by Mark Chillingworth

Nursing and Midwifery Council CTO Rachel Murphy-Cooper interview – Interim Agile care

Dec 15, 2015
GovernmentIT Leadership

Spend some time with Interim CIO Rachel Murphy-Cooper, and you’ll learn that this is an individual who puts herself outside of her comfort zone on a regular basis. For someone who admits to not enjoying confined spaces, having a go at potholing is typical. But then, if you’re an interim CIO there’s no such thing as a comfort zone – you are brought in to explore the dark recesses of a problem and navigate the organisation back out into the clean air. Increasingly this isn’t the preserve of interim CIOs, as Murphy?Cooper’s peers, speaking alongside her at the 2015 CIO Summit described, taking yourself, your team and your organisation outside of its comfort zone is part and parcel of the CIO role today.

At present, she is doing just that for the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), which is the independent regulator for those angels of our society that care for us when we most need it.

The NMC, based in London, is the statutory regulatory body for these two vital professions, and it manages a full register of all nurses and midwives. The organisation, founded in 2002, is also a registered charity.

“It’s a fascinating sector as there’s so much opportunity,” she enthuses, adding that regulators must use the new digital business processes and communications methods to maximise their opportunity. Murphy-Cooper believes that delivering value ensures organisations will remain relevant, and as interim CTO at NMC, she has ensured the organisation is able to efficiently register, communicate and therefore regulate its sector. As the lives of potential registrants change, so too must the services and interactions that the NMC offers. Failure to do so would see nurses and midwives look for other ways to be registered or informed, and the statutory role of the regulator would be harder to deliver.

Murphy-Cooper joined the NMC after an eight-month interim role at The National Archives, which she joined from The Department for Education. Each of these three assignments is similar, not only in the public sector nature of the regulator, but also a need to get the culture and IT organisation ready for significant change.

“The challenges here are similar to the government in that it is moving away from strategy and into delivery. There are 700 people in the business, so it’s not massive,” she says of the place for business technology leadership at the organisation. “It was a bit of a basket case,” Murphy-Cooper says of the organisation she inherited in January of this year. “I did a recce of the key issues and the chief executive was very direct that things weren’t rosy.

“The IT team was completely disillusioned. It didn’t understand what the business needed as there was no engagement, and there were no key functions involved with supplier engagement, strategy and architecture.

“So we kicked off a survey and found that 87% of the staff felt the need for improvements, and 70% of staff didn’t know where to come if there were problems. They were asking for basics around service management and project delivering, nothing groundbreaking. Murphy-Cooper also found a wide range of projects in operation. But the interim CTO didn’t just have to fix the IT operations, she was also commissioned to get NMC ready for a major business change. The organisation has to revalidate all of its registrants as a result of a change in regulations.

“There was a shed load of IT improvement programmes for shoring up the infrastructure, service management, disaster recovery and its first SLA,” she says.

Murphy-Cooper introduced business relationship managers and she had to restructure the staffing of IT. “Staffing was 70% contractor and now it is 40%. It will be just 15% by Christmas, and that includes me. The restructure provides £2 million in savings and a better service. Getting permanent faces in has done wonders to the team,” she says of the move away from contractors and to full-time employees. “We have been moving pretty rapidly.”

To prepare the team for exiting its comfort zone, she took it paddle boarding and plans more off-site events to make the team gel. “Confidence was absolutely shot, now IT is pleased to be an enabler for the business.

Murphy-Cooper was well aligned with her transformational peers speaking at this year’s CIO Summit in citing colocation as a major tool a CIO can use to break down issues of poor cooperation and that terrible language of IT teams discussing ‘the business’ as if technology is somehow separate from the operation of an organisation. “By colocating the team, we get the service out there and working,” she reveals of a method she advocates for improving communications and team ethos.

Agile care

Murphy-Cooper says the organisation, not just IT, had to implement Agile as IT, testing and project management were all taking on new ways of working. IndigoBlue, a specialist consultant that has worked with clients including Specsavers, the Guardian and the Home Office, was recruited to help install Agile working practices.

“The hardest bit was finding enough space for everyone,” she quips about the adoption. “The implementation of Agile is a fundamental shift, and we really had to explain Agile to the board and team as there was no comprehension of what it is, but now we are making very good progress,” Murphy-Cooper reveals.

The impetus for Agile was twofold, as a great deal of modernisation and service improvement had to be made, and made quickly, while also preparing the NMC for an inevitable digital disruption.

“We have 685,000 registrants, 200,000 are millennials and we post a letter to them? Recognising the fact that the letter is not efficient and that the market is changing completely,” Murphy-Cooper says of the need to adopt the latest channels of communication and business process. Not only that, the NMC needed to become a data-led organisation.

“Data is the currency at the NMC and we have an opportunity to improve that. A lot of our stuff was point-to-point, we now have a data warehouse and we are putting that into a presentation layer for the organisation,” she enthuses.

To get the NMC to realise its need to change and become digitally focused to remain relevant to millennial nurses of the next generation, Murphy?Cooper has not only been CTO, but interim coach of the organisation.

“We did a one-hour Twitter session for our community to ask questions about revalidation and it landed really well,” she says. By driving our registrants to online services, we are improving communications and interaction. We now have 70% of our registrants signed up to NMC Online and are aiming for 80% by Christmas 2015 to support the revalidation implementation next year.

“Revalidation will be the way in which nurses and midwives demonstrate to the Nursing & Midwifery Council that they continue to practice safely, effectively and can remain on the register.”

Out of work time, Murphy-Cooper is studying for a diploma in digital leadership from the Academy of Digital Business Leaders and mentors a small group of startup businesses.

“Startups are really interesting, in their age, what they are able to do. Websites can be done in minutes, so you can quickly offer services. One organisation I help is an obstacle rage organiser that created a business of a thousand members from a Facebook site.”