Sharing along the way

Blogpost by John L Curtis

Well today is my last day as Project Manager for the Improving Information Sharing and Management (IISaM) Project. In some senses it only seems like yesterday when I was interviewed and took up the role. Overall its been an exciting 18 months whereby the last phase of national dissemination has positioned the project well for the future.

Over the next couple of months more and more appropriate information sharing will take place, and I personally think there will be growth in what does all this information now mean.  Information sharing is key for service improvement and lets face facts overall budget savings.   Clearly this does have to be done in an appropriate and secure way, but hurdles where found need to be overcome.  Remember to help you now have a dedicated site, so please have a look at the information sharing journey within the toolkit and the case studies and start with a clear vision, build on your information governance and pilot.

The way in which data has been collected, handled and shared appropriately needs to change, with cultural barriers being addressed.  I am sure you will agree that some of the case studies on the IISaM website help overall with the processes around appropriate information sharing, and that if we work collectively we can make a difference to overall outcomes.

We must recognise the importance of information, just like we recognise the importance of our resources, whether they are financial or human resources.  If your organisation is acknowledging this then there will be a rich and annually refreshed information management strategy assessing information needs and where information sharing plays a part.  With an information management programme and corporate team, there will be a clear delivery plan regarding how your organisation intends to get the most from its information assets.

Please be careful though and plan with what you have, start small with many small pilots and reflect. Wherever possible develop joint strategies with your partners with ties in with localism and policy. Remember the value of information becomes greater when you can reuse it appropriately within that locality, so partners and what they can put on the table are key to your resourcing plan.

Finally can I thank everyone who has helped support IISaM at a Project, local, regional and national level.


Keep calm and carry on

Blogpost by John L Curtis

Well, time has moved quickly in the most recent phase of the improving information sharing and management project, with our period of national dissemination almost at its end.

All our IISaM regional events have now successfully taken place and Tuesday 18th June was the last meeting of the project’s board in its current format. Needless to say you maybe worrying, but Keep Calm…. IISaM is carrying on, but in a different format.

Overall the board and team have been key to the success of the project and as the project manager, project governance, like information governance is something which you should do from the start.

Sometimes it is often that short cuts are taken due to time or resource, but If you get it right from the start then you know you will more than likely will be able to deliver: keep calm and carry on!

Get it wrong or too late and you may have some interesting risks and issues.

From a project perspective IISaM had a number of key deliverables, which through the support and input from a range of people were met (find out more in next week’s blog).

The next stage for IISaM will be exciting with its positioning into the Public Services Transformation Network (IISaM working group member, and member of the network Stephen Curtis previously blogged about this here: I will look forward to hearing how things have moved forward and progressed.

Its amazing to think overall what has been delivered in such a short timescale, such as the toolkit and website. This will be maintained and as such continue to flourish so you can keep calm.

As an Information Management professional I think it’s so important we ensure the information governance processes are robust, but not overly complex so that officers at varying levels can keep calm and carry on sharing appropriate personal information at the right time to the right person.

So long and thanks for all the fish……..

Anne Hopwood, IISaM Project Officer, Greater Manchester

As it’s my last day with the project next Tuesday I thought it would be good to sit back for a while and indulge myself a little by reflecting on the IISaM project and what we have achieved over the last 18 months.

A map showing the 10 Greater Manchester DistrictsDeveloping the tools and working on the ground with projects throughout Greater Manchester seems like a lifetime ago and was a real education for me.  We may have produced a model and tools to help multi agency working but the process was an exercise in partnership working and deserves a case study of its own.  I met with people, offered to help, talked to them to understand their vision, built trust helped to achieve some fantastic results around Troubled Families, Early Years and sharing information with the NHS.

I and the rest of the project team also shamelessly exploited some of these relationships to get information governance managers, front line practitioners, the Information Commissioners Office and some of our central government colleagues to provide case studies and look at the tools, providing invaluable feedback thus giving us a far more robust toolkit that we would have otherwise had – I thank you all!

Dissemination has been a blast!

Charlotte Piper from DCLG presents

Charlotte Piper (DCLG) talks about information sharing in the context of Whole Place Community Budgets

Getting out and about, meeting people and telling them about the work we have done was daunting at first but I can honestly say I will miss it.  Watching our academic colleagues from Universities in Bradford, Leeds, Manchester and Newcastle deliver their training and reference our material was fun as were the launch events in Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham.

Conference delegates at the stand

Anne and Jill chatting to some conference delegates

We manned stands at the ICO conference in Manchester in March and the I-network conference in May which was a new experience for me.  Everyone was so receptive to the concept of the information sharing journey and the toolkit in general that I ended both days really feeling that I had reached out to a wider audience.  I hope we have given you the tools and the confidence to share information – appropriately of course!

People at the workshop session

People at the workshop session

Members of the project team have also been invited to speak at a number of local and national events over the last 18 months and again the interest and positive response from these events has been a joy and an encouragement to us all.  Please continue to invite the project to your events via the website as even though the team are now starting to disband the work will continue to develop and I feel sure that the toolkit will go from strength to strength.

I have blogged; a new experience for me but strangely addictive.  I have found  myself thinking about how all kinds of everyday things seem to relate to the information sharing work that we are all doing and have found myself quoting the BBC, my daughters karate sensei and even Douglas Adams in my attempts to encourage people to visit the website and use the toolkit.  You have had a glimpse into the strange and scary way by brain works; I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

Old fashioned cart wheelsThere have been trials and tribulations along the way and I have to say that the phrase ‘let’s not reinvent the wheel’ will forever remind me of the frustrations of the project not least because it implies that once we have thought of an answer to a problem we need never revisit it again; not true.  The IISaM toolkit is your wheel, adapt and reinvent as you need to but remember to let us know what you do with it and how it works for you so we can keep the content fresh, relevant and useful to the information sharing community.

Finally, the support from those involved in the project and the partner agencies that have helped us to make the toolkit what it is today has been fantastic and I have been humbled by the knowledge and generosity of those who have worked on the project and advised us so well.  I sincerely hope that our paths cross again in the future.

IISaMDissemination in Yorkshire & Humber….

Y&H Event 3

Tim Conway – DWP

Wednesday saw the long awaited IISaM dissemination event for Yorkshire & Humber held at Leeds Metropolitan University. The day aimed to tell our partners across Yorkshire and Humber about the IISaM project, what we have done and learnt and to showcase our wesite and tools.

Y&H Event 1

The kicks off

 We had a great line up of speakers who outlined the importance of good information sharing from their perspective and how IISaM has helped to progress awareness of issues at national and local levels. How IISaM will continue in the future was also a key theme for the day. 


Y&H Event 4

Stephen Curtis explains the Leicestershire MASH

We were also able to tell the group about some practical experiences of the project using some of our case studies




 All in all it was a great day – due  to the fantastic turn out and participation from the delegates – so a big thank you to those of you who were there, everyone that helped with the day and to Nick Frost at Leeds Metropolitan University for stepping in and finding us a venue at short notice!!


Moving forward with networks

Last week was I-networks summer conference, which focused on transforming health and World Museum and gardens Liverpool venue for the i-network conference May 2013care. The event was held in the World Museum in Liverpool. It was great being back in a city that has so many historic buildings.

World Museum Liverpool venue for the i-network conference May 2013Did you know infact that after London, Liverpool has more grade one listed buildings and museums than any other city in the United Kingdom?.

The event was opened by the Chief Executive of Tameside Council, Steven Pleasant and was well attended by a range of strategic and operational officers across the public sector.

A number of presenters discussed the challenges around health, care and integration of services. The role information sharing played was also seen as key for earlier intervention and providing coordinated services.

The IISam stand at the i-network conference May 2013

The Improving Information Sharing and Management project had a table and as you can see we decorated it well with our latest newsletter and pop ups.

We had a lot of interest at the stand with a number of delegates having a go on the laptop and actually looking at the toolkit on the website.

Exhibitor tables at the i-network conference May 2013Importantly though we were at an event organised by an existing public sector network, i-network

The project has tapped into existing appropriate networks to support information sharing and management. This has without doubt significantly helped inform people about the project, and should significantly support the legacy of the project and overall appropriate information sharing.

Mind your Language!

The BBC started yesterday by asking what really annoys you in the office.  Being too noisy, quiet, untidy, inconsiderate, polite all featured but the one that struck a chord with me was the use of jargon and management language, for me you can add the use of acronyms, unnecessary metaphors and drawing speech marks in the air to that particular list.

Model T Ford

State Library of Queensland

In a recent IISaM working group meeting the phrase ‘lets not reinvent the wheel’ was used eight times in the space of 2 hours.  Not only lazy but also untrue, if the automotive industry had not spent over 100 years redefining and reinventing the combustion engine we would all still be driving around in Model-T Fords with wooden wheels. 

So what is the answer?

Pick your reinventions carefully.  Leicestershire County council had a perfectly serviceable ‘wheel’ in their overarching information sharing protocol.  At 70ish pages it covered every eventuality but on careful inspection didn’t actually ask anyone to do or take responsibility for anything.  The result of the reinvention is that they are now moving towards a four page protocol that sets out what partners are asked to do as part of the protocol and charges the signatory with making sure it happens.  A successful reinvention I think.

What about training?  There is so much training around and we have reinvented the way we deliver it to give so much on line training in information management and security that no-one need ever stand up and give that training ever again……or do they?  At a recent IISaM event, practitioners bemoaned the loss of face to face training where you could ask questions and explore nuances with a well prepared and knowledgeable trainer. Has the time come to reinvent this particular wheel again? 

People at an IISaM event

People at the North West IISaM event

Surely on line annual training will keep regulators happy and put a ‘tick in the box’ (did you see what I did there!!) with follow up face to face training every couple of years to make sure that people have the opportunity to ask questions and engage properly with the subject.

As we all prepare for the European Union Data Protection Directive to reinvent the wheel that is the Data Protection Act lets hope that someone also helps to sow the seeds of change in our information sharing culture by calling this new improved wheel The Data Sharing Act or renaming the Caldicott Guardians as Caldicott Providers.

Well I think I’ll ‘box this off’ for now and hope this discussion has allowed you to ‘push the envelope’ or ‘think outside the box’.  If you want to talk about this further maybe we should ‘take this off line’ and ‘touch base’ some time soon.


Show great heart and the rest will come….

My daughter has just restarted karate training and is getting knocked down…..a lot!  She was due for an assessment and didn’t think she was ready as she couldn’t remember all the combinations and other technical stuff.  Her Sensei said

“You show great heart, you get knocked down and you get up and try again, that is the most important thing.  The rest will come with time and practice”.

This is so like information sharing, we keep asking if people will share information with us and they keep knocking us back.  “We need your legal justification in writing”, “You need to get consent”, “That’s the wrong consent form”, “Your email address isn’t secure”, “We don’t trust what you will do with the information once you have it”, and so it goes on…..

To be clear, these are all important things that need sorting out but it can seem like the world of information sharing is full of barriers and some times it is easier to give up after you have been knocked back but it is well worth the effort to keep trying. 

Keep your goal in mind be it better services for children and families, better value for money, improved outcomes or any number of other positive and valuable reasons for sharing information and communicate that goal to your partners with passion and belief.  Listen to your partners and try to understand their culture and processes, build up the trust and understanding that may be lacking and push forward.

Above all learn from the process so that it will be easier next time and you will present your partners with less opportunities to knock you back and more opportunities to say yes…….show great heart and the rest will come…..

EASI Does it

Yesterday we held our first EASI Practitioner Development day in Bradford. EASI is a project delivered by Bradford University School of Management and funded by the ESRC , IISaM and Bradford Council. 

Practitioners from a range of different agencies across Bradford District came together to discuss information sharing in practice and more importantly explore the differences in different agency and professional approaches.

The day started with exploring the different influences on the way in which we all make decisions in our working lives. In particular the group were asked to think about how they may have different identities that align with their profession, their organisation or service, these identities may not always align and may compete but they will affect the way in which decisions about sharing information are made. 

In the afternoon the group were given a scenario to consider and were asked to think about the information sharing that could take place and what could have happened earlier. Differences in approaches were discussed and one key theme that came out was the way in which complex issues can go unnoticed because individual and seemingly isolated incidents do not meet thresholds for intervention or may be addressed by a single agency but are not shared with other interested parties. 

Over the time that I have been involved in IISaM I have come to realise that the sharing of information never fails to stimulate discussion, and yesterday was no different, participants were fully engaged in the process and there is always value in bringing different agencies together. One suggestion from the group was that the next session should include a focus on intervention thresholds so participants can gain a fuller picture. As early intervention is increasingly the focus of service redesign, gaining this broader understanding across practitioner boundaries will be important including a better understanding of why information may or may not be shared. 

The next event in Bradford will be on the 16th of May and has the promise of being an extremely stimulating, practical and valuable session.

A patchwork quilt of information sharing and information standards

Blog by John Curtis, Project Manager

Last week I was in a workshop held by the Local E-government Standards Body (LeGSB) . The workshop looked at Local and central government priorities and policies where data standards are key.

You may ask why are standards around data important for successful data sharing???

Anne's Patchwork Quilt

Anne’s Patchwork Quilt

Well lets just say overall how we collect, and classify data is commonly not clearly set, or when set it is usually only mandated by individual government bodies or departments.   Does this ring any bells? The same is very true for information sharing guidance which often is sector based, piecemeal and not cross cutting even when multi-agency work is key.

Clearly a pan government strategy around Information sharing and supporting data standards that brings things together is a MUST.

This adhoc approach also means that a receiving organisation may reuse data legitimately and appropriately but inappropriately interpret its meaning which impacts upon services provided to the Community.

Interestingly, culture, senior management buy in, and overall skills around of information management were all raised at today’s workshop, and what was really useful was just hearing a number of central and local government officers talking about what their priorities are.

Paul Davidson

Paul Davidson

The key lead in the field of standards is Paul Davidson who lead the session has posted some work that he has undertaken with colleagues at Trafford Council to understand their Troubled Families program. Published on the Troubled Families LGA Knowledge Hub, Paul has suggested how data standards could add value at each step from operational data, through to evidencing policy.

Here is a link to the paper Paul has produced which visualises differing relationships around the data sets and service delivery within the context of Troubled Families . 

Opportunities for applying Data Standards to a Troubled Families Programme (pdf, 720KB)

No such thing as a free lunch

As the good ship IISaM sails ever onward towards the future, we (the project team) remain focused on supporting that future. Our dissemination programme is part of that – making sure we widen our audience and tell people about our work and how it can help in the day-to-day information sharing world. So I was really pleased when I was invited to deliver a learning lunch session to Bradford Council staff all about information sharing and the IISaM project. As the name suggests a learning lunch is an opportunity for staff to network over lunch (bring your own!) and focus on a particular topic of interest. Whilst I was pleased to have been invited to deliver a session, I was also aware that we would only have an hour in which to illustrate our work and get our key messages across, I also wanted to introduce the toolkit. Given that we had previously spent a whole day delivering a session to Leicestershire colleagues this was going to prove a challenge!

I quickly enlisted the help of my colleague Nicola and together we decided we would focus on communicating the idea of the information sharing journey, illustrated by the real life Leicestershire MASH case study, and then give the group an opportunity to think about which IISaM tools might support each stage. On the day the session worked really well and we received lots of great feedback. Those that attended were from across Bradford Council so hopefully they will take the knowledge back into their respective departments and spread the word to support the use of the IISaM toolkit in the future. 

One issue that comes up regularly when information sharing is being discussed is that of different organisational cultures, and in particular different practices that apparently create problems when wanting to share information. As part of the ongoing legacy for IISaM we are supporting a programme of EASI (Effective and Appropriate Sharing of Information) practitioner development days – a project delivered through Bradford University School of Management and funded by the ESRC, IISaM and Bradford Council. The programme will aim to support practitioners and their managers in understanding differences, and recognising when it is appropriate to challenge those differences and when not. Planning for these sessions is underway and the first will be delivered in Bradford on 11th April. Have a look at our Events page to see what else is happening in your area! 

So we continue to build the future and legacy of IISaM and with the Midlands and Yorkshire & Humber events on the 8th and 22nd May there is still a lot to look forward to – lunch included!……