Prior to devolution in 2016, most NHS organisations and local authorities in the Greater Manchester area either had no or not fit for purpose business information (BI) tools in place for analysis, collaboration or dissemination. Instead, many relied on a system of local spreadsheets, databases or bespoke web based systems, resulting in numerous disparate approaches making collaborative analytics and data sharing extremely difficult. When Graham Beales joined the newly formed GMHSCP as Head of Business Intelligence, it quickly became clear that a new solution was needed on both the data and visualisation sides.
“I came into a nest of spreadsheets and no BI function of which to speak,” says Graham. “There was no real architecture in place and the only reports being created were constitutional reports that are part of the partnership’s statutory duties. There was scope to do so much more.”
As a prior Tableau user, Graham quickly started demonstrating the benefits it could bring to the GMHSCP. After positive initial feedback he teamed up with IT service management partner, InterWorks, to present a case for its adoption as part of a wider infrastructure overhaul.
“I built a strategy that focused on investing in a new data warehouse to centralise all data from the wider system that wasn’t currently accessible,” says Graham. “From there, we needed to visualise and disseminate that information as efficiently as possible and I knew Tableau would be the perfect tool for this.”
Graham’s proposal aligned closely with the partnership’s new digital strategy, which placed strong emphasis on the adoption of highly accessible, cloud-based, infrastructure independent solutions. The implementation also coincided with development of a new overarching BI function across the partnership, which ensured strong buy-in from all members and helped encourage a much smoother, more collaborative approach to data management going forward.
“It was very important that it wasn’t seen as something we were doing in an ivory tower,” says Graham. “The approach we took meant we were able to bring everyone on the same journey, helping the whole of the GMHSCP analytical community to develop and enhance their skills.”
GMHSCP’s new infrastructure sees data stored in a Microsoft SQL data warehouse, with Tableau used for all analytics and visualisation needs. Both are housed within GMSS shared services architecture, making them accessible to nearly all of the organisations within the wider partnership, allowing for faster data collaboration, sharing and reporting. In the past 12 months, the number of developers trained to use Tableau has risen from 20 to well over 100, reflecting the growing investment that organisations throughout GMHSCP are making in its use.
Graham notes that much of this success to date was made possible with the support received from InterWorks.
“They worked with us to develop business plans and get the right level of resourcing, which had to be flexible as our needs have changed throughout the process,” says Graham. “We also developed bespoke Tableau training using real NHS data, which has really helped to accelerate employee understanding and skill development.”