Department for Work and Pensions

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is responsible for Welfare, Work and Pension Policy and is a key player in tackling child poverty. It is the biggest public service delivery department in the UK employing approximately 110,000 people who collectively serve over 20 million customers. DWP delivers its customer services through a series of business units including Pensions Disability and Carers Service and Jobcentre Plus. The business units are supported by a dedicated Shared Services Organisation. This case study focuses on the introduction of Oracle User Productivity Kit (UPK) to the DWP Shared Services solution.

The Project – Background

Shared Services was launched in 2005, using Oracle ERP supporting DWP´s HR, Payroll, Procurement, Finance, and Accounting services. Feedback through surveys from users was consistently poor in the user-friendless of the system. To resolve these issues and following consultation with Oracle, it was agreed that a front end Portal page should be created and context sensitive UPK guidance introduced for users.

To help DWP users navigate the RM system the Portal was designed to provide links to the most commonly used Employee Self Service (ESS) and Management Self Service (MSS) processes as well as links to the Intranet and Internet, real time news and direct access to personal work items.

Although UPK and the Portal were seen as one solution across DWP, the Portal would be, in effect, a front end web page and would have no dependency on UPK, or vice versa. They were, and are, two separate entities. Notwithstanding, the DWP Senior Management decision was that the RM Portal and UPK would be implemented together, rather than one without the other.

Larmer Brown was introduced to DWP´s UPK / Portal Project Team by Oracle, as their Preferred UPK Services Partner, to assist in the progression of the project.

UPK RM Pilot – Set Up and Challenges

During development and delivery of the project, a number of challenges were encountered that DWP and Larmer Brown managed together.

New test PCs and servers were being installed but could not be purveyed within the required time frame. Larmer Brown provided a suite of networked laptops, including a UPK Library Server and an environment for the application, as an interim measure so that the content development program would not be delayed.

To progress the development of UPK, Larmer Brown created and presented a UPK development program, including the creation of a Content Scope Report with priorities, Development Standards, Development Methodology including Tracking and Project Reporting and a schedule for regular Project Review Reports and Meetings.

As the UPK recording process developed, it was identified that UPK did not recognise certain areas of the DWP Oracle solution, which directly impacted the ability to deliver context sensitive guidance. UPK uses context IDs to link content developed to the live system. The context IDs link UPK to eBusiness and activate the help buttons. The context IDs were automatically produced for Procurement, Finance and Accounting. However, it transpired that this functionality had been taken away from HR and Payroll. Larmer Brown was able to identify a process of allocating IDs to these modules and capturing them within UPK. This work around was considered so successful that IDs were manually recorded and are now maintained by DWP personnel.

During early January 2009 Larmer Brown handed over the project and awaited feedback as to the success or failure of the UPK Pilot.

The Next Stage – Multiple Projects

During May 2009 Theresa Stevenson joined the Team as UPK Project Manager. Theresa´s background included testing on the RM Project, with 15 years in DWP and project management skills. Aware that the UPK Pilot had been successful, Theresa developed a strategy to implement UPK across the various DWP Service Lines, staffed by internal customer facing personnel with in-depth knowledge of the systems and processes.

Theresa´s objective was to empower the Service Line Teams to develop UPK content for their own areas and then maintain it as the system and processes changed to meet the needs of the business. Theresa arranged:

  • 4-day UPK Training Courses attended by a combination of personnel from various teams, which not only taught UPK but also provided a valuable networking opportunity
  • Review and customisation of the UPK Standards and Development Methodology utilised during the Pilot, to meet the needs of content being developed by the various service lines
  • Re-introduction of Larmer Brown´s UPK Developers into DWP with technical, mentoring and support responsibilities
  • Installation, configuration and testing of UPK on DWP servers, involving several infrastructure, environment and application partners

The UPK development work progressed through Summer 2009 with Theresa co-ordinating the works across the multiple Service Lines based at different DWP locations. The RM Portal, incorporating UPK, was scheduled to Go Live in August 2009. However as with most projects of this nature, unanticipated issues were experienced. These issues were unrelated to UPK but nevertheless impacted the Go Live date.

The decision was made to implement an Oracle Single Sign On (OSSO) as pre-requisite of Portal / UPK. Major incidents related to OSSO network demands occurred and, although unrelated to UPK the project, Go Live was delayed.

Numerous bugs found in the Oracle Portal were identified and resolved which further impacted go-live date. Despite these having no connection to UPK it did not reflect positively on UPK.

The combined RM Portal and UPK Project finally went live in December 2009.

Lessons Learned

Don´t rush – avoid the tendency to get ‘stuck in’. Research the product by speaking to suppliers with UPK implementation experience, and their clients, in an effort to understand the potential and the pitfalls.

Attend Events – Such as UPK Seminars and WebEx Sessions. For example the half day training course initially given did not provide the Developers with the skills or confidence to develop UPK content.

Consolidation of training in the workplace – No matter how good the training course, nothing can compensate for real-life experience in terms of saving time and, perhaps more importantly, making strategic decisions on the hoof.

Market the solution before and after go-live.

Know your internal security limitations and have contingencies in place. For example the UPK pilot developed topics for training purposes for the Department for Education and Cabinet Office. Due to securities DWP had to explore ways of passing UPK content to other Government Departments.

Daily contact to keep control, monitor deliverables and deal with issues as they arise. This experience highlighted the necessity to keep issue logs and plan SME and developer time, etc.

Train developers, support them continually, and create a virtual developer community.

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