It’s been said that innovation is driven by an overwhelming need to overcome constraints. This couldn’t be more true in the COVID-19 era. Amongst our clients globally we see creativity, speed and risk appetite all being embraced an enhanced as they adopt new technology and processes to respond to the pressures imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the UK, Infosys has already helped scores of public and private sector clients to quickly re-shape their business operations using technology. Often this has accelerated digital transformation strategies that had been languishing for many years. For many, the pandemic is what has pushed home the need for secure cloud systems to enable remote working, automation to reduce manual hand-offs, or digital customer and talent management systems to better manage demand and labour constraints.
For us, two examples really stand out, and they are both right at the front line of the government’s response.
At the end of March a Rapid Response system was launched up by an NHS provider, which manages temporary staffing on for more than 55 NHS Trusts in England. The system needed to onboard retired staff, doctors, consultants, healthcare professionals and volunteers who responded to the UK Government’s appeal to help the NHS.
Normally onboarding takes several weeks due to multiple compliance checks and onboarding processes. But using an Agile approach, Infosys built a new digital system in a matter of days, reducing the registration and onboarding to hours.
At peak times, this system has processed 36,000 applications, with 17,000 of these ready to be deployed. That’s equivalent to a month’s worth of pre-COVID applications being processed every week. Since launch the system has been further enriched, thanks to the Agile approach, and evolved into a demand management system for the Nightingale Hospitals in London, Manchester and Bristol.
The second example came soon after. In April, the UK government identified 1.5 million vulnerable residents nationally and asset up an emergency fund to enable local councils to provide the required food, shelter and medical support. One London council we worked with had 100,000 individuals initially identified in this category, with risks to them emerging from homelessness, acute illness, cancer treatments, or pregnancy. A rudimentary digital platform was created within two days to register each individual, and to support key workers in the field as they contact and provide support services to each.
What shines out about these two cases is not only the scale of the problem and the speed at which a system was deployed. It’s that in both cases these rudimentary systems, deployed rapidly through Agile methods, are now being enhanced daily – and both hold the potential to expand and replace incumbent systems and processes that were typically designed for an offline world.
In both examples, the teams working on these projects have added and enhanced dashboards backed with analytics capabilities that increase in sophistication with each sprint cycle – every couple of days. These tools are enabling users to visualise and identify bottlenecks, better manage their capacity, balancing supply and demand, and segmenting their targets for focused needs. All in real-time.
Rather than sticking plasters, these systems have strong potential to become established as core to both organisations in the future. And this not because of the technology that’s been used. It’s thanks to the Agile process which has been fully embraced by the client – something that in normal conditions is not always fully or effectively adopted.
As technology services providers, we all know that it’s hard to change incumbent processes, cultural biases and willingness to change. But if there is a silver lining from this tragic health crisis, it is that organisations are being forced to re-invent themselves – and forced to take those first big steps into truly innovating in an agile and rapid way. Thankfully, the UK already has ample supply of technology and know-how to support the change.