I’ve got to say that Crown delivered what we expected them to deliver. Every officer’s shift pattern is now on the system, which is a great benefit to us. The fact that Crown has an approved interface to SAP was a significant factor in our decision to go with them.
With origins as part of the UK Atomic Energy Authority, the Civil Nuclear Constabulary (CNC) was set up through the Energy Act 2004; its headquarters are at Culham, in Oxfordshire. Today, the CNC provides protection for civil nuclear licensed sites and safe-guards nuclear materials, nuclear site operators, policing and nuclear regulators, as well as interlinking with Home Office forces. The CNC employs 850 officers based at 17 sites across England, Scotland and Wales. Officers work a variety of shifts and have to attend training and refresher courses in areas such as firearms skills and dog handling.
The CNC had been relying for some years on an in-house-developed duty management system based on Microsoft® Excel™, called Palisade. Palisade had been created in Excel ’95 and could no longer be migrated to newer versions of Microsoft Office™. In addition, it was a standalone application that could not be networked. The limitations of the Palisade system meant that access by management to staffing information was very limited and consequently there was no cross-force understanding of where the CNC’s resources were at any one time. Returns for attendance, overtime, holidays and sickness had to be submitted from field offices on disk and paper for manual re-keying into the SAP HR system.
During a review by HMIC, it was recommended that a force-wide management system be implemented. According to Walter Walker, the Home Office’s own model was considered initially, but there were compatibility issues with CNC’s SAP system that could not be solved without major expenditure. He commented: “During the tendering process we were to discover that Crown Computing offered the same capability, but was compatible with SAP, thanks to an integration package which would allow information to flow both ways. This is an option we may implement at some future date.”
In May 2006, two officials from the CNC ‘s governing body, the CNPA, visited the ACPO conference in London, where they found Crown Computing exhibiting. Although they didn’t know the CNC’s specific requirements, they did know it was in the market for something new. Keith Wright, Senior Account Manager at Crown Computing, explains what happened next: “In July 2006 we went to see Superintendent Walker and Linda Broadhead, the CNC’s operational and HR representatives for the project. Following the initial brief they gave us, we were confident that Open Options could more than meet their needs and were able to return at the end of the month to make a formal presentation, which was very well received.”
Crown Computing’s proposal required it to work with Computacenter, a major supplier of IT infrastructure services, which is an approved first-tier supplier to the Catalyst public sector contract tendering system. Under the proposal, submitted in January 2007, Crown Computing would provide the software and Computacenter the hardware. Meanwhile, Walter and his colleagues put together the business case for consideration by the CNC’s command team. With this approved, funding was then agreed by the CNPA.
The project was put out to public tender through Catalyst, during which process the CNC team went to see Open Options in action with Lancashire Police Force, an established Crown Computing customer. Although other suppliers were properly considered, the tendering process was foreshortened due to the urgency of the problem and Crown Computing and Computacenter were awarded the contract.
In April 2007, Open Options was installed and set up on a server at CNC’s Culham HQ. A successful month of parallel testing concluded the system configuration and user training. Crown assisted with each stage of the implementation, working with the CNC project team to design a bespoke training course for the duty planners. Walter comments: “Implementation went pretty well – there were no issues around the software or hardware or the training provided to CNC staff and duty planners. We had a dedicated person from Crown working with us throughout the implementation.”
The Crown installation did expose weaknesses in the CNC’s network, however, as Walter notes: “We need a confidential network and the current providers can’t guarantee that confidentiality. We also discovered the existing network did not have sufficient bandwidth for Open Options to function efficiently. We’re in the process of migrating to a restricted network and then early in 2009 we expect that to become a confidential network.” He added: “We did make some use of Crown’s technical support and the contract also includes five days’ consultancy each year. Crown has proven to be very fair in not using up more of that allowance than necessary: if they estimate a job will take two days but it only takes one, then they only deduct one.”
Walter continued: “We did have to revise the way we tag shifts, so all shifts at all locations starting on the same day would become shift one, for instance, to ensure continuity across the force. We have 15 units and a number of HQ centres – a training centre, HQ itself and the Constabulary Communication Centre, and they are all on the duty management system. So every officer’s shift pattern is now on the system, which is a great benefit to us.”
Access to My Options is browser-based, with four security levels for duty planners, super-users, administrators and officers. All officers can go into My Options via local kiosks to view their hours worked, overtime – both planned and worked, sickness absence recorded and courses and holidays booked. They can also request holiday absence through the system and even swap shifts. Historically all this was printed off and pinned up on the local office noticeboard, but the new paperless, diskless system has quickly shown officers and administrators that it works much better. Clocking on and off and absence reporting is also done through My Options Attendance Workbench on a group basis by the sergeants who run the shifts. Attendance Workbench also offers skill filtering, which is useful for identifying who on any shift has a particular skill.
The duty planners use Workforce Scheduling to roster officers for duties and any officer who lacks a skill likely to be needed on that shift is highlighted before the roster is finalised. Working time hours are also calculated during rostering and any overtime required allocated accordingly. The duty planners publish the roster, which is then visible to the supervisors and officers via My Options. Officers can use an enquiry function to see what duties their colleagues are working, so they know who will be on duty with them before the start of each shift. Duty planners can also run several duty-related, template-based, reports which were designed and built in My Options by the project team.
Walter is both excited and frustrated about the future and the potential of the new system: “In our organisation I would like to see Open Options utilised fully for annual leave and sickness, it being the source of our working-time directive hours and related data. All that comes from HR on paper at the moment through SAP. We allocate hours and Open Options does that for us, but we then have to tell HR through SAP that people have used their leave up, for instance, so in some ways we’re still double-keying everything.”
Walter explains how he would like to see matters progress: “Crown has an HR system, which could be added to Open Options, but as this would move us away from SAP, it’s not something we could implement lightly. We have invested heavily in SAP; it runs our financial and store systems as well as HR, but first we will need to get recognition internally that our Crown system can actually do so much more. Every Tuesday, for example, the field units send their absence returns into HR, where they are keyed in manually. We then have to wait until the following Tuesday before we get up-to-date sickness information. If we were reporting sickness in Crown, we could log it immediately and understand and act on the impact for that unit straightaway. So we are actually looking to implement full sickness and leave management in Crown as additional benefits.”
Walter adds: “Because SAP is only retrospective, we could also get better reports on working time directive compliance through Open Options. It’s a process of evolution and education, however and it can only get better. Like any new system, it’s a case of people getting used to it and right now we are probably using it at about 40% of its capabilities – but we know we can get much more out of it and I’m sure we will.”
Walter concludes: “Crown is a good listener – we’re part of its ‘Blue Light’ user group for emergency services users, which is a very good forum for ensuring our feedback gets taken into account in product development. I’ve got to say that Crown delivered what we expected them to deliver. We had our own cultural issues to address in moving away from a wholly paper-based system, which was bound to have an initial impact on the way we work, but what we asked Crown to do, they did – and they kept within the budget.”