Valtech @ My NHS – Project Challenges: Part 1
September 01, 2016
In this, the first of three posts on our recent data project at My NHS, we look at one of the main challenges we faced: how to deliver valuable outputs under extreme time constraints.
Simply put, our mission was to help the My NHS team drive value from a short 2-week data Discovery project. Why 2 weeks, you say? Well, a number of logistical limitations such as budget and stakeholder availability meant that anything longer wasn’t an option - from the outset it was clear that this would have to be a highly–focussed, intense project. It’s also understood that in doing the Discovery with a specific and understood focus it can serve as a spring board for further Discovery work or a decision to move into the Alpha phase.
Furthermore, both the My NHS team and Valtech wanted to take advantage of the opportunity presented by the annual NHS Expo at the start of September, the largest event of its kind, and at which the Secretary of State for Health was due to deliver a keynote speech encompassing data transparency and My NHS. This was therefore an ideal environment to both showcase the outputs of Discovery as well as generate interest and support for further phases. So, how did we deliver value in just 10 working days?
So, how did we deliver value in just 10 working days?
Going from a standing start was not an option, so in the weeks before kick-off we held a couple of meetings with Julie Fidler the product owner and other key stakeholders to get up to speed on the context and aims of the project, meet some of the service users, and put together a first cut delivery plan.
On the first day of discovery we ran a half-day Discovery kick off meeting with a number of MyNHS stakeholders and our team of 4 - a project manager, data business analyst, data scientist, and UX/UR specialist.
The aim of this was to quickly identify the discovery priorities enabling the team to really hit the ground running. We planned out 2 x 1-week sprints during which we would acquire, review and clean datasets, as well as produce rapid prototypes and conduct one round of user research to validate outputs. We set 1 priority area of My NHS per week to keep us focussed – Mental Health in week 1 and Hospitals in week 2. Each sprint would culminate in a Show and Tell to present back our key insights, gather further feedback from stakeholders, and plan out next steps. Through this we were able to retain a laser focus on what would drive value back to the My NHS team, optimising efficiency wherever possible.
Obviously, due to the tight timescales compromises had to be made, especially when it came to the lack of availability of certain datasets and user research subjects. To overcome these hurdles it quickly became apparent that our work would need to be split into 2 parallel streams:
- Data stream: our Data Business Analyst and Data Scientist would work with the available data to produce working dashboards based on the various insights we could drive
- User Experience: our UX specialist would work more independently to produce more static visuals to be reviewed and refined as a result of user research, independent of the availability of data.
In this way, our ability to be flexible based on what was achievable allowed us to continue to make progress against the time available.
To leverage skills and experience across the joint team, and to cut down on time lost to meetings, communications breakdowns etc. we set up an area in our Valtech London office for the joint Valtech and My NHS team. By working so closely together, we were able to ask questions and get quick, accurate responses, helping us to maintain delivery momentum as well as ensure we stayed on track. Through the two end of sprint Show & Tell sessions we were also able to demonstrate our progress and get valuable feedback throughout, reducing the risks often associated with arms-length delivery and missed assumptions.
Through strong preparation, effective kick-off, and by employing Agile, collaborative delivery methods, we were able to show that even extreme time constraints can be overcome to deliver a valuable Data Discovery phase. MyNHS and Valtech have been delighted with the outcomes and insights resulting from the project, which we look forward to sharing these at our pop-up university session at the NHS Expo in Manchester. We’ll be on stage at 1pm on Thursday 8th September.