New methodology involving users in the design of IT systems has led to substantial savings in local government and a redesign of the national Integrated Children's System.

Impacts

  • The SPRINT methodology led to estimated savings of £2 million for Lancashire's Schools Portal project for the period 2008-10. Replacing print publications with electronic documentation reduced the bill from £1.6 million to £100,000 in the first two years alone.
  • Informed by the Integrated Children's System research, the Munro Review recommended that the design of IT systems in social care should follow the user-focused 'socio-technical' approach, directly involving social workers using the system.
  • The research has guided subsequent design work on IT for social care.

About the research

Implementation of Information Technology (IT) systems has a poor record in both the public and private sectors, with up to 80 per cent of initiatives failing to reach objectives. ESRC-funded research assessing the Integrated Children's System (ICS), a national IT system used by social care services for children, highlighted how the system negatively impacted on professional practice, making errors more likely and exacerbating risks to children. Professors Sue White (University of Birmingham) and David Wastell (Nottingham University Business School) recommended a redesign involving users of the system, instead of a narrow focus on efficiency and hitting bureaucratic targets.

Professor Wastell developed the principles of a user-centred approach into the SPRINT methodology (Salford Process Reengineering Involving New Technology) - a design and innovation technique enabling public managers to shape the system design. It has been used extensively on service design projects in UK local government and has received international interest, including from India and Brazil. In the UK it was most recently used on a National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) project, to enhance safeguarding at the interface between hospitals and Local Authority children's services.