The idea of patients being able to go online to book appointments and then use the same login to order repeat prescriptions is something we almost take for granted.

That seamless interaction for users is what both public and commercial organisations are looking for when they are developing their digital services.

However, the path to seamless operability is not a straightforward one. “What we hear is concerns about the siloed nature of organisations,” says Darren Hutton, chief digital officer at Hippo. 

“Whether those silos are intentional or have changed through time, they have created problems in linking data across organisational boundaries.

“And those boundaries can be quite fluid. If you take the government as an example, departments have merged and new departments come along. That means that services have to merge as well. 

“So you can end up with systems that were supplying functionality to what were once two separate departments that are now one.”

Hutton adds: “We see a similar thing in large enterprise customers that are going through mergers and acquisitions. They end up with a legacy of lots of different systems that either can’t talk to each other or can’t develop things like a single view of the customer.”

Hippo has helped many public sector organisations successfully navigate that path to seamless operation. 

In April 2017, Hippo was selected by NHS Digital (NHSD) to deliver its next-generation single login solution. 

With its expertise in authentication and identity verification and public sector data and policy along with its cross-organisational experience in the health and care ecosystem, Hippo joined the project to help ensure key ministerial commitments were met within a tight nine-month timescale.

Having worked previously with large-scale agile teams in mature service delivery organisations, Hippo provided robust programme oversight, ensuring delivery was underpinned by multidisciplinary teams working in a scalable squad-based model. 

All committed programme milestones and tracked features and outcomes were delivered by Hippo within budget and on time for NHS login to launch in September 2018. 

It is now the way that 40 million patients in England and Wales access the 100-plus digital services offered across NHS functions. 

How Hippo managed to deliver this successfully is largely down to its ethos of user-first development combined, of course, with the technical skills and deep industry experience required.

“Ultimately, Hippo is a user-centred organisation: we focus on the end user – whether that’s a customer, a citizen or a patient – and how is it that they are interacting with services and systems,” says Hutton.

“Once you start to focus on the user, and look at how you can improve the experience for the user, you start to traverse those different systems and islands of data. 

“We are an end-to-end digital services partner in that we do everything from strategic consulting through to the build process.” 

With research designers, engineers, data architect security specialists and the capacity to do live service operations, Hippo can solve a customer’s whole problem. “But we do it with our evidence-based design and delivery approach,” Hutton explains.

“So we focus on that cohesive design and engineering, user-centred design coupled with service design, and that flows right through Hippo, no matter which part of it you’re looking at.

“If you’re looking at our teams that are working around cyber operations or managed service support you still see that ethos, coming through.”

Hippo’s founders had worked in various sectors but came together for a large programme of work in the NHS. Frustrated by the way things were operating, they realised that they could do better and they created Hippo in April 2016. 

Hutton, one of Hippo’s early recruits, adds: “We maintain our user-centred approach and culture of doing things better, whether it’s designing a solution or providing cyber and risk management services.”