Moving any organisation to a new platform is challenging enough – but add in the complexity of six police forces in England, multiple stakeholders plus vendors – and Exception had no small management task on its hands.
The project demanded strong project management, insightful problem-solving expertise, diplomacy and influencing skills when managing the people, processes, technologies and partnerships to ensure delivery success.
The Niche RMS (Records Management System) was shared by six police forces: Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Derbyshire and City of London and Lincolnshire as the host force providing the service. Delivering Niche onto the cloud for six UK police forces and co-ordinating them throughout the project and the cutover was a pervasive challenge.
The Challenge: Just Migrate Niche RMS to the Azure Cloud?
The commercial and technical challenges: With manufacturer support and services due to expire, the hardware reaching the end of its life, and data centre contracts up for renewal there were significant drivers for this project.
The technology departments were facing a hard stop in the ability to provide a supported RMS capability to their forces. Options were identified and presented in a business case, with the preferred option chosen to re-platform the services to a Microsoft Azure Cloud based solution.
With no implementations anywhere in the world of Niche RMS on an Azure platform, and the forces having limited cloud expertise, there was a significant challenge to deliver this project in the timescales dictated. Microsoft itself recognised the venture as not only ambitious but also a:
“…Highly technical and complex re-platforming requiring a range of connection options and networking solutions to accommodate in excess of 10,000 users and stakeholder engagement across six police forces."
However, in assessing the situation, Exception recognised that as important as the Technical challenges were, the People and Process (co-ordination) challenges of managing six forces and multiple external parties deserved equal consideration.
How did Exception approach these challenges?
Exception has extensive experience across the policing sector, having already helped multiple forces and accelerating the digital capabilities of Lincolnshire Police since 2006, possessing excellent sector knowledge.
In addition, our experience in other industries enabled us to bring alternative approaches to address these challenges.
Approaching the People and Process challenges, we started the project by establishing:
- On site engagement of key stakeholders
- A common understanding of requirement and deliverables
- An agreed way of working including a communications plan
Fundamentally, the importance of generating a positive mindset across all stakeholders was key.
The technical challenges were approached, using skilled external resource to support and undertake Knowledge Transfer to incumbent police IT staff.
Encompassing all three challenges was the need for strong, comprehensive and engaging project management to bring together all the parties to achieve the projects objectives.
Managing complexity of multiple forces
Throughout the project a key objective was to establish, across forces and suppliers, a common understanding with the aim of achieving unified agreement. Also essential was establishing review and decision frameworks before they were exercised.
On the strength of experience of similar projects, Exception led the establishment of:
- A Technical Design Authority across the forces to provide a forum and best practice and quality controls for designs to be considered - ultimately over 40 people were consulted to achieve Design sign-off
- Governance Boards covering IT, financials and the overall project
- A Reporting Framework, providing to multiple levels of stakeholders
- Supplier Management forums
- Implementation and cutover boards within the Implementation framework
- A Cloud Operating Model to take forward for their personnel
How did the police forces benefit?
The forces have benefited by the mitigation of the imminent and on-going risk to the provision of the RMS service to front line officers, a strong driver for the project. Ensuring the continuity of service throughout the project and the implementation period were baseline considerations. Key outcomes were also delivering a platform that would provide a more robust and reliable service to front line officers, reducing their frustration with performance and availability issues.
The RMS service is now provided on the Cloud, and at a senior management level the forces are seeing benefits through the provision of IT being more transparent and operationally maintained.
It is an environment that is future proof, secure, stable, highly available and resilient – removing the reliance on problematic hardware supply chains. The environment also avoids the eternal cycle of decommissioning and reinstalling physical servers at offsite data centres.
At a senior management level, the forces are also seeing:
- Financial Benefits – the deployment onto a scaleable cloud infrastructure rather than a deployment of dedicated hardware saves the forces money over the period
- Efficiency – forces only pay for what is being used, minimising operational costs and maximising Return on Investment (ROI)
- Enhanced skilling of their colleagues to assist the further migration of services to the cloud
The benefits of using Exception are our skills in: creating a collaborative environment, providing a strong delivery focus, adopting appropriate quality controls, and in adopting the best practice from our experience across industry.
In using these skills we played a lead management role project, which helped the East Midlands and City Niche Collaboration team win a National Team Award for Innovation.
Want to discover how Exception will accelerate your police force's digital capabilities?