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Developing a digital strategy for a newly formed ICS

The Mid and South Essex ICS Leadership had ambitious plans to adopt a far-reaching ‘digital first’ approach. However, there were a number of practical challenges, not least buy-in among senior leadership.

The Context

The ICS was at an early stage of development, frequently acting as a disparate collection of organisations rather than a coherent system. The overarching ICS vision was not well known, and many elements of their work were still evolving. Too often digital initiatives are reactive to short-term funding rather than strategically planned. Digital governance is sometimes perceived as blocking innovation, whilst digital leads expressed frustration that they weren’t sufficiently involved in service development in the early stages.

Our Approach

The ICS already had several strategies, produced by external consultants, that have simply sat on the shelf and failed to deliver any change. To avoid this, we took a collaborative approach that has ensured the new digital strategy is owned by local leaders. In addition to a desk-top document review and almost 40 stakeholder interviews, a multi-agency Strategy Working Group was established with weekly meetings facilitated by the Seymour John Consultant Director. This Strategy Working Group brought together digital and transformation leads from organisations across the ICS, creating buy-in and ultimately a stronger strategy.

To facilitate these meetings, we introduced the ICS to a range of collaborative digital tools, to enable effective workshops to continue despite the remote working required, during the pandemic. Participants actively took up the tools and plan to continue using them. In parallel with digital community collaboration, our Consultant Director engaged with executive leads across the partnership to ensure that the strategy supported the overall ambition and integrated digital into opportunity identification and service development. Our ICS leadership workshop consolidated the system and digital strategies, helping develop a commitment to change.

The Result

An inclusive approach resulted in a strategy that reflects the practical reality on the ground, and which has the potential to deliver real change. It expresses the ambitions of the system leadership but also takes a pragmatic and realistic approach with an emphasis on initial capacity and capability building. This included proposals to recruit a Chief Digital and Information Officer and central digital team for the ICS, with plans to strengthen clinical leadership of digital work. The strategy includes indicative timescales but recognised this would need to be regularly reviewed as the work of the wider ICS develops.

A detailed target operating model (TOM) and architectural principles – iterated over the engagement with the input of the cross-organisational digital leads – form a blueprint for the future ICS digital team to work towards, with the benefit of ICS commitment. The members of the Strategy Working Group have committed to continue to work together, having developed strong relationships and building momentum to deliver change.

Next Steps

Seymour John continues to work with the ICS Partnership Board and Executive to support the delivery of the Strategy. As part of our commitment to delivering complete client solutions, our team produced Job Descriptions and early action plans for the new central team. The recruitment arm of Seymour John provided support to fill these key, initial positions.

Sophie Peters

Sophie Peters

Sophie is dedicated to helping NHS organisations succeed in today’s complex operating environments. Hers is an integrated, holistic approach to enabling healthcare systems to do more with less.

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