The NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) authority is unique within the National Health Service in that it's the only organisation within the NHS that straddles England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The body is responsible for important tasks such as collecting and distributing blood to hospitals in two of the regions, then across the whole UK it's the primary body for the organisation of organ donation.
The sensitive nature of this work means NHSBT is highly reliant on its interactions with the public, and its 6,000 employees are spread across the country in small teams that might be working anywhere from village halls to major hospitals.
That, said Shane White, HR business partner for NHSBT HR Strategy Development, offered "a significant number of challenges in terms of connecting with those employees and their managers in a regionally based structure".
As a result, NHSBT's HR team is also scattered around the country, and prior to deploying a new technology-based solution for dealing with HR issues, White said that the IT behind the service left a lot to be desired.
"I almost hesitate to call it a system because it was based on Microsoft Excel, with people inputting information after the event to say what they've done.
"It wasn't live, it wasn't in timely information," he said, describing how much of the communication with the public was done via email and phone calls, which meant it took "a lot of effort" to keep track of what can be very sensitive issues.
As a result, NHSBT examined what could be done to improve its service desk function, which saw HR go through a joint procurement with the IT team, which at the time was looking to solve a similar issue.
"Our requirements were broadly similar, where we were different in our details. We both had customers who contacted us, required solutions and needed to record that and close the case," White explained.
NHSBT therefore selected a ServiceNow solution - along with support from Partners in IT - in order to implement a better system. One of the main reasons the solution was selected was because of the speed with which the project could be turned around, White told Computing.
"They were able to work to our timetable, which was pretty aggressive. We signed the contracts in July and by the end of September we had a product that had been designed, built and tested for us handed over," he said. The project took between six and seven weeks in total, he added.
"That's taking a product that had a very basic HR offering and transforming it. That was only achievable because of the way Partners in IT took in their approach to the implementation," he added.
The new flexible and agile solution meant NHSBT was able to deploy an entirely new HR service desk, HR Direct, a national point of contact for all employees within the organisation.
The service has provided cost savings and gives the organisation better access to the data it needs to respond more quickly to enquiries.
"The fact that I can tell you how many cases and queries we've had since the launch day; the fact that 79 per cent of those get closed on the first day of opening.
"Those were things I couldn't have told you before. We're able to look at all the interactions a member of HR staff has with an employee or 'manager'," White said, adding that the system also enables them to develop ways to improve service.
He continued: "We're able to look at the quality of the advice given and check the consistency, and we've been able to examine the processes behind that to ensure there's better consistency in the advice given."
NHSBT originally set a target of 88 per cent of queries being resolved within two days, but the fact that 79 per cent of cases are closed within one day means the system is "way ahead of expectations", and something that has "revolutionised how we deliver HR services", said White.
"It means we're getting cases closed quicker and the thing to appreciate is one of the reasons HR cases tend to get quite complicated is not just because of the emotive issue, but the time it takes to be dealt with," he continued.
"So if people weren't getting a timely response or cases weren't being resolved, it meant more time for frustration and more time for other things to go wrong. So by closing those things it's really made a massive difference to how we've resolved HR casework," White concluded.
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