Automation has been a game-changer for Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust
Device management is a perpetual IT headache; not only supply and onboarding, but the ongoing struggle to keep devices secure and up-to-date, as well as issues around audits and licensing. When you work in an organisation with the size, complexity and importance of the NHS, those challenges are multiplied ten-fold.
Like many NHS units, Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust struggled with device management. The team lacked a holistic view, and found that audits in particular ate up a huge amount of time. Scott Peters, the Trust's Service Operations Centre Manager, says:
"We were spending far too much manual time on device management as a team, and gradually came to the conclusion that we needed a new solution. Over a period of time, more and more staff members expected older products to perform in a certain way, and our existing device management solution wasn't supporting us with this; essentially, we didn't have confidence in it, and it wasn't helping us. Instead of freeing up staff time to contribute to more value-add activities, we were having to deploy engineers for hours at a time to complete tasks."
Starting in February last year, just before the Covid pandemic, the Trust began to deploy BMC Helix Client Management (HCM), enabling just two engineers to ready more than 650 laptops for remote workers in five days.
"Prior to implementing HCM, our engineers spent too much time on fundamental device management tasks, which posed a real challenge for us. Routine operations, such as patch management, reporting and software deployment, aren't one-off activities and sometimes took place every day, taking up a lot of manual time across the team. So…its automation capabilities were a game changer."
Dudley Group Trust's 74 IT employees now manage more than 7,500 devices for nearly 12,000 users, across 70 locations. Automation has been key in addressing endpoint management and licensing - not only assisting with compliance and risk mitigation, but crucially speeding up the licensing process for laptop deployments.
Licensing for laptop deployments has been "a big push" over the past 12 months, and thanks to smoother audits, the team now has a better understanding of how many laptops are needed across the Trust, "meaning we can procure more devices and licenses from NHS Digital."
Automated patching and reporting has been another big change. In the past, users often delayed or ignored updates as it meant service disruption - a no-go for clinical staff. The same applied for device upgrades, like OS updates, with staff and the IT team needing to liaise about bringing a device in and providing a replacement.
"Most recently, the BMC solution performed an upgrade to Windows 10 20H2 for 3,000 devices in the space of one month… We've never seen an operating system upgrade take place like this before. There was minimal impact to the end users, as the upgrade took place in the background and was ready to be finalised at a time that suited them. This helped us to stay on top of vulnerability management, which is invaluable. Maintaining supporting systems across the Trust's devices is a requirement of NHS Digital's DSP Toolkit, which all NHS Trusts must adhere to, and having HCM really helps us to do this."
Patch management was one of the features that sealed the deal during the NHS-mandated tender phase. The reporting suite was also a driving factor - and "the cherry on top" was remote device management over the internet.
"The ‘Remote Control on Request' functionality is really helpful, as it allows us to provide remote support to users even in the event of a VPN issue - end users just need an internet connection. This has been crucial in the age of social distancing, as it means the Trust's teams don't need to come into the office for IT help when working remotely, and instead can be supported via an internet connection."
As well as lowering exposure risks, HCM has eased the rollout of new software like Microsoft Teams, which was a central deployment for NHS Digital last year.
"With our old systems, we would have needed engineers to do this for multiple hours, but thanks to BCM, this process was automated and took place quickly and efficiently.
"The long and short of it has been we don't need to spend anywhere near as much time on BCM as with other solutions - there's some time spent when setting up the initial building blocks, setting up the functions and building out the patch management process, but beyond that it just needs monitoring and maintaining. We now only need a couple of experts to maintain the BMC solution: a crucial and much-needed respite during the pandemic."