IT Transformation Project - British Eventing
 
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IT Transformation Project

   

The IT Transformation Project (ITTP) officially launched in mid-January 2016 starting with the Discovery Phase, with the project starting fully in June 2016. Below you will find the latest update along with a link to the previous updates:

 

October 2018

Given we are approaching the AGM and following questions from members this update includes an explanation of:
  1. Why BE needed to invest in IT.
  2. What happened next
  3. How the Project is Governed
  4. A description of the project and its challenges
  5. The cost and funding

Why BE needed to invest in IT.

  • The database we rely on to manage the sport is 20 years old and sits on old technology that cannot be upgraded and is increasingly expensive to run and maintain. Change had to be made to enable the sport to be run in a more effective and cost-efficient way over the long term.
  • Our website was on old technology that does not enable use via mobile or tablet devices. In addition, the ability to adapt features for commercial opportunities was restricted.
  • The providers of the current administration and scoring systems (of which there are three) were starting to think about retirement and given the reliance on these providers this presented a significant risk to the whole sport. It was time therefore that we invested in an event administration and scoring system that we could deploy to organisers.

 

The three factors above in themselves required investment to be made, and when combined the investment was going to be significant and not without the risks and challenges that are inherent in any IT transformation of this complexity.

What happened next?

Having identified the need to make a significant investment in IT and acknowledging the need to select a software platform and an IT services company, to support the development of the overall system, a tender process was undertaken in 2015. The Board selected Salesforce as the platform of choice and makepositive as the IT services company who would lead the design, development and build elements of the project. This tender process included us first looking at platform alternatives that would meet our needs – the key choices being between Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics or another Legacy system, as we currently have. Once we had decided that Salesforce would be the most appropriate platform we identified a number of companies who have Salesforce accreditation and selected two Platinum Partners and one system integrator to submit tenders.

A Discovery Phase was completed in the first quarter of 2016 and the development of the CRM began in earnest in April 2016.

During the tender process BE worked together with an IT consultancy company called Leadent in order to provide independent scrutiny and challenge to the process that we were embarking on.

On the Board at the time we had the following Directors: Paul Hodgson (Chair), Suzie Cotterill, Alex Fox, Tim Holderness–Roddam, Guy Prest, Giles Rowsell, Nigel Taylor and David Holmes (CEO).

How the project is governed

A critical element of the IT project is to ensure the right governance structure is in place – thus a Steering Group led by a Board Director was established, and reporting to the Steering Group is the Project Board headed by the CEO and including the COO, CIO and the Project Manager. Beneath the Project Board sits the Project Team which involves the Sport and Marketing Managers.

BE ITTP Governance diagram

 

 

A description of the Project and its challenges

Because of the complexity of the project and the dependencies between each part of it, the delivery of the project was arranged into four sequential releases. This approach does add time, but reduces risk and makes it more manageable.

Release one – A new Customer Relationship Management Platform on Salesforce – this is the database on which members records are stored. It is non-customer facing and is the system used by BE office staff. This went live in December 2016, a few weeks later than planned, and we have been operating on a limited basis since then. It is limited as the results and validations are closely aligned to the website and so the Sport Team cannot start working on it properly until the new website is launched. We therefore kept the old database running in the background and this syncs through to Salesforce.

Release two – EARS (Entries, Admin, Results and Scoring). This is the system that organisers and their entry secretaries will use to manage their entries (timetable, sections etc.) and scorers will use on event. Although one release, it is in fact two elements. The Scoring part has been developed as a stand-alone Application so that it can work on and offline allowing for when connectivity is a challenge for scorers. The Administration part sits on top of the Salesforce platform. This release has proven to be the most challenging of the developments. The three current systems all operate slightly differently and our scorers all have their preferred ways of working. Pulling all of these opinions together in what is a complex process from the start; managing multiple entries, scrambled sections, proved extremely difficult. This led us to having to add more requirements to what we originally specified the system to do- this increases the effort, time and cost. So, later than originally planned, makepositive handed over the administration system and scoring app to us to test. It soon became clear that there were faults in the system which needed addressing but more importantly that whilst the basic functionality had been developed, the user interface did not meet the requirements as specified by BE. This was clearly a disappointing and frustrating period for the project and led to escalations between some Directors and makepositive. The ensuing discussions about the commercial consequences of this became protracted and as a consequence development on EARS was not moving forward and the website development had not started.

Release three – Elements centred on the Safety App that our Technical Advisers use for collating fence data were released in 2017 and used by the TA's during that season. The administration of training courses was also part of this release and whilst the development of this was completed in 2017, the front end connects to the website and so would be fully tested and deployed with the website.

Release four – The website. The last release, but the first that members will see and interact with. As a result of the delays in Release 2 and the extended period of no development, this development has been delayed and has not surprisingly been a source of considerable frustration for members. As a consequence the Board decided that the current sequence of development needed to change and so the website was prioritised over the completion of EARS. The developments started in 2018 with makepositive subcontracting the Content Management System, or CMS (front end), to a company called Brightsites who develop websites on a Drupal platform which is proven to work with Salesforce. Whilst many websites are a simple front end of information, ours has a number of complexities as its transactional; pulling data from Salesforce for membership information, validations when members make entries as well as handling event information for organisers. When the previous website development project was stopped, we commissioned a detailed specification of the website requirements so that we could avoid the same issues experienced then. Despite that information being available, we once again found that the complexities of our site were a significant challenge and makepositive decided that it could no longer work with Brightsites. To avoid further delays we contracted directly with Brightsites and have managed the two contractors separately. A revised plan of development was agreed and this has progressed over the summer.

As soon as the challenges surfaced the Board took the proactive step to ask Fiona O'Hara, who is one of our Non- Executives on the Finance Committee, to spend time with BE to help understand and solve the challenges. Fiona is a partner with a leading IT Company and was able to bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to the benefit of the project.

Despite the challenges shared above, we are almost there:

Website: We are now finally, soon to enter the User Acceptance Testing for the website. We appreciate that members are eager to see the new site but we want it to be right when it goes live and so the test period will be over several months involving both internal and external stakeholders. Once all the testing is completed we will need to migrate all of the current data from the current database through to Salesforce. Given the amount of data this will take as much as 14 days. During this time and to ensure no updates are lost, the old website will not be available for updates. We are conscious of not having extended periods where members do not have access to either the current or new website, and so we plan to do the data migration over the Christmas break and go live in the New Year.

Scoring: We have also in the last few weeks been testing the Scoring App (to be used by Scorers - not a public facing application) and this is going to be live trialled at a number of events before the end of the season. We will continue to fix any bugs over the winter and where possible have further trials at the Winter Series and the start of next season.

Administration: The user interface for the Administration part of EARS will be refined by our team in the coming months and be ready for testing and trialling at the start of next season also.

So what has this project cost?

The initial budget was £1.361M. The changes to the system that we requested in 2016 added a further £89K and revised budget of £1.45M. This total not only covers the costs of the third party development but also project management, software licences, governance, training and expenses relating to stakeholder input.

As a result of the challenges we faced with makepositive - the delays to the programme, the move to contract directly with Brightsites for the website, the decision to add a Test Manager to the team, further change requests to deal with the impacts of GDPR and the time needed to improve the user interface for the Administration of EARS - the revised forecast is £1.99M.

We have been unable to share a revised budget with you in recent months as we have been undertaking negotiations with the IT providers which were commercially sensitive. We have now concluded contract renegotiations with makepositive to reflect the non-completion by them of Release 4 and the delays to the overall developments. This settlement includes a confidentiality clause so specific details cannot be shared; however we can say we are pleased with the outcome.

This project has been, and continues to be, without doubt a huge investment for BE both in terms of financial spend and time. It does however provide the sport with systems that will be used to full effect for many years to come.

The project has been funded from BE's reserves, which had been built up over a number of years in order to fund such a significant strategic project. Thus the day to day Operational Budget has not been, and will not be, impacted by the Project spend. The Board have a plan to build these reserves back up, which they will achieve by 2025 at the latest.

To recap the key project timelines have been:

  • 2015 – tender process
  • December 2015 – project awarded to makepositive dependent on outcomes of Discovery Phase
  • Jan – April 2016 - Discovery Phase
  • May 2016 - Project started with Release one – database
  • December 2016 – CRM completed
  • January 2017 – work started on release two (EARS) and three
  • March 2017 - work completed on release 3a – Safety App
  • August 2017 – EARS halted
  • December 2017 – Project order reprioritised
  • January 2018 – work restarted with release four (website)
  • May 2018 – makepositive pull out of Drupal (website) development and BE contract with Brightsites for completion of the Drupal elements of the website 
     

The current timelines are captured in the following diagram (click to expand a PDF download):

ITTP Timeline Oct 2018