Blog: Intelligence – preparing for digital change

Last updated on 11 Oct 2023

As the old saying goes, asking for help doesn’t mean you’re weak, it means that you’re wise.

It might be a bit of a cheesy aphorism, the sort of thing you see on a plaque in a gift shop, but at its heart the saying is about recognising what you’re good at, and knowing when you need someone else’s skills and expertise to make progress.

Here at the HRA we’re great at helping make trusted health and social care research happen. Our community of almost 1000 people who give their time generously and in many cases freely to ensure you can trust the research that we approve, along with our 230 staff, make sure this is the case. We include the right people, and we accelerate progress, above all making sure that studies are legal, ethical, and fair.

And much of this work to achieve our ambitious strategy involves partnering with others. As a small organisation, recognising what we can do ourselves and when we need help is crucial.

The HRA is responsible for IRAS, the integrated research application system which researchers use to apply to do health and social care studies in the UK. Updating the system, which routes applications between different regulators depending on the type of research being planned, is complicated and means working with a specialist supplier used to digital transformation.

But it also requires us to look at our own skills and expertise and consider the changes we’ll need to make so that our project with the specialist supplier has the best chance of success.

We’ve been working with the Department of Health and Social Care to understand how small organisations need to change to support digital projects like the one to update IRAS. This work is about making the best use of public money, making sure that we’re working well with our supplier as it starts its work.

The review of how ready we are identified that there are some key roles that the HRA is missing, and which are needed to make sure our project is a success. These include specialist contract management resource, user experience (UX) expertise and a new senior leadership position, a Chief Business Transformation Officer, to connect and curate the change we’re making and coordinate our work to support people through this change.

The person in this crucial role will stay with us until the end of our project, around three years. You may have seen some of these roles advertised, we’re keen to promote them widely to help us to find the best people to join us and our existing team so together we can make it easier to do research that people can trust.

We are changing then, and growing. We’re asking for help from people who have never worked with the HRA before. They’ll need to get to know us and our work, and this might feel uncomfortable and unusual for a while. But we also know this change is needed so that the work we’ve asked our supplier to do has the impact we need it to have, on time and on budget.

Some call this asking for help being an intelligent client, I like to call it wisdom.

I look forward to keeping you updated on our progress later on this year.

Karen Williams resized.jpg

Karen Williams

Deputy Chief Executive, HRA
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