Wellcome Trust chief technology and digital director James Thomas (above) is bringing IT services and digital products together at the medical research body in London by ensuring that the teams speak the same vocabulary.
Thomas, formerly CIO with the University College London Hospital NHS Trust, joined the Wellcome Trust in the spring of 2016 and gained the digital remit to his responsibilities as a board member in January 2017.
The Wellcome Trust, headquartered on London’s highly congested Euston Road, is a world leading medical science research and funding charity that was founded by Henry Wellcome, a highly successful scientist and pharmaceuticals business owner. Thomas says the Wellcome Trust has three core missions; advancing ideas by funding research; to seize opportunities that research and science present and to educate and drive reform in health. The Wellcome Trust has a significant investment organisation (hence Thomas has the job title CTO as the Wellcome Trust CIO is the Chief Investment Officer) which uses its investment returns to fund health research and campaigns.
As head of IT and digital at the Wellcome Trust Thomas explained how he and his team have analysed the vocabulary of traditional IT service teams and that of a digital team. “If you ask the IT team to choose a picture that demonstrates their role it would be this,” he says pointing to a picture of organised server cabinets: “It is very precise and very correct. On the other side of the coin is a very different vocabulary, one that uses terms like iterative delivery, customer experience, evergreen architecture and backlogs.
“They live in a world based on search not folders,” Thomas says of the different cultures that exist in IT and digital teams and the language that defines those different cultures. Thomas pictures the digital team with a keyboard being assembled by Lego construction workers. But the vocabulary can bring the teams together, not divide them, Thomas says.
“UX Research is similar to Business Analysis, UX Design and Project teams,’ Thomas told attendees to Digital Healthcare 2017 and demonstrating a table of roles that grouped IT job titles with digital job titles. “There’s a huge amount of overlap; and there are some gaps,” he says.
“So we went through and clustered the roles into groups of how people can work together and then we co-located the heritage IT with the digital teams. We then iterated a new version of a single team in a series of sprints,” he says.
The reason for the restructure was to respond to demand by the Wellcome Trust. “We were not seen as an enabler.” Thomas has now introduced a new target operating model (TOM) and the technology and digital services are working towards becoming an asset that really helps the Wellcome Trust with its mission to improve scientific research and healthcare. The CTO says they will become central to analysing evidence to create more knowledge in the organisation and to improving collaboration as the trust is a global body.
“The Wellcome Trust makes the world a better place, in a microcosm way we are a version of that within the Trust.”