For Informatics Merseyside with NHS, Patch Visibility and Speed by way of Tanium are Delivering Big Wins
by Shelly Kramer | November 28, 2022

In this Futurum Live! From the Show Floor at Tanium Converge 2022 Ron Tinkler, Assistant Diector of IT at Informatics Merseyside with NHS, joins Futurum principal analyst Shelly Kramer. Managing IT operations at a large number of healthcare facilities throughout the UK is no easy task, especially given the attractiveness of the healthcare sector to nefarious threat actors. And legacy systems, change-resistant IT teams, and third-party software tools present considerable challenges, even to the most intrepid IT leaders. Tinkler shared his insights on how NHS Informatics Merseyside, a relatively new customer of Tanium, is quickly realizing some impressive wins by gaining patch visibility and significantly reducing the team time needed to patch mission critical systems.

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Shelly Kramer: Hello and welcome to Live From The Show Floor. I’m Shelly Kramer, principal analyst and founding partner at Future and Research and I’m here at Tanium Converge in Austin, Texas, Tanium’s annual event. So happy to be here. Today, I am joined by Rob Tinkler who is an assistant director of IT at Informatics Merseyside with NHS. What is that exactly? Rob’s going to tell us.

Rob Tinkler: Okay. So the National Health Service obviously provide healthcare across the country, across England, and we provide IT services to the NHS in the Northwest of England in Merseyside and in Cheshire in Merseyside. We’re an IT shared service provider and we provide IT across around about 20, 25 different NHS organizations in that region.

Shelly Kramer: So healthcare and security…

Rob Tinkler: Yeah, they don’t really go.

Shelly Kramer: You sleep well at night, don’t you?

Rob Tinkler: Yeah, yeah. When we’re holding patient information, it’s got to be absolutely secure.

Shelly Kramer: Well, and healthcare is one of the top targets for threat actors, so it is a very stressful field of work.

Rob Tinkler: Yeah, it can be. It can be.

Shelly Kramer: Can be. Yes. So I would love it if you would talk with us a little bit about… So I’ve already said healthcare is a prime target for cybersecurity threat actors. So much to manage there. One of the biggest things is patching, patching, patching.

Rob Tinkler: Yeah. Yeah.

Shelly Kramer: So talk with me a little bit about the challenges there and what you see on a daily basis.

Rob Tinkler: Yeah. So because of the fact that we’re providing that IT service to multiple NHS organizations, they have many different systems, many different applications, not just Microsoft based but third party applications, clinical systems and so on. And it can be quite difficult to patch those systems. Utilizing the kind of standard stuff like Microsoft SCCM doesn’t patch third part applications and so on. So we really had to find something that would enable us to be able to patch those systems and applications. And we came across Tanium and we put a proof of concept into place and we started to see we could really start to patch all these different systems. And one of the key things we’ve been able to do is actually reduce our patching timeframe from six week window, which seems quite a long time.

Shelly Kramer: It does seem like a long time.

Rob Tinkler: But we have to test because these are clinical systems that could impact on patients. But we’ve now got that reduced down to two weeks and that’s complete patching on every device across the 20,000 endpoints.

Shelly Kramer: I think that’s huge.

Rob Tinkler: So it makes a massive difference to be able to patch those systems within that sort of timeframe. And I certainly sleep a lot better at night.

Shelly Kramer: Very key. Very key. So we talked about this a little bit before we started this conversation on camera. You are a relatively new customer at Tanium. So talk with me a little bit about what led you to Tanium and the challenges that you’ve had? Did you say you’re seven months in?

Rob Tinkler: Yeah. So we procured the platform, I think, it was the end of the financial year. Yeah. So it has taken a little while to get it embedded, certainly for the engineers to be able to utilize. They’re so used to using systems like SCCM and we have probably three or four different disparate asset management tools as well.

Shelly Kramer: Not unusual.

Rob Tinkler: No. And they’re very used to using those products and those services and when you introduce a new product, even though they can see the benefits of it, actually implementing that change is difficult.

Shelly Kramer: Right. Humans and change.

Rob Tinkler: Yeah. They don’t go together.

Shelly Kramer: They don’t go together.

Rob Tinkler: But it’s hard. But we’re overcoming that and actually starting to see the benefits of that change at the moment. And when they can see that we’re patching from six weeks to two weeks, it’ll actually add something here. And actually we’ll ultimately be moving away from SCCM completely in terms of being able to patch even Microsoft based products. Our desktop and endpoint manager is absolutely over the moon with the products because he’s been able to take some of the older versions of Windows 10, so 1903, 1909 and deploy out to 21H2 really easily, really simply. He’s found it a lot easier to be able to deploy over SCCM. So we’re just getting so much out of the products already and yet we’ve only had the products since April.

Shelly Kramer: And I think that’s really one of the keys in any kind of digital transformation effort. That’s what this is. But when you can have those success cases, that’s your proof of concept. You know what I’m saying? And then pretty soon, word starts to filter out and then all of a sudden what happens is that people are like, “Hey, I want some of this.”

Rob Tinkler: Well, yeah. And we’re seeing that now. It’s really interesting. We’re the first NHS organization to take Tanium in the Northwest. And other NHS IT service providers in the Northwest, because we’re not alone, we’re all starting to look at Tanium with… There’s a couple of NHS trusts as well who have their own IT department. They’re all starting to look at the product as well because they can see the benefits that are coming back from it.

Shelly Kramer: I’m sure the folks at Tanium will be very happy to hear that. Absolutely. So what surprised you beyond the successes that you mentioned? Is there anything about getting immersed in the Tanium product and working alongside the Tanium team as needed and things like that? What surprised you along the way? Anything?

Rob Tinkler: Yeah. So as I mentioned before, we had several asset management tools, but they never told the same story. So we’re using Tanium and actually, we’re getting this consistent picture about our assets out there, both managed assets and unmanaged assets. And I think with the pandemic as well, even though we bought the product towards the end in the UK, we’ve still got so many people working in different ways. And at home, it’s actually difficult to get back into the office, but that’s a different conversation.

Shelly Kramer: That is.

Rob Tinkler: But we’re able to actually see those assets now, whereas other asset management tools, we couldn’t see those. We’re seeing things like clinical devices that are completely unmanaged and we’re actually able to pick those up in Tanium so we can either actively manage them or if we’ve got some challenges around, being able to manage them and patch them, but we can do some hardening around those devices. Well, you can’t manage what you can’t see. And I think that’s the big difference. We’re able to actually see that one.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah. I think that’s been the theme of the many conversations I’ve had throughout the course of the last couple of days here is the visibility is just such a game changer.

Rob Tinkler: It is, yeah.

Shelly Kramer: And we did some research a couple of years ago for a big technology customer and what we surveyed organizations and one of the questions that we asked them was about visibility and do you use a dashboard for visibility? And another question that we asked them had to do with the occurrence of intrusions, attacks, everything. And it was very interesting because the people who use dashboards of course knew that attacks are happening all the time, we’re seeing them happening, and we’re mitigating and minimizing them. And the people who didn’t have visibility said, “Yeah. We don’t really think we’re getting…”

Rob Tinkler: No, but we don’t know.

Shelly Kramer: But we don’t know because we can’t see. So visibility is very much key. So my last question is, if you were speaking with someone who was thinking about getting arms around the complexity of patching or the whole endpoint situation, what would be your best advice to them? What would you leave them with?

Rob Tinkler: I think if you’ve got multiple different systems that are all doing something important, but they aren’t necessarily communicating with one another, it’s probably a good time to start to look at products out there that will actually consolidate one to one. I think having a single pane of glass to be able to see, and certainly what we’re finding Tanium is managing those endpoints in a single pane of glass is making such a difference. So I would say any organization out there, if you’ve got disparate products and services that are providing the sorts of things that Tanium can do, perhaps to have a look at consolidating those into a single platform.

Shelly Kramer: Great advice. Rob Tinkler, thank you so much for hanging out with me today. I really appreciate it. To our viewing audience, thank you as well and we’ll see you next time.


About the Author

Shelly Kramer is a Principal Analyst and Founding Partner at Futurum Research. A serial entrepreneur with a technology centric focus, she has worked alongside some of the world’s largest brands to embrace disruption and spur innovation, understand and address the realities of the connected customer, and help navigate the process of digital transformation. She brings 20 years' experience as a brand strategist to her work at Futurum, and has deep experience helping global companies with marketing challenges, GTM strategies, messaging development, and driving strategy and digital transformation for B2B brands across multiple verticals. Shelly's coverage areas include Collaboration/CX/SaaS, platforms, ESG, and Cybersecurity, as well as topics and trends related to the Future of Work, the transformation of the workplace and how people and technology are driving that transformation. A transplanted New Yorker, she has learned to love life in the Midwest, and has firsthand experience that some of the most innovative minds and most successful companies in the world also happen to live in “flyover country.”