Project Transform: learning the lessons

July 17th, 2019

The University has published an independent review of Project Transform, together with an apology to our community of staff and students for the significant delays and disruption resulting from the programme.

Undertaken by independent consultants, KPMG, the review analyses the history of the programme from 2014 to 2017 and the causes of the delays in delivering the Campus Solutions student record management system and impacts on staff in Schools, Faculties, Student Services, Admissions and elsewhere.

The review also examines Project Transform’s more recent history from 2018 to 2019, when the new Vice-Chancellor worked with the University Executive Board and a new expert delivery partner, InfoSys, to recalibrate the programme. This resulted in the implementation of Campus Solutions alongside a comprehensive review to address organisational effectiveness and improve support for staff affected by the changes.

Now that Campus Solutions has been implemented, further progress will be made in enhancing the technology and implementing the remaining recommendations of the Organisational Effectiveness (Student Support) Review that has begun to improve joint working arrangements between Schools and Faculties, Student Services and other professional services departments.

The Vice-Chancellor has published the review report, Project Transform: Lessons Learned, to the University community in the interests of transparency and ensuring that the institution and our senior leaders learn from, and apply, the many lessons within it for future projects.

On behalf of the University, the Vice-Chancellor and University Executive Board collectively apologise to staff and students who experienced, and in some cases continue to experience, disruption resulting from the programme.

Professor Shearer West said: “On my appointment as Vice Chancellor in October 2017, it was clear from my extensive conversations with so many colleagues that my first priority was to review Project Transform, tackle the unacceptable delays to introducing the Campus Solutions system and address the impacts on our staff and students.

“The recalibrated programme over the past 18 months has ensured that Campus Solutions is now live and has begun to address some of the key factors causing continued concern to staff. I am sincerely grateful for the dedication and hard work of staff across the project team that has taken us to this point – in Information Services, Student Services, Admissions and Finance as well as colleagues across our Schools in the UK, China and Malaysia.

“However, I know that we have a considerable way to go before the system is fully optimised, our student processes are completely aligned and the programme delivers on its original promises to staff and students.

“While the review notes that there was no single cause, individual or moment in time where responsibility can be assigned for the many problems experienced with Project Transform, I do not want to side-step responsibility.

“‘Therefore, together with all members of the University Executive Board, I extend a sincere and collective apology to our community for the way in which Project Transform was developed and delivered and the considerable negative impact this had on our many colleagues who are dedicated to supporting our students.

“I also offer an assurance that the lessons both learned and applied in the latter stages of the programme – set out with frank clarity in this review – will continue to be learned and applied in any future change programmes.”

A summary of the key findings in Project Transform: Lessons Learned follows below.

2014-17: the lessons to learn

  • In its analysis of the period 2014-2017, the review concludes that the vision underlying Project Transform was strong. The previous Saturn student records management system was more than twenty years old and no longer fit for purpose, becoming increasingly difficult to support with numerous security weaknesses and propped up by 53 additional ‘legacy’ systems in order to operate.
  • However, the review concludes that the plan for the programme’s delivery was too ambitious and complicated, should have separated business change and IT development, required stronger governance and should have engaged its end-users better in designing and understanding the changes.
  • The programme identified the right changes to make in processes, organisation and information technology but did not perform these in the correct order. This led to the need to create a more bespoke IT solution which contributed to escalating costs with insufficiently strong controls in place, leading to an average programme spend of £16.4 million per year over five years against the originally planned budget of £16.7m per year over three years. 

2018: recalibrating the programme

  • From early 2018, the review concludes that the University took proper control of Project Transform, added expert senior leadership, implemented strong evidence-based review processes and drove objective decision-making.
  • Appointing an experienced external supplier – Infosys – under a contract with strong commercial incentives gave the programme expert capability that secured delivery of the core Campus Solutions system in 2019.
  • Proactive assurance by specialist external partners focussed on fixing – rather than simply highlighting – project risks, and an active effort to engage the wider University community improved understanding of what was being delivered and support for new ways of working. 

2019: implementation and beyond

  • Campus Solutions went live in early 2019, including the delivery of major software releases, with the finance system to follow in the autumn. The review makes clear that implementation is just the starting point, and considerable effort is being made to enhance the system for the future.
  • Work is also in hand to maximise the system’s value and adoption and continue cleansing, reviewing and improving the quality of the data transferred from a wide range of different legacy systems.

As well as enhancing the data, software and hosting for Campus Solutions, further work will be undertaken to continue to implement the remaining recommendations of the organisational effectiveness review for student support delivered across the institution.

Student Services is already working with colleagues to reduce the number of manual processes that are currently required to ensure that the system delivers, and will continue to identify and remedy any overlap or gaps in student support within individual schools or departments.

The newly-appointed Faculty Operations Directors will also be closely involved in this process of continuous improvement, working closely with Student Services and as part of the Professional Services senior team that is dedicated to improving staff and student support, alongside Campus Solutions User Groups in each Faculty.

The many lessons to be drawn from Project Transform, for example on programme scope, project governance and the importance of staff consultation are being, and will continue to be, applied to any change programmes in the future.

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