Jessica Smith 250sq

Business Intelligence Lead wins digital award

Date: 15 April 2019

Jessica Smith, Business Intelligence Manager at the CRN South London, won the Digital Leadership award at the NIHR Digital Festival 2019.

Her work in delivering EDGE across the Network, leading to changes in the management and visibility of data on clinical research studies, was cited as the reason she received this significant recognition. Jessica said:

“I was really pleased to win the award. It’s a significant project so it was really nice to receive that recognition. It felt like the culmination of a lot of hard work.

“This is not over yet - we’re still in the midst of doing this - but a lot of our success has been due to efforts across all parties involved, so it’s really a Network-wide achievement.”

Award presentations were part of a packed programme at the NIHR Digital Festival 2019 including an inspiring talk from Molly Watts about accessibility and assistive technologies. There were several aspects to the NIHR Digital Festival. Jessica said:

“It was a good opportunity for people to come together and share ideas; I particularly enjoyed the workshop on sustainability and tech.”

Implementing a new system across multiple Partner Organisations in south London has been challenging, but Jessica and her team have taken a staged approach. The first stage was to explain to stakeholders the process for migrating their data to a new system, and then giving them a platform to come together as a group to ask questions, air grievances and keep informed.

She said: “Our early adopters came back to our group meetings to share their ideas and experiences, and through this we reviewed and innovated our processes to make migration easier for subsequent adopters.

“Through these meetings we also started to understand what was happening, and needed, at a local level.”

Understanding what the challenges were helped the Business Intelligence Team to sympathise with the initial reluctance and anxiety about the change: “Through open dialogue it became clear that this could not be a directive implementation,” said Jessica; “we needed to work together to make this project successful.”

Having regular open dialogue helped Jessica and her team overcome the ‘us vs them’ mentality with Partner Organisations, and ensured that all those involved were sitting on the same side of the table to deliver high-quality research. This was essential during the migration period where collaborating on tasks such as extracting and cleaning data needed local knowledge as much as the technical knowhow of Jessica’s team. The migration of data to the new system, EDGE, was only part of the process, however, as Jessica pointed out: 

“Following migration, our role evolved and we became the key contact to resolve anything EDGE-related; we provided extra training, created Network-specific support documents and became the ‘how to’ experts.”

Support was ongoing through email, telephone and an online community that was created for posting queries and ideas: “We wanted our POs to know that we were equally willing to put in the hard work required to make such a massive change successful,” said Jessica.

Moving to EDGE meant that data could start being gathered in ways that weren’t previously available, and it could also be disseminated by new and innovative methods such as through web based applications. The CRN South London Open Data Platform application was built by Jessica’s team to help with visualising vast amounts of data and highlighting key areas requiring input. This has given Partner Organisations and their research teams the capabilities to make real-time performance management decisions.

Jessica feels that although achievements since the project started four years ago have been considerable, there’s still opportunity to innovate and take advantage of the doors that have opened up through the implementation of the new system. She said:

“Though lengthy, and certainly not over yet, EDGE delivery has led to digital innovations across our Network that may not have happened otherwise. We are seeing changes in how we operate, and measurable improvements in our performance.”


Below are quotes of congratulations from Jessica's colleagues around south London:

"The support and expertise that Jessica and her team bring is phenomenal. The ease of use by which we can all see pertinent data means it's so much easier to keep track of research activity and to act quickly whenever issues may arise. The swap to a new system, EDGE, was made so much easier with her help, and she's always been very patient in answering my queries. Well done and thank you, Jessica!"

Anthony Davis
Research and Knowledge Manager
Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust

"Jessica and her team have been instrumental in the implementation of EDGE in SLaM. They have been there since the beginning offering support and guidance. I honestly can say we would not have been ready to switch to EDGE without the huge amount of work Jessica, Michael and Eóin have put in, such as creating reports in the ODP South London app and working closely with the EDGE team. Whenever we have had questions, they were ready to answer, and we have had many questions!. This award is a well-deserved recognition of their hard work!"

Nabila Cruz De Carvalho
R&D Data Officer
South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust

"Jessica and the team were a massive help in the migration from REDA to EDGE, we could not have done it so successfully without their help and expertise. Even when an issue arose Jessica and the team were always supportive and efficient in eradicating the issue."

Victoria Simpson
Research & Development Facilitator
Lewisham & Greenwich NHS Trust

"Jess has been instrumental to the delivery of EDGE locally and the development of CRN South London’s business intelligence tools; which are key to supporting the performance of the Network.  It is fantastic to see her work recognised with this award and something to be very proud of  – well done Jess!"

Clare Gillott
Industry and Research Support Operations Manager
CRN South London

"It’s fantastic news that Jess has won the digital leadership award at the recent Digital Festival. For us in south London, our aspiration is to be at the forefront of not only digital leadership but imbuing digital working in every aspect of research. We look forward to taking this one further and delivering more in this space."

Dr Kosh Agarwal
Co-Clinical Director
CRN South London

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    Jessica Smith, Business Intelligence Manager at the CRN South London, won the Digital Leadership award at the NIHR Digital Festival.
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