Verto Case Study: working with the South West Academic Health Science Network

The South West Academic Health Science Network (SW AHSN) is one of 15 AHSNs across England set up to deliver significant change in the way the health and care sector identifies, develops and adopts innovation.  Each AHSN works to improve the health of its local population and generate economic growth in the area.


AHSNs have to regularly report on their plans and progress to NHS England. They also have to report to their own board on the progress they’re making delivering their strategic objectives and work programmes.


The SW AHSN has a mission 'to improve the health and patient experience of people in the South West by supporting and accelerating innovation and quality improvement'. To deliver this, they have three strategic objectives supported by ten work programmes encompassing a wide range of individual projects.


They work with 18 member organisations and a wide range of stakeholder organisations from health and care sectors in the South West and nationally.



What the SW AHSN wanted to achieve


The SW AHSN’s staff team comes from a diverse range of backgrounds including academia, frontline health and social care, research, IT, analytics and NHS support services.


This means, while they are all committed to achieving a common aim, they have a wide range of work practices. This difference was causing an inconsistent approach to project management.


The SW AHSN needed a way to easily and clearly report back to NHS England and their board on their work programme, in particular in relation to individual project outcomes. They also needed a system that would make sure they had the most up to date information in their reports. This would mean they could clearly evidence the impact of their work and identify and manage risk.


To move to this position the SW AHSN committed to go through a change management process, including a change in culture, to one where they had:


  • A consistent approach to project management
  • A commitment to clearly evidence impact
  • Easy access to accurate information on individual projects and programmes of work
  • Comprehensive, easy and flexible reporting
  • Robust risk management


How we’re helping the SW AHSN achieve their goal


We started working with the SW AHSN in October 2016 and had their system live by February 2017. This rapid installation of the project management software helped them move smoothly through the changes they needed to make.


Because Verto is cloud-based project management software, the SW AHSN staff and its contractors can access the system. In the future their member organisations may also have access to the system, which will further help develop a consistent approach to project management across the network.


We tailored the Verto dashboard to match the brand colours of the SW AHSN. This familiarity helped their staff engage and feel more comfortable using a new system.


Verto has given them a shared database, which means they can generate reports at all levels. And Verto’s tagging facility means they can create reports from the data they choose.


“The team at TMI have been really helpful and Verto is proving to be an excellent project management tool. We now have a richness of information we didn’t have before. Being able to tag fields so we can tailor reports is a significant benefit. And we’re able to use Verto to quickly and easily create our quarterly reports and business plan for NHS England. All this has helped us to implement the change we needed to make in both our practice and our culture.”


Claire Higdon, Director of Corporate Services, SW AHSN



The benefits the SW AHSN is seeing


The SW AHSN have found Verto really easy to use. Some staff are happily using it without having had any training. However, those who have taken part in a short training session are, to quote Claire Higdon, ‘really flying.’


In particular, staff have found Verto is saving them time as they only need to fill in information such as project descriptions and objectives once.


The SW AHSN now has a much clearer understanding of how projects are allocated across the staff team and can clearly see who is working on what. They can also get an instant report on all the projects each member organisation is involved in.


They are able to capture more information on each project and programme of work. This is making it much easier to see what they’ve achieved and evidence progress. It also means they are better able to identify and manage risk.


One of the key benefits the SW AHSN has found is Verto’s tagging facility. This means users can tag the data they want to include to create exactly the report they need.


With Verto they can also produce reports as PDF documents. This has proved to be really helpful when staff need to take information to a meeting or share it with someone who doesn’t have access to the system.



 “The strength of working with TMI has been how they’ve tailored our Verto system to our exact needs – making it part of our organisation, not a bolt on.”

Louise Witts, Interim CEO, SW AHSN



In March 2017, the SW AHSN sent their first quarter end report to NHS England using Verto. Claire Higdon told us it was really quick and easy to do. She went on to say:


“Although many of the changes we’ve seen since we introduced Verto seem fairly basic, they’ve really helped us to engage and motivate staff and members.”


We’re still working with the SW AHSN and are currently helping them use Verto to capture more information from their projects and develop more detailed reporting.


To find out more about how Verto can help your AHSN please call us on 0118 334 6200 or message us here.

How Verto Helps You Manage Risk

You’ll have noticed in our blogs that we often talk about risk and how important it is that you manage it well.


In our last blog we described effective risk management as being aware of everything that could go wrong, having plans in place to respond quickly if something does go wrong and updating these plans as the project progresses and the risks change.


Others say that risk management is about anticipating what could happen between where you are and where you want to be.


This means looking at:


  • What you’re aiming to do
  • What might go wrong and why
  • If it does go wrong, what would happen
  • What you can do to stop it happening or make it have less impact


You should identify potential risks as soon as you start to plan your project. And you should monitor them throughout the life of the project.


Verto can help you do this.


A quick and easy way to manage risk


One of the greatest risks to any project is poor communication. For example, John finds out that in order to meet the deadline for a bid a member of his team needs some information. He’s out of the office when he’s told this, so makes a note to sort it out when he gets back. However, events overtake him and his note gets lost in the pile of other things he has to do. The deadline passes and his project ends up short of funds.


With Verto, wherever John had been when he first heard about this risk, he could immediately have sent a message to however many members of his team he needed to. And they could have picked it up, wherever they were.


He could also have created a task to remind them what they needed to do and by when. He could then have set an alert to let him know when the task was complete or if it was at risk of being missed.


A quick and easy way to monitor risk


Of course, you’re aware of some risks from the start of a project.


Let’s look at another example from John. He’s managing a project and has six months to complete one part of it. From the outset, some of his team warned that it could take much longer than this. However, the management team chose not to restructure the whole project. Instead they asked for weekly progress reports and for John to have a contingency plan in place.


If John were using Verto he would have a clear and detailed view of all his projects, in one place. This would make it easy for him to keep a close watch on the part of his project that was at risk of overrunning. Verto’s automatic notifications would also alert him straight away if anything began to fall behind. So John would be able to step in and take immediate action. And he would be able to produce and share an accurate progress report so his management team were always well informed.


While this wouldn’t remove the risk, Verto’s tools mean John could stay in control of the situation rather than just respond to it.


After all, it’s better to manage a risk than manage a crisis.


To find out more about how Verto can help you manage risk please call us on 0844 870 8785 or message us here.

The top five skills all project managers should have

We developed Verto’s cloud-based software to make the work of project managers easier. Because we know what a complex and demanding role it can be.


We understand how busy you are. That you’re managing people, resources, finances and time. You’re reporting on progress and outcomes. And you’re monitoring and evaluating your projects every step of the way.


With all this responsibility, to be effective project managers need to have a broad range of skills. We think there are five key ones that provide the foundation for all the others. These skills are also transferable, so whatever type of project you manage, they’re relevant to you.



  1. Effective project managers can communicate well


Communication is effective when the person receiving the information finds it easy to understand, knows why it’s relevant to them and is clear about any response they’re expected to make.


So whether you’re sharing information verbally or in writing you should be thinking about who you’re communicating with and why.


For example, what’s the best way to communicate something? Does everyone need a whole report or would a summary be enough? What do you want people to do once they’ve had the information?


Get this right and it’s more likely people will listen to you and read what you send. Get it wrong and you could end up being ignored.


And remember, communication works both ways when you’re talking to someone face-to-face. So be aware of your body language and use it to let people know you’re interested and listening.



  1. Effective project managers can lead


Although you may not be making key decisions about a project, project managers do have a leadership role. You need to inspire people to commit to the project and then help maintain their energy and enthusiasm throughout it.


You also need to lead by example. You help set the tone for how people communicate with each other. You make it the norm for people to stick to deadlines. You show how working to the processes you’ve agreed help keep the project moving forward and running smoothly. And, by accepting responsibility yourself, you help others do the same for the tasks assigned to them.



  1. Effective project managers can negotiate


Most projects involve different organizations, different specialisms and a wide range of people, all of which are likely to have competing interests and priorities. As project manager you need to make sure these differences are overcome so the project has the resources and commitment it needs to succeed.


To do this you need to be an effective negotiator. You have to balance the needs of the project with the needs of the different people involved, maintaining their support and the project’s momentum. Not an easy task, but an essential one.



  1. Effective project managers can manage risk


Effective risk management is being aware of everything that could go wrong and having plans in place so you can respond quickly if the worst does happen. As a project progresses the risks can change so the risk management plan must change too.


As an effective project manager you can’t ignore or hide any potential risk. And you need to monitor your project carefully so you know when risks become more likely and when they pass.



  1. Effective project managers can manage meetings


Any project, however small, is going to involve meetings. However much we may moan about them, meetings are vital to keep everyone informed and connected, to make decisions and to keep a project moving forward.


To be an effective project manager you need to recognize this and manage the meetings you run carefully. For example, you need to keep to the agenda you’ve set, only invite the people who need to be there and don’t try to cover too much in one meeting.



Because well-run meetings are so important to a project’s success, we’re going to look in more detail at how to manage them in a future post.


To find out more about how Verto can support your project management please call us on 0844 870 8785 or message us here.


PS: If we were to include a sixth skill we think it would have to be a sense of humour!