The Eastern Development Centre (now Enable East) and South West Development Centre were initially two of eight regional development centres of the National Institute for Mental Health in England (NIMHE) from 2002 to 2005, then part of the Care Services Improvement Partnership (CSIP) from 2005 to 2008.
Whilst both organisations were hosted by NHS organisations they wanted to replicate the same IT service implemented by the West Midland Regional Development Centre - an independent IT system to offer their workforce (the majority, remote workers) more flexibility and choice to accessing and sharing information.
The specification was for a product that enabled both the office and mobile workers an easy and intuitive system to access and share files, emails, contacts, calendars and collaborative tools in the office and on the move. Being NHS organisations there was also the need to meet stringent security and information governance requirements such as encryption and archiving.
The system had to support organic growth from many independently run organisations. This meant no centralised business planning or homogeneous environment to work with.
Other elements included a procurement service, backups and as each development centre had no local IT support, a central service desk.
The IT Services team (now Opusflow) hosted by the West Midlands Regional Development Centre wanted to design a central IT service that was value for money, secure, robust and flexible. We realised that each development centre had slightly different requirements so the system had to support this. We decided to use Open Source software and web based technology.
Our solution was Linux servers, Zimbra for email, contacts and calendars, Confluence for collaborative development of information and sharing and Jira to manage support requests.
Providing Zimbra as a Sofware as a Service solution enabled a centralised managed service for easy account creation and management, backups and restores and delivered easy email management to users through email clients such as Outlook, web browsers and Smart Phones.
We also recommended the use of other software to deliver cost savings such as Skype for Skype to Skype calls, Open Office for document creation and management and Zimbra Desktop to manage emails (a free alternative to Outlook). We were also able to deliver other cost and time efficiencies through a centralised procurement service, standard builds for workstations, laptops and Smart Phones, Remote Desktop Support and a bespoke Content Management System (Treeline) to easily build and manage content for Websites whilst keeping a constant theme for the development centres .
Opusflow are able to offer a centralised IT Services which, at its peak, supported over 400 users based all across England and Wales. Because of the way the system has been designed users are free to use a variety of solutions - Windows, Apple OS X, Linux, Office, Android, BlackBerry, iPhone, etc. Files, Emails, Calendar and Contacts are easy to access from any location, laptops and removable devices are secure and users can work smarter using collaborative systems such as Confluence.
This system has enabled Opusflow to support a workforce located all over England as efficiently and productively as we possibly can - from creating new user accounts in minutes to replacing or rebuilding a laptops in a couple of days.
There were a number of challenges:
- Scaling system originally designed for 50 users at a single office up to nearly 500 across the country
- Remotely supporting users that you might have never met and might never go into any sort of office
- Pushing the boundaries of what technology was capable of at the time
- Coming up with new and innovative ways to improve productivity, connectivity and security
- Encouraging adoption of IT tools from a traditionally technologically adverse audience
Using processes such as those from ITIL and Prince 2 we were able to meet all the challenges head on. Planning for emerging IT trends meant we were ready to deliver when it was required.
Enable East - http://www.enableeast.org.uk
South West Development Centre - http://www.swdc.org.uk