Digital Transformation - Lessons Learned Update

The Northern Ireland Civil Service have successfully completed a number of Digital Transformation Projects over recent years and as with all projects, it’s important that we document and communicate the findings of these projects in order for lessons learned to provide their greatest value. Digital technology provides us with a huge opportunity to re-think how our public services are better delivered and to work collaboratively to transform and revolutionise how we do business.




Over the coming months, we will delve into some of the Digital Transformation Projects led by the NI Public Sector, that have recently ended, as well as others that are still ongoing, in order to document and communicate their lessons learned to help you with any future digital projects you may work on.

Compensation Services NI embarked upon a new digital journey in 2014 with the CIDMIS Project, their project aim was to deliver a new case management system that would enable Compensation Services to process claims efficiently, effectively and economically for the following schemes – Criminal Damage (Compensation) Order 1977, Criminal Injuries Compensation (NI) Order 2002 and Criminal Injuries Compensation (NI) Order 2009. Also within the scope of the Project was the requirement for the new system to be flexible to adapt to the requirement of any legislative changes for Criminal Damage of Criminal Injuries.

This was successfully delivered and went live on 5th December 2016.

The project team have kindly highlighted their key lessons learned from the project in the hope they can help you with any future digital projects you work on.

Resources

CSNI had one Project Manager and three Product Owners dedicated to the Project. However, due to the demands of the project and the fast pace of design and development, this team was under constant pressure to deliver to tight timescales. A lesson learned would be to build in a contingency to allow for additional staff with the relevant expertise and knowledge to be on standby to assist as required.  Whilst additional business knowledge can be sourced from within, the skills required for this area of work i.e. technical skills to include using a new development tool (Jira), and writing stories with acceptance criteria are not general competencies required of administrative grades.  While we also acknowledge that these skills do not necessarily require a specialist technical post, the work required should not be underestimated in terms of aptitude and logical thinking and the expectations should be clearly clarified from the outset of any agile project moving forward. The Agile approach requires a limited role for a Project Manager from the business area. Compensation Services viewed the role as essential and in hindsight the Project Manager’s role was indeed critical, providing a significant governance and assurance role to the SRO and Project Board and a constant source of support, control and coordination for Product Owners within the SCRUM team. Our experience would advocate the appointment of a Project Manager to represent the SRO.  

Complexity

The project was more complex than first thought.  Although the Agile approach was used, the project team found that once requirements had been agreed during the Discovery Stage there was a lack of sufficient flexibility to make changes as other issues or requirements were identified. This resulted in the business having to develop ‘workarounds’ until the solution could be designed, costed, tested and implemented – resulting in an overall delay to some of the expected benefits.

Data Migration

The project team consider that there was insufficient knowledge, resources, and planning allocated to Data Migration by the supplier. In addition, despite concerns raised by the business, the supplier did not address issues relating to migration until well into the project by which point several decisions had been taken in terms of the application which made the migration even more complex.

Communication

Overall, communication was good both with internal and external stakeholders throughout the project. Regular weekly checkpoint meetings were held with the Suppliers and Highlight reports produced.  Updates were given to staff at appropriate times and senior management were kept informed at monthly SMT meetings.

Planning / Preparation

The business could have been better prepared for the project in terms of data cleansing, letter requirements and offender details. The lack of earlier action and detailed planning in this area meant that at times the project team were tied up with preparation duties rather than working with the developers to progress key stages of the project.

Future projects should be made aware of the full significance of the discovery phase in an agile project.  It is imperative that all requirements are outlined at a high level during discovery as due to restricted timescales and budget it is not always possible to add these requirements at a later stage.

Timings

There is a significant amount of work and effort demanded from the project team between Sprints – the extent of this was not clearly articulated from the outset of the project. As other projects will have a different resource profile and different business needs and complexities this area requires more careful and detailed planning before timescales are agreed for the contract. It would be useful to clearly communicate the extent and requirements to other business areas at the outset so they can be factored into option appraisal.

Costing – The project was managed within the budget detailed in the business case. There was however some initial confusion around optimum bias when developing the business case – but this was due to lack of experience of the agile approach to project management. A lesson learned would be to document and clarify this for business case processes moving forward.

An additional lesson learned would be for better planning in relation to a cost control budget – this business are now having to fund some changes from the normal line of business budget. 

Change of personnel throughout the course of the project had an impact as valuable experience and knowledge was lost. During the lifetime of the project two product owners were lost from the team, placing significant additional responsibility and pressure on the remaining staff to finish the project. A lesson learned would be to try to minimise such disruption and to factor in back up resources as part of overall contingency planning.

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