NHS B&T wasn’t a purely paper-based workplace originally. We were already using digital solutions but we did not have one solution that could do everything. We were aware that every administrator who organised meetings, cobbled together their own processes using Word, Outlook, a shared drive on Windows explorer, and sometimes even Dropbox. They needed to do this because we had nothing specific for meetings. We knew that there had to be a better way, as some of our Board and non-executive directors used similar products in other organisations, so the Chief Executive asked me to look into bringing an all-in-one solution onboard.
We did look at other options in the procurement process. The other solutions were good but Convene is affordable and had a flexible contract. Moreover, the browser-based capabilities were important because all of our meeting participants have the app downloaded to their devices, but the administrators need to be able to work on the pack using our desktops.
I did not want to add to the workload of our Information and Communications Technology (ICT) team nor ask them to build the Convene app into our virtual system. I just wanted it to be easy for administrators to access, so the fact that it was browser-based meant minimal disruption to the ICT team. Obviously, we did have to get the app installed on personal devices but it’s a lot easier. With browser-based capabilities, there is always a fallback and there is always a way of tracking the papers wherever you are.
I drew up a few parameters around who would need Convene before I emailed all the executive assistants to get a list of anyone who attended senior management meetings or were part of a directorate. I then asked the directors to suggest anyone else, if there was another big committee that could benefit from Convene. After finding out the names of people who needed it, I then drafted a roll-out plan in Excel. I decided to structure the roll out around the first meeting in which people would use Convene. There was a window of 2-3 months when these meetings across directorates and committees would happen. We thought about Convene as a small bolt-on, not our main ICT concern. I had to find a way to use minimal ICT resources and the solution was to get people to install Convene about two weeks before they needed it.
This way I was able to spread the workload and ICT did not mind doing 3-4 installs a week. If I had gotten them to install 100 licenses in a week then they would not have been happy. When it came to buy-in, the main goal was getting the administrators onboard. At the end of the day, the person who needs to understand Convene and use it properly is the administrator. So everything, from getting them onboard to using training sessions, was intended for them to essentially sell the benefits internally.
The most important thing people ought to do during the implementation process is to make sure that they work closely with Convene around creating a training guide that works for their organisation. There are challenges we don’t have which Sheffield Hospital has and vice versa. It’s about creating a training and implementation program that works for you.
Secondly, there will be a few hitches and things will not always work out as planned but it is important to have a document you can refer to. And finally, as you will be rolling Convene out to senior-level people, try to deliver the training session yourself to your executive team during an executive team meeting.
I did this because I was constantly being told: ‘We are too busy for this’. By its very nature, the solution that Convene offers is for people who don’t have time to be trained. That’s why you need to engage them during a meeting. In that first meeting, I would actually get someone from Convene or run it yourself and teach people how to use it.
I liked the fact that we worked with Gemma Walford, our Account Manager, throughout. I initially thought that Gemma was the salesperson. She did a great job at doing that, but it felt like she was the person assigned to work on our project specifically, and that made everything so easy and we built a proper relationship with the company. This means that if we have a conversation today, she can refer back to what we talked about last September during the procurement process. I think that continuity has been incredible, and this was a bonus when buying the solution.
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