Celebrating and promoting the best in UK prisons, probation and youth justice
AWARD WINNER 2011-12: Described as a “visionary”, as Head of IT Development at London Probation, Fawzi had the idea for and has overseen the introduction of an IT system which has brought huge improvements in efficiency and effectiveness, enables managers to better manage their staff, allows staff to better manage the offenders in their care, and helps everyone in London Probation to keep informed and up to date. LondonNet complements the national OMNI system and Fawzi is now developing similar systems for other Trusts. (This Award is supported by the Indigo Trust).
[Fawzi T Fawzi gives his account of the work for which he won his Award]
My nomination for this award relates to the delivery of improved frontline performance through innovations and the use of technology. There are several contributing factors to the success of my strategy for closer alignment of operational practices and business tools. The development of business tools with a focus on performance enhancement and the tangible improvements that followed the poor score of the HMI inspection for LPT risk of harm assessment, were major contributors to London Probation Trust application. I have consulted with colleagues, LPT practitioners, national and international agencies on the role of technology to deliver business benefits and service enhancements.
In 2007 I was tasked with finding creative, cost-effective ways of reducing the expenditure and inefficiency across London Probation Trust’s entire IT network and infrastructure, to allow us to support colleagues better and reinvest funds back into our front line services. There was a need to alleviate the pressures faced by front line colleagues, caused by a restrictive, inefficient IT system that had too much ‘down time’ – i.e. it did not work.
My strategy was to create a local working (IT) environment for London that had all of the features of, and complemented, the national system, OMNI, but would enable us to tailor-make specific applications that would help colleagues in London with their IT needs.
The main things were to have a system dynamic enough to allow us to create applications but still meet national data assurance and security requirements. We designed the entire system from scratch and LondonNet has been operating since the end of 2009 – with no downtime.
We are the only probation trust to have their own working environment that has met national restrictions and security requirements; and we did it at a cost of only £400, 000. Recent quotes to the Ministry of Justice from other providers for the same work have been costed in the millions, so the department is keen to work with us and learn from our experience.
As well as enabling us to develop our own applications, crucial to improving the way we manage our work throughout the organisation (some of which are listed below), we are able to provide hosting space to other probation trusts – a secure environment where they can access their information on our systems, via their own desktops and without the need for additional, separate IT equipment.
One of the main things having our own working environment has enabled us to do is bring the external online world into our own secure environment, so that we can access every day essential features, such as maps or online information without restriction and safe in the knowledge that all of our sensitive information is protected.
Through LondonNet we have created a platform for applications and hosting space. Our Workload Management Tool, Victim Tracker, SAP and online knowledge management network (intranet) have all contributed to a better, more efficient and more helpful way of working.
Since we first set out to improve front line colleagues’ ability to perform their work through our IT innovations, my team has grown to seven members of staff, including two developers.
The team is largely self-financing, through the improvements we have made with our applications and working environment, which have all been at minimal cost. Savings are also made through efficiencies created by our applications. Victim Tracker, for example, cost £50,000 to develop and saves offender managers 2 hours per day; that’s 800 hours per day for the 400 offender managers in London.
More than that, where possible we are sharing our information and expertise with other probation trusts throughout the UK and through granting licences or hosting space, we are able to recoup funds that were originally used to develop our products.
[The following article appeared in issue 4 of the Butler Trust’s magazine, Inspire]
Fawzi T Fawzi was delighted and surprised to hear he had won a Butler Trust Award for his innovative IT work at London Probation Trust. ‘When I was nominated I looked at the Butler Trust website and didn’t see many computer people, so I thought that was as far as it was going to go!’ he laughs.
But his work in what is seen as a ‘behind the scenes’ profession has had a profound effect on the efficiency and capabilities of his workplace and given him the reputation of a visionary among management and colleagues. From working in a troubleshooting role, going onsite to solve problems, Fawzi began to think of ways to bring technology closer to the end user, so they could deliver better frontline services while keeping them cost effective.
There were plenty of barriers involved in working with a locked down national infrastructure, but with the support of prison and probation, he was given the go-ahead to show what he could do. The result was LondonNet, a system that gives users access to real time information to support management of operations and corporate services. The design for the new system, which was carefully aligned with the national IT strategy, was tested on focus groups that included probation officers and senior managers. ‘We asked them what they would like to see and what would help them deliver better services,’ says Fawzi. In response they reeled off a dozen suggestions, which made him realise how much they needed the changes.
These aspirations coincided with the service’s need to improve performance in several areas – aspects of work that, without investment, could compromise public protection. London Probation Trust have reported that it has made them more efficient, saving time and money and allowing offender managers to get on with their job. Other probation trusts have begun to benefit from the system and their comments include that it is ‘jaw droppingly good’. Fawzi believes its success is down to its user-friendly interface – ‘it’s close to what people are using at home so they find the navigation quite easy. The need for training is a lot less.’ Using the same desktop as the national infrastructure also keeps the costs down, as well as making it time efficient in terms of training.
But being a perfectionist, he is constantly searching for more areas for improvement. He added a PhD course to his IT background to help him validate research from peers and experts, which has made him want to continue to seek new solutions. ‘There’s a lot more to be done,’ he says. ‘We will continue to innovate and be creative.’
• Fawzi T Fawzi’s award was sponsored by the Indigo Trust.