Who: Chris Clegg
Client: A global insurance company, a specialist in Life & Pensions and Annuities.
This initiative was delivered within the Annuities Division of a major global insurer. Although the overall company operated internationally, this project was mainly concentrated in one business area but had links to a number of IT systems throughout the organisation.
The aim of the initiative was to implement a new integrated system to provide a “one-and-done” service for clients and back-office processing. In addition, there was significant change required to streamline business processes and personnel to improve efficiency and throughput.
The programme in question had been running for nearly a year and was falling behind in delivery before our Associate took ownership, with costs increasing as a result. Delays were due partly to software development issues (e.g. clarification of requirements) and limited knowledge of existing systems which had been running for over 30 years and were no longer fully understood. The programme Board decided that a review of the programme was required to determine feasibility of continuing.
Our Associate was asked to do a review of the programme from a “best practice” governance perspective. This was done with input from the Project Support staff and through interviews with Business Managers, third-party developers and other relevant stakeholders.
Our Associate produced a Review Report which he presented to the Board. The report contained key risks and issues as well as immediate solutions and possible areas for improvement. It was accepted in full by the Programme Board and our Associate was asked to take over the Programme Management with immediate effect.
After establishing the initial issues and identifying potential opportunities, our Associate worked with the business and senior management to align and prioritise the activities of the programme appropriate to “best practice”. This approach included a complete re-plan of all tasks along with a team restructure and assignment of new resources. The governance structure was strengthened; for example, the Programme Board was revitalised with new representatives in line with PRINCE2.
A new budget was put forward to the Programme Board, backed up by the new plan and agreed third-party costs (including penalties) as well as a Change Budget to be used as a “draw down” in the event that necessary changes were identified. The Board approved the new budget and timeline.
A dedicated Programme Room was set up to hold all meetings, reviews and presentations etc., making the project work more efficient and accountable. Chart, mission statements, planning milestones and delivery progress materials were dotted around the room, providing Management Information to stakeholders and the team. This strategy ensured a cost and time-effective way of working.
A key element to this project involved changing business processes in order to provide more efficiency and economies of scale. There was an inevitability that roles would disappear or morph into new roles requiring new training, and prior to our Associate’s involvement members of the business were naturally worried about their job security.
Our Associate worked with the Business Heads to reduce this concern. Where appropriate, colleagues were assigned to the programme to assist in the understanding of the existing systems and to help ensure the new system achieved its objectives. Our Associate eased any concerns in terms of moving out of “comfort zones”, which led to colleagues gradually embracing the new world and adding enormous value; this transitional period was crucial to the project’s success and the business’ future development.
Development was undertaken by a third-party external consultancy, who held an initial agreement with the business to be paid on delivery of releases. This meant that the consultancy tried to deliver as quickly as possible, which gave rise to issues including errors and bugs which failed testing and would then often need to be re-tested weeks after the previous release. Clearly, this issue impacted efficiency and overwhelmed the Testing Team prior to our Associate’s involvement.
Our Associate initially put a hold on development (and payments) until these problems were resolved. The outcome was a reduced delivery cycle (monthly rather than weekly) and a change to the testing to satisfy both parties. This involved:
Implementing the RAT and SAT protocols dramatically improved the cycle of testing and acceptance, while still allowing payment of invoices on a regular basis to keep the project running smoothly.
After this, our Associate identified a further volume issue; external consultants were able to “throw bodies” at the development, resulting in releases that had more functionality delivered each time than the business’ finite Test Team could handle. Our Associate resolved this issue by requesting investment in a suite of automated testing tools. This was approved and the tools were installed in the Model Office where they remained post-delivery, greatly improving efficiency at testing level.
One of the key aspects of the implementation ensuring that the business’ existing data (over 200 million items) was accurately migrated to the new system. This was complicated by the fact that the data structures were formatted differently, and the rules used on the old systems were obscure or not well understood by the current team.
The initial findings of our Associate’s review identified that the programme was using internal staff (available from the bench) for determining a migration strategy. Our Associate removed these resources and obtained the services of an external consultancy who specialised in data migration. The external team brought a wealth of knowledge and a specific set of tools that allowed the programme to successfully migrate all relevant data with 100% accuracy.
Data clean-up was also a big factor; a lot of the existing data had errors or missing information (due to lack of integrity checking in the old systems). The tools provided by the external migration specialists assisted with this and made transfer much more complete. Clean-up was done within the business environment and temporary procedures were written to ensure the same errors did not creep in again, before each new data extract was performed.
Due to the considerable change to the business processes, our Associate helped create a Model Office to provide a forum for the new software to be implemented alongside the new business structures. Initially this multi-purpose space was used as part of User Acceptance Testing, but later became the default training environment prior to go-live, and then subsequently a pre-production environment for future releases.
A key part of the User Acceptance Testing was the use of Dress Rehearsals. Our Associate requested at least two to be undertaken over long weekends with upwards of 100 business resources involved. There rehearsals were in fact a “go-live with a backout” procedure, thereby testing both the go-live and a reversal to ensure all processes and systems were up-and-running or returned to the original state without error.
Under our Associate, every possible outcome and potential pitfall was fully investigated ahead of time. Two rehearsals were undertaken prior to the go-live; the second rehearsal was so successful that the business wanted to stay live already! At the proper time, the final go-live went ahead as planned with no mishaps.
The programme led by our Associate was successfully implemented and the final system is still running at the business to this day. A number of satellite systems were subsequently developed that linked to the improved, normalised databases – as set up by our Associate – to cover other functions such as Workflow, Image Capturing and New Policy Capture.
The achievement of a “one-and-done” approach increased productivity greatly and the programme became a model for good programme governance across the business and beyond.