Project excellence on display in awards finalists

The Ministry of Social Development, Foodstuffs and Pumpkin Patch finalists in the Most Successful Project Implementation of the Year category

If any entry stresses how significant some of the projects entered in the Computerworld Excellence Awards are it is one at the Ministry of Social Development’s project.

The ministry’s entry is a $54 million client management system, for which the MSD’s business enablement manager, John Schofield, had to personally seek approval from the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

“I had to front up to Helen Clark and the ministers. I was warned it mustn’t be another cock-up,” he says.

The MSD is the sole public sector finalist in our Most Successful Project Implementation of the Year category. The other two finalists are retailers Foodstuffs (Auckland) and Pumpkin Patch.

The MSD was created in 2001 through a merger of departments. It inherited several legacy systems, which handled payments, but the new MSD wanted to take a more pro-active approach and guide people into work or towards another benefit.

CIO Tim Occleshaw says a Curam CMS system was installed as part of the project. This helped reduce back-office systems and structure workflow patterns, helping staff better plan how they helped clients.

Curam, a system developed in Ireland, was implemented with HP as the local partner. This gave the MSD control of the solution, and accountability for it, says Occleshaw, who took a risk-averse approach to the project, first developing a proof of concept and a prototype to show front-line staff.

There were three types of functionality in the new system; some taken just out of the box, some adapted for use and some functions, like the existing SWIFT payment system, kept separate.

Schofield says government departments usually tend to let vendors manage projects, but the MSD chose to manage all the risks and components, including a big element of the business change.

Technical challenges included integrating Curam with legacy systems. This involved using an integration layer based on Weblogic.

Occleshaw says the project, which was rolled out last October to 3,500 Work and Income NZ (WINZ) staff, came in under budget and on time.

WINZ staff can now conduct better, more structured interviews to help clients find work, he says.

Rachel Unuia, a WINZ customer service representative, says the new system is “so much better” than the old. All the information she needs is now on one screen, and this helps her guide people towards the right benefit and avoids them going to WINZ offices and picking up the wrong form.

Foodstuffs — easy ordering

Foodstuffs used to have a paper-based system for produce managers to order from the Foodstuffs Fresh grocery division. But this was error-prone and time-consuming, so the store’s IT staff developed a new system whereby faxes could be received using a marking recognition system that can understand faxed messages.

Foodstuffs’ IS delivery manager, Jennifer Garrett, says an online ordering system was developed to run alongside the fax-based system, using .Net and SQL applications.

Now, under Project Green as it’s called, buyers and sellers can see orders, and even small stores which don’t have PCs, such as Four Squares, can send orders using a template. These are then either faxed back to head office or couriered, where they can be read and automatically input into the system.

Garret says functionality is now being expanded to look at stock management and reporting. A version will also be released for the seafood division in due course.

Dave Berry, a produce manager who uses the online system, says it now takes 30-90 seconds to send off an order, instead of the five to seven minutes previously. The new system also dramatically reduces errors. Training manuals supplied also help make the new ordering system easy to use, which is important as supermarkets employ a multitude of people from many different countries, says Berry.

Pumpkin Patch — it’s a gift

Pumpkin Patch has developed gift card functionality for its stores in the US and UK.

Systems project manager Adele Nairn says previously the stores only had paper gift vouchers, so were missing out on the new gift card market which features cards that can be topped up.

The new system had to integrate with Pumpkin Patch’s existing POS systems. Additional requirements were that it must not need new equipment or affect POS processing times.

Pumpkin Patch launched an RFP process in 2006, seeking a database engine for the service. This was won by e://volution e-business last June. IT staff worked across three countries — the project was managed from New Zealand, with a contact in each country, and introduced last November.

Pumpkin Patch says it has made savings from not issuing paper, and staff and customers prefer the new system, too — gift voucher sales have increased by 56% in the US and 35% in the UK. Pumpkin Patch now plans to use the cards for promotions and will also launch the gift card system in New Zealand shortly.

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Tags Ministry of Social Developmentfoodstuffspumpkin patch

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