Upgrade rather than “big-bang” replacement appears to have been chosen as the way forward for the Ministry of Social Development’s aging Swiftt beneficiary system and other legacy computer systems.
The “evolution” strategy will, however, gradually replace elements of the existing system, with beneficiary information system Trace an early candidate.
Piloting of an Irish-developed client management system, Curam, to improve information from current MSD computer systems fits into both an “evolution” (upgrade) and a “replacement” strategy for the legacy systems, says documentation released to accompany the announcement of the Curam decision.
Thus it allowed the final upgrade-or-replace choice to be deferred a little longer while still making progress in either event. These two choices had been identified in an evaluation of income support systems (EISS) report, completed in May 2002. However, since the decision to look at a client management system, “the ministry has conducted a number of projects that align closely with the ‘evolve’ option”, says the document, entitled “Critical Business Systems Transformation Strategy”.
These projects include a proof of concept study for integrating a rules engine with Swiftt and an IVR/Swiftt project, designed to “expose Swiftt services to other applications”.
A debt and general ledger project completed an initial analysis on the possibility of moving financial transaction management and debt management from Swiftt and Trace to an external system, the report says. “This can lead to a reduction in the Swiftt and Trace functionality and potentially even to Trace retirement.”
MSD also faces the task of more closely integrating Swiftt with the employment system, Solo. Here a “minimalist approach of data synchronisation [suggests itself] as an interim solution, with a service-oriented approach as the … ultimate solution.
“A recommended approach towards improving integration between UCVII [the Oracle- and Java-based “unified customer view” currently implemented] and Swiftt by exposing Swiftt services has been put forward in a document jointly written by EDS and HP.”
Each of these projects has been studied independently, says the transformation strategy document. “However, collectively these projects have assisted the ministry to further confirm that the feasibility of evolving its heritage systems is high [as well as] to better understand the issues associated with evolution and to design a conceptual architecture for the ministry’s IT environment.”
Amid concern at the likely cost of replacement of Swiftt, one specialist in the customer relationship management industry suggested, earlier this year that an off-the-shelf CRM system might go a long way towards replacing the functions of Swiftt at a cost of $10m or less, compared with MSD estimates of at least $78m. This suggestion was dismissed by MSD and industry sources.
The choice of Curam shows MSD believes an important part of the job can be done by off-the-shelf software, but the ministry emphasises that Curam is more amenable to “human service” applications than the typical CRM package would be. It quotes a Gartner research report to that effect.
“Curam products and employees are wholly dedicated to government human services,” says Gartner. “Curam’s strengths lie in the breadth and modularity of its offerings, from initial screening to eligibility determination to case management. Because Curam employs a human services framework, its products require less configuration for the human services market than the products of traditional CRM vendors”.
Curam was chosen from a shortlist of ten contenders, with local developer Jade being one of the unsuccessful bidders.
The transformation strategy document shows MSD aspiring to play its part in a “client-centred” system, integrating information among multiple government agencies that might bear on their clients’ needs and situation.
This will include other “social sector policy and delivery agencies” such as Housing, Inland Revenue, Justice, Education, Labour and Child Youth and Family, destined to share information to a greater extent.