EDS completes major NI social security agency project

16 Jun 2004

IT outsourcing giant EDS has completed the rollout of the first phase of a multi-million euro, 10-year project for the Northern Ireland Social Security Agency (NISSA).

The project was to deliver a Disability Benefits Modernisation Programme to create a new organisation, the Disability and Carers Services (DCS). DCS revolutionises the way disability benefits are handled at the agency and the DCS contract is scheduled to run for a further seven years. Three core benefits reorganised into the new organisation were the Disability Living Allowance (DLA), the Attendance Allowance (AA) and the Carers’ Allowance (CA).

Working with PricewaterhouseCoopers, the EDS-led consortium claims to have transformed the management and processing work for the NISSA.

All three disability benefits are now integrated into a single seamless system. These streams of work, when taken together with other aspects of the new system, are managed within an integrated workflow system. The system have been designed to significantly improve the customer experience, increase performance and generally to address a range of other current operational shortcomings.

The newly established contact centre is staffed by customer service representatives who have instant access to all customer details, which supports a more responsive customer service.

Carmel Downey, project manager of NISSA, recognises the enormous benefits of the new system, though she also acknowledges it was not, nor is, an easy change for the agency. “Moving from a manual, paper based system to an electronic solution has not been without its difficulties. A transition of this magnitude also brings a degree of cultural change and not unexpectedly an understandable degree of unease from some staff.

“Additional issues, such as the sheer size of the project, also caused delays. In fact, such was the complexity that we had to revisit the whole project and basically replan the implementation delivery. This was not an easy task and caused delays and frustration. However, all parties realised that continuing with an incomplete plan was bound to end in failure and this was one project we all wanted to work.”

Downey continued: “As a result we revisited the original project delivery timetable and re-baselined the implementation timetable to reflect actual developments on the ground. This did have an impact on the project’s budget and timelines but we were all determined to get it right and so the backward step was worth it.

“Part of the reason for the complexity is the sheer size of the project. Reorganising the management and processing of work along functional rather than benefit lines has streamlined the process. These changes have also brought with it a set of new challenges for the benefit managers and staff, as they seek to make the transition from a traditional and well tested clerical method of processing benefit claims to what is fundamentally a radical electronic benefit handling process,” Downey concluded.

By John Kennedy