidential helpline," says Le Geyt. "Information is key to people who have recently been diagnosed, and their family and carers. We train up nurses, too. We need to tailor the advice and give people a personal journey in terms of their experiences and the information we provide."

It is here that digital transformation plays a key role. The charity formed in 1969 and Le Geyt says the organisation today must move with the times and embrace systems and services, such as the cloud, that can help it meet the demands of patients, carers and staff.

"Fifty years ago, the information that was served up to people was very different. Now it's about being able to give information that meets people's needs. We're a charity, so every penny counts – and digital transformation helps us create efficient ways of working," he says.

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Parkinson's UK draws on a dynamic network of expert staff, health and social care professionals, volunteers, and researchers. While these individuals undertake crucial work, they have not necessarily been supported by the best systems and services – which was something Le Geyt knew had to change.

However, the IT organisation faced a number of challenges. Old-fashioned, paper-based ways of working predominated. While Le Geyt knew digital transformation would help create new efficiencies, he also recognised that pursuing a cultural change programme would represent a significant challenge.

"We had lots of manual processes, driven by spreadsheets and Word documents," he says. "We also needed to be comfortable about information security. Across the organisation, we had a fear of technology – and the way systems has been rolled out was not through best-practice. "

Le Geyt was eager to work to his guiding principle and to identify and roll out solutions based on the real needs of people. He didn't want the digital services he implemented to be a barrier for people who were delivering care to people with Parkinson's.

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The charity undertook an extensive search of the market. Le Geyt says the closest fit was a much older case-management application that didn't make full use of the cloud. He was keen for the charity to take a different approach and to introduce an intuitive service for users.

After speaking with consultancy specialist Bluewolf, Le Geyt decided to implement Salesforce's cloud-based customer service technology. The charity uses Salesforce's Service Cloud platform, about 90% of which has been implemented out of the box with minimal customisation.

Rather than having to work on a legacy case-management application, Parkinson's UK advisors now have access to a console that provides a broad picture of all the enquiries that are coming in. Staff can track and trace these enquiries and consider where additional support resources might be required. The charity is using Chatter to add cross-organisation collaboration.

Le Geyt says the implementation involved a short delivery process, from idea to go live in less than 10 weeks. This process included: a discovery and design stage; a four-week build and test period, which was done in an iterative manner, with champions who were responsible for launching the service across the business; staff training; and a full launch, which took place in February.

"The time of implementation was really important to us," says Le Geyt. "We also thought Salesforce was a platform that could grow. The potential of what we could do going forward was key. We didn't choose technology on cost alone – what was important was getting the right solution for people with Parkinson's."

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So, three months on, how are things going? Le Geyt says the cloud has made a real difference to the way the charity operates. From a service management point of view, there's much greater visibility of what different teams are doing and how their work is creating benefits for people with Parkinson's.

"The system allows our local advisors to deliver great service but without the bureaucracy. There's no barriers – people don't fear using the technology. We just have a lot more relevant information," says Le Geyt.

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