Office for National Statistics
The Census is carried out every ten years in the UK and was traditionally undertaken using very paper based processes and manual interventions based on out of date completion data. The ONS wanted to transform the Census and other parts of the organisation, to a far more digital and automated based system. It had identified that key to this was a workforce management solution that enabled it to manage 35,000 field staff using mobile devices and automated tasking in near real time, so that resources could be focused more appropriately and the accuracy of the Census follow up improved. A contract had been signed with a software supplier, TotalMobile, but the project was stalled with six previous project managers, limited governance and no clear scope. The proposed solution consisted of a mixture of COTS products and bespoke development. This needed to integrate into many other solutions delivered by other suppliers and internal teams.
What we did
Actio Consulting UK Ltd undertook a brief review of the project that highlighted key areas in governance that were not in place, leading to unclear directions and no agreed scope. There was also a breakdown in trust with the key supplier, no clear commercial agreement for delivery, and limited requirements.
In order to reboot the project we worked with a team of Business Analysts to review all the existing requirements and identify gaps. We organised a series of workshops with key business users to create user stories that described the desired solution. We then held further workshops with business users and suppliers to run through all of the user stories, so that they were clearly understood by everybody involved in creating and using the solution. Once we had an agreed set of stories that could be delivered, we worked with the ONS Procurement team to agree a contract with the supplier, that would deliver the solution within the required timeframe, to the required quality and at an acceptable cost.
Working with the supplier and internal development teams, we created a delivery plan and key milestones that allowed the supplier to prioritise delivery aligned to business needs and provide confidence to the senior stakeholder community that the solution was deliverable, both technically and within the required timeframe.
Having identified gaps in the governance model, we wrote a series of documents that set out a clear scope, a change control process, a Terms of Reference for the Board, a RACI matrix for stakeholders and an approval process for the delivery milestones. We also ran all governance Boards and developed progress and financial reporting for senior stakeholders. Alongside this we wrote and implemented changes to the Service Management processes that clearly defined the procedure for handing control of “live” solutions to operational teams so that they could be properly owned and managed outside of the delivery team.
Once the building blocks for successful delivery were in place, we could focus on managing the delivery and worked very closely with the supplier in Northern Ireland to deliver an innovative bespoke solution, integrated with other COTS products, that met the needs of the ONS Census Programme. The Actio Consulting approach allowed the team to quickly respond to multiple challenges, such as a late change in requirements and a revision to the statistical approach to data collection, with innovative answers that didn’t cause delays or cost increases.
The work undertaken by Actio Consulting UK Ltd resulted in the delivery of a successful solution integrated into other systems, in time for the Census Rehearsal and allowed the ONS Field Force to work in the field, to test all policies and processes in advance of the full Census. The solution delivered also allowed for changes to be made that anticipated tweaks to the ONS approach, without requiring major, costly, development work.
Without using the Actio Consulting Ltd approach we do not believe that the project would have been a success, as the only way to manage the delivery of something so complex was to get all of the suppliers and Civil Servants working together towards a common, fully understood goal. This was achieved through communication and stakeholder management, to ensure that everybody was bought in to the delivery all the way through the process and users were fully engaged from the outset.
The delivery of the solution will enable the ONS to make large costs savings, get better data from the Census, better manage the 35,000 field workers and provide a better service to the UK population as it completes the next Census.
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