Gartner defines digitalisation as, 'the use of digital technologies to change a business model and provide new revenue and value-producing opportunities'. Personally, I find this a touch cold, unimaginative and not in keeping with how leaders in my network are thinking. Digitalisation should be about leveraging the new technological state of play to empower teams and individuals. Yes, business models will be redefined but if staff members’ aspirations and values aren’t at the heart of this, that critical mass will not be engaged and the most sophisticated digital playbook is at risk of generating under-performance at best.

A great example of an organisational culture empowered by data can be found at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh (WWL) NHS Foundation Trust. There, the Head of Information Management and Technology embarked on a scheme to develop data champions across the trust, from porter to chief executive. These volunteers identified and delivered data quality and process initiatives small and large benefiting themselves and their co-workers in their day-to-day tasks. In some cases people simply chose to go through the business intelligence (BI) training, while others took on projects and a small number went onto publicly champion their own BI initiatives. Out of a total employee population of around 4,000 across five hospitals, 349 people became ‘data champions’ and 143 individual projects were initiated. Being data aware became part of the culture.

In parallel with this, the trust has invested thousands in visual analytics tools powered by Qlik however, the savings through more efficient use of resources have run into the millions. This began with analysis of the trust’s finances and then it was applied to clinical areas with stand-out results. In A&E department alone waiting times were cut by 30 minutes, commissioner fines dropped and agency staffing fees decreased. As a result, in 2015-16 WWL was one of only 10 trusts to meet the government’s A&E target.

At the IPEXPO event in Manchester this month, Mark Singleton, Associate Director - Information Management & Technology, talked in more depth about the whole approach going beyond simply technology and results. He enthused delegates about the look and feel of business intelligence across the trust. Instead of being dominated by hidden away technology staff, BI teams comprise clinicians, nurses and service managers and can be typically found around a large touch screens, discussing the visually represented patient flow state of play. They can even drill down to patient history going much of the way towards predicting recovery time and therefore resource plan better.

Robbie Evason Senior Manager, Business Intelligence of WWL was keen to emphasise that the best BI system can be a costly waste if staff members aren’t engaged. Clearly cultural change and digital transformation are activities that should go hand-in-hand.