Carrie spoke at a recent conference The G-Cloud in Practice, which I had the privilege of chairing. Her background is in social work in the London Borough of Barnet. With her collaborator Dominic Campbell she has created a web-based capability for enabling the work of social workers called Patchwork. What to be impressed by?
Well, I write as yet another sad story of child cruelty and murder (the case of Daniel Pelka, whose mother and step father received 30-year sentences on August 2) has dramatised the horrendous challenges that the diversity of social work professionals in schools, police, social services, and local housing face in alerting themselves and each other to potential cases where their intervention is required – and ideally enabling early respose to signals of pending trouble.
In Carrie’s words ‘how can we free up people involved in safeguarding to prioritise their time with clients, join up services around children and families and surface patterns for earlier intervention sooner?’. Especially as ‘most social work teams are operating with a 20–30% vacancy rate and 12% turnover which means relationships aren’t consistent’.
In her presentation to the conference Carrie used two constrasting slides to dramatise the weakness of the traditional IT systems development approach. The first illustrated a classic complexity of process flow diagrammatics detailing ‘Core Case Management Operations’. The second I can best describe as a dense visual tumult of autumn leaves caught in a severe storm - in Carrie’s diagnosis ‘social networks + weak ties = need for an organisational immune system’.
Here Carrie delivered a sharp insight into why so many IT projects that set about addressing the complexities of the human dimension fail. The classic approach of the highly methodical Systems Analyst (the process flow diagammatics) ultimately risks paralysis by analysys.
Instead sharp-end practioners, deeply intimate with the frustrating realities of the world they work in, set about exploiting simple tools of communication and social media, steadily interlinking (service integration) as experience and practical insight suggests, rapidly learning by doing... And the result is Patchwork – the name says it all.
The evidence shared at the conference indicates that Patchwork delivers, and that uptake has been rapid. And it already has initial export sales into local government around Melbourne in Australia.
Here is what I call innovation in the new sourcing. Patchwork was created rapidly from initial workshops – small scale, practitioner-driven, pilot design, exploiting simple tools, rapid scaling as experience was gained. It did not require a multi-million pound project taking years. It did not have to worry about compute, data storage, network, comms, security and regulatiory compliance – all of that was provided by the integrated IaaS/network G-Cloud capabilities provided by SCC – and that enabled rapid scaling as uptake grew.
Here is a reality check on the insights I set out in my most recent column Sourcing a New Agenda . I observed that the spread of entries I had been judging for the EuroCloud 2013 Awads confirmed my view that our industry is steadily layering into two broad business arenas.
The first arena brings together underlying capabilities such as IaaS and Networks Services - increasingly as platforms that integrate the above into coherent, and secure, operational capabilities ‘in the Cloud’. SCC one example: delivering a series of G-Cloud platforms at different groupings of security Incident Levels (ILs) – including for IL4 and higher. Robust, secure, competitive capabilities for Patchwork to exploit!
The second is the flowering of focused services delivered as Apps and as SaaS: relevant & innovative services for business & government - and even social service capabilities such as Patchwork!
FutureGov was not the only company showcased at the SCC conference. Another impressive story was told by NQC, a ten-year-old Manchester-based small venture.
NQC’s expertise is in supply-chain management and assurance. It was given the opportunity to bid for a Cabinet Office/Government Procurement Service modernisation of an exisiting cross-government system with over 80,000 registered suppliers and almost 80,000 customers in play. NQC was able to create the winning facility in eight weeks flat, exploiting its established systems and experience on the operational G-Cloud platform provided by SCC – a capability that was already fully compliant with the relevant government security and regulatory requirements.