Study of the Organisation structure of SICT, business environment, description of projects and activities of Staffordshire County Council
This report is delivered in accordance to the experience gained from a year placement at Staffordshire County Council. It includes the organisation structure of SICT, business environment, description of projects and activities involved during the placement period. It also illustrates one’s interpersonal and technical skills acquired from the work experience.
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The report is produced in conclusion to what was learned and achieved by the end of the placement year.
The role of Industrial Placement programmer was appointed in SCC as a part of sandwich degree for placement year on 21st June 2010. It was a fixed term contract until 21st of June 2011. The unit was ICT under Strategic Core Directorate. The contractual hour of work were 37 hours per week and was under probation period for 6 months. The assigned role was of a student placement Programmer in MIS Team. This offered role provided an opportunity to gain exposure in providing business analysis support, working on technical specification, completing new developments and supporting existing systems within a team environment.
A year placement in SCC has turned out to be the first step into a professional world. It was an opportunity to experience a wider variety of work in a diverse working environment and knowledge of an organisation structure. There were opportunities to deal with the business and clients directly and understood the importance of delivering services to them efficiently and within the given timeframe.
Fig 1: Staffordshire County Council Logo
Staffordshire county council first came into existence on 1st April 1974 when the Local Government Act 1972 came into force. During the restructuring of an existing local government structure, entirely new ‘two-tier’ system replaced an administrative counties and county boroughs and created metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties.
Staffordshire county council is situated in Staffordshire, seventh largest shire county in England which is in the West Midlands with a population of over 800,000. It is a big organisation and Staffordshire’s largest employer with 32,279 jobs. Besides serving the large population its responsibility include more than 400 schools, libraries, a wide range of complex social services in very different urban and rural communities, an extensive road system, and some of the country’s most important natural areas. For the better improvement of the prosperity, health, safety and environment of the whole county, it works with other partner organisations such as district and parish councils, police, and fire and health authorities. Some partner Local Authorities in Staffordshire are as follows:
Cannock Chase District Council • East Staffordshire Borough Council
Lichfield District council • Newcastle Borough Council
South Staffordshire District Council • Stafford Borough Council
Staffordshire Moorlands District Council• Tamworth Borough Council etc.
The organisation structure of SCC consists of three directorates which are “Development Services”, “Children, Young People and Families” and “Social Care and Health” along with Strategic Core which is made up of the Chief Executive’s Office, Finance, ICT, Communities and Culture and Law and Governance. More focus has been given to Customer Services and strategy by concentrating on ‘People’ and ‘Place’ rather than in current structure providing the needs of customer better than ever before.
The aim of Staffordshire County Council is to provide high quality services providing value for money and focused on, and delivering around the needs of our customers and communities. To provide better services to the customers, SCC’s new Strategic Plan 2010 – 2015 called “Staffordshire Unites” has been set which intends to achieve the vision of SCC i.e. “Through pride and passion in our county we will maximise opportunities for improved wealth, health and well-being. Staffordshire County Council is here for Staffordshire People.”
2.2 Staffordshire ICT:
SICT is the central unit of SCC. SICT works in collaboration with other council services and partners to improve the delivery of services through the efficient use of ICT. SICT Service Management, SICT Improvements and Staffordshire Learning Technology (SLT) are the three main functional areas identified by SICT for delivering the requirements of the authority in an efficient way.
SICT service management takes responsibility of management of ICT infrastructure and its daily services such as Help Desk function, desktop function, desktop equipment, applications etc for the whole SCC, including schools and council’s partner. SICT Improvements develops ICT services such as project management, tendering services and system development of the ICT systems which add value to the business by helping them to transform their services. ICT services are delivered to all County schools and the other education establishments on a trade basis by Staffordshire Learning technology.
2.2.1 Organisation Structure of SICT:
The current organisational structure of SICT is mainly divided into three functional areas in order to enable the transformation of the services throughout the Staffordshire by the efficient use of the ICT.
All of these service areas report to the Director of ICT Sander Kristel.
Refer to appendix E – pg no. 24
2.2.3 ICT Delivery Model
Fig 2: ICT Delivery Model (sourced from intranet)
3 Hardware and Software System
The approved hardware packages used in SICT consist of standard equipments such as thin Client devices, laptops and desktop PCs for design application which include 22” inch TFT, keyboard and mouse. Standard printers in use are HP DeskJet 7000(manual), HP LaserJet 3015dn, and HP LaserJet CP3535dn etc.
3.2 Software System:
SCIT provides standard SCC Desktop Software Applications for ICT devices which includes software packages that are approved and available as additional cost options.
The standard SCC Desktop Software Applications are listed below:
Standard SoftwareName and version of product Additional
SoftwareName and version of product1) Operating SystemMicrosoft Windows XP Professional1) Project
SoftwareMicrosoft Project 20032) Office SuiteMicrosoft Office 2003 Professional2) Design softwareMicrosoft Visio 2003 Professional3) Internet BrowserInternet Explorer 83) IXOSIXOS4) PDF File viewerAdobe Acrobat Reader 8.04) TRIMTRIM
5)Anti-Virus ProtectionMacAfee Virus scan Enterprise 8.05) AutoCADAutoCAD6) Desktop Support Remote Control eLANDesk 8.7
The additional software packages downloaded for work purpose are listed below:
SoftwareName and version of product
1) NetbeansNetbeans 6.0
2) Microsoft Visual Studio1) Visual studio 2008
2) Visual studio 20103) Microsoft SQL Server Microsoft SQL Server 20084)SAP1) SAP BW (3 environments : development, QA, Production)
2)SAP NetWeaver Portal 7
3)Reporting Tool :
a) Report Designer,
b) BEx Query Designer
c)BEx Web Application Designer and BEx Analyzer
5) SAP CRM5) Microsoft Visual SourceSafeMicrosoft VSS 2005
3.3 Business Environment
3.3.1 SAP Services:
The SCC runs SAP as its corporate ERP and is implementing a SAP Children’s Social Care Solutions which were first introduced in 2003. The core SAP ERP Services of SCC are HR, Payroll, Finance and Procurement whereas the SAP Social Care Solutions are based on CRM, RM, BI and adobe forms. SCC also uses SAP Security based on Roles and authorisation. The SCC runs the following systems which require SAP interfaces; SAP SCUK, ECC6, TRIM, Respond, LG45/SAP CRM, FACE, Trojan, Contact point, Capita One Range of Service. The main objective of integrating these systems with SAP is to provide ‘single source’ of information more system integration in future improving the performance and productivity level of the services provided the customer.
Fig 4: SAP Social Care – Technical environment (sourced from intranet)
3.3.2 System Development:
There are currently over 200 application range of in house written and purchased system used in SCC to provide different services. Among them several application systems are used corporately, within Directorates or for specific group. These applications are designed and created with the effective use of wide range of technologies such as dot NET, Java, Oracle and SQL database. There are several application systems that are used corporately, within Directorates or for specific group.
GIS/ Local view – graphical information systems
ONE/SIMS- education management system
Web- CMS, collaboration
Oracle LG45 CRM – CRM system for Staffordshire connects partnership
The major system developments are related to SAP, Customer First, Traffic management, Adult and children case management system
4 Work Placement
4.1 Job Description:
The job title was Student placement programmer, involved working with senior developers of MIS team and Solution Design team and reporting to the placement supervisor.
4.2 Daily Basis Tasks:
The day to day jobs included updating appointed tasks in SharePoint (a web application to record projects and task done or appointed to an individual), recording the hours of work done in Time Recording system, monitoring scheduled data load in BW and updating it in the web portal, helping customer with their problems through remote connection to their machine and reporting the work to the appointed business client.
Scheduling Data Loads and Maintaining Process Chains in BW
BW is one of the application systems of SCC that are relevant to “Information”. Extraction, Transformation and Load (ETL) Layer is responsible for extracting data from a specific source, applying transformation rules and loading it into the Data Warehouse. The master and transactional data from different source systems are loaded into BW InfoObjects such as DSO, Info cube, Multiprovider etc. The InfoObjects are used to extract data out for creating reports. The data load in BW is performed by using process chains which need to be scheduled so, that the data load runs automatically on its scheduled date and time. Data load was scheduled every month for daily, weekly and monthly ones and all the jobs automatically get cancelled on bank holidays.
Maintaining Consistency between all environment in BW System
The SAP BW Solution operates on three tier system as follows:
QA (Quality Assurance and Test)
All the developments were carried out and tested first in development environment before transporting developed objects across QA for further testing. After successful testing in QA, the objects are transported again from development to production environment for publishing live updated data. For better performance and future reference it was necessary to maintain all three environments inline as automatic updates are only available for production system. Consistency between all environments were maintained regularly by manually carrying out data loads in DEV and QA environments and adding missing objects which already exist in production system.
Managing BW transport
Normally in SAP BW , the objects that are either installed from Business content or developed in DEV systems can be transported from DEV systems to QA and Production systems.SAP BW allows to transport works like configuration, objects, roles, and business Explorer(BEx) objects. Transports can be internal transport i.e. between different systems of BW or external transport which is between source systems such as ECC6, CRM to SAP BW system and takes place using RFC (Remote Function Call) during uploading. Internal transportations are carried out according to the need of the user at anytime whereas external transportation takes place only in certain days and has to be informed b filling the transport request form.
Transport packages created in DEV environment has its own transport ID which is needed to identify one’s transport to avoid conflicts. The results of either successful or failed transports are displayed in BW system that enables to manage transport across different system.
Meetings with team members, business client and placement tutor
Team meetings in MIS team were held normally twice in a month whereas in solution design team it used to be once in a week where team manager will notify the latest happenings and news of the SCC, any projects that is going to be start, any health and safety matters, feedbacks of the customer on the ongoing or released projects and other work related issues
The meetings with business clients were attended to discuss about the specification and requirements of the products they requested and the deadlines when they want it to be delivered and feedback of the finished product.
The placement visit from our placement tutor took place in the office twice in a year. The visit was very beneficial as the tutor tracked down the progress of our work by consulting with our supervisor and team member. The assessment and the advice from the tutor were very helpful to find the state of one’s capability to carry out job and encouraging oneself to keeping up the hard work.
Attending inductions, trainings and demos
SCC organises inductions and trainings for all the internal employees for their benefits and to maintain their standard of working. In the beginning of the placement period, induction had to be attended where briefings were given about the organisation structure, health and safety policies, rules and regulation, equality and diversity, security policy and other work related issues. In accordance to the job role, ICT Training centre of SCC also gave ICT induction to provide the information on standard equipments and software, computer security, electronic filing and corporate software which helped to get on with the job during first stage.
Any applications developed or changed had to be presented to the customer for which demos were conducted upon the request of customer.
Creating, Maintaining and Deploying BW Reports
In accordance to report specifications reports were designed and created using BEx query analyser and BEx web designer. The web templates were later published into SAP web portal.
Writing new applications and maintaining existing system
As a developer’s main responsibility, new application were designed and written upon the request of business and also maintained the ones which are already in use. The maintenance required addition of new functionality and validation, updating the version of software and implement further testing. Reuse of code, performance issues, functionality and robustness were the major points to be implemented whist developing a new application.
Implementations of testing were required to ensure the functionality and robustness of the applications and reports created for business clients. Unit testing were done for the block of codes written in java or visual basic for applications in accordance to the test plan designed by the development team.
Helping Customer with their problems and issues:
Customers were provided all the information and solutions to their queries and problems. If necessary they were given further help through remote connection to their machine or through individual phone calls. The issues like setting up customer’s account in ECC6 system, installation of software and showing how to use application functionality were dealt whist providing customer the easy and effective way to solve a problem.
5 Project Descriptions:
5.1 PISCES Reporting:
PISCES is the new Social Care solution for Children’s system which went live on 25th of April 2011 after the successful migration of business partner cases into the system from CISS database system. Reports for PISCES system are produced using SAP BW suite of reporting tools. The reports are accessed via the SAP Portal, using standard Internet Web Browser.
Two of major reports of PISCES namely “Children Subject to CPP Statutory Visits” and “Looked after Children Statutory Visits” was created in accordance to the given specification from CYP& F directorate. The reports were created using the BEx Query Designer and BEx Web Analyser which were later published into Web portal for user access.
Refer to Appendix B- pg no 21
5.2 ECC6 Upgrade Testing:
SCC upgraded SAP R/3 source system to SAP ERP central component ECC6 which went live on 25th of October 2010. SCC uses ECC6 as the main enterprise resource planning software for Human Resources, Payroll, Finance and Procurement to collect and combine data from these different modules and provide to the organisation under one instance. The main reason behind this upgrade was to enable products to function upon foundation of central component.
SAP BW uses ECC6 as one of its main source system and projects the source system changes. It is necessary to ensure that upgrading the source system on SAP BW environment would not impact the data modelling object built-in SAP BW system. To implement the changes in production system, tests were first required to carry out in development environment followed by QA environment.
In this project, the assigned role was of a tester and the responsibility was to implement testing in accordance to a test plan designed by BW analysts. The test involved switching of the source system, data reloading to have the initializations and deltas to come from the new system. During test the old source system (both transactional and master) were deleted in the BW system before reloading data from ECC6 to ensure the consistency in the data from a system. After the successful completion of testing in BW Development and QA environment, the upgrade was finally implemented in production system which was also tested after the go live process.
5.3 In House Applications Development:
The system development areas involved adding functionality to the existing applications, rewriting codes for the existing system, analysing business requirements, designing, implementing and testing the new systems, writing user guides and technical manuals. The software development team use Agile Software development to develop their new system and maintain existing system. The advantage of Agile based approach is modification of the requirements which is often applicable in a fast changing environment and deliver functionality rapidly to ensure customer satisfactions.
5.3.1 Time Recording
The Time Recording application is an electronic time recording system used by SCC’s staff to record their flexi time. It allows user to know the duration of time they have worked, whether they are up or down on their time. Using this application senior managers calculate the average working pattern and needs of their staff of to see the true cost of projects and resources. It provides a central repository of the time recording information and an easy interface with level of functionality to the user. This application comprises of custom frontend developed by using Java programming language making it user friendly and SAP backend architecture providing the scalable and robust underlying architecture.
For this existing application, it was required to add a new functionality to the system which allows user to filter the list of products and its related activities from the frontend and restricts user to input any times following the 30th April for any given financial year. A new custom filtering form was created to implement these functionalities.
Refer to Appendix C – pg no. 22
5.3.2 School Crossing Patrol
School Crossings is an application designed and developed for Road Safety Office to manage the information about school crossings, patrols that staff a school crossing and the physical location of the actual school crossings. It was required to design the new system to replace the existing Access database which did not meet most of the needs of the School Crossings Patrol service and was not supported by ICT. Thus, this application was rewritten as it is crucial to the running of the service both operationally and from a performance management perspective.
The new system consists of a web based frontend written in Visual Studio 2010 IDE using ASP.Net and Visual Basic (VB) and the backend uses a Microsoft SQL Server 2008 database. There is an integration of SAP into the new system to avoid data duplication. The database for this system was designed and created which was then integrated with the frontend application. Designing of basic framework, applying windows authentication and validations, adding functionality such as establishing hyperlinks, creating menus for web page, data grid views, adding, editing and removing data from the frontend were the tasks involve during implementation of this project.
The placement was beneficial in regards to development of personal and technical skills. More self-confidence was build to face any real time problems and challenges.
6.1 Interpersonal Development:
During the placement period, working with two teams with a wide range of members enabled to successfully initiate, maintain and manage positive social relationships with them in a range of contexts.
Providing good customer services in a manner that customer is provided all the required information and quality products in time.
Working cooperatively and effectively as a part of a diverse professional team contributing more effort with best conduct.
Improvement of communication skills and ability to communicate confidently with the seniors and other colleagues about the work related problems and query.
Ability to prioritise time during work to fit around study commitments and social life.
Understanding of the establishment and functions of organisation structure. Analysing business requirements and importance of delivering quality services before deadline.
6.2 Technical Skills Acquired:
A year experience in SCC has enhanced the technical knowledge and skills in programming and developing systems.
Sound knowledge of SAP software, architecture and its modules such as ECC6, CRM, BI and SAP NetWeaver.
Better understanding of Business Intelligence, analytical, reporting and Data Warehousing solution provided by SAP BI System. Efficient use of reporting tool “SAP NetWeaver BI” and a web browser “SAP NetWeaver Portal”.
Introduction to the ABAP programming language specifically used in SAP modules.
Practical experience of using object oriented programming language, utilising the concurrency/multithreading concepts and implementation of Hash table in java for better performance and memory management purpose.
Integration of SAP ECC6 with java application by the use of Remote Function Calls (RFC) modules from the java platform.
Use of ASP.net programming language to create web based GUI application and adding a windows authentication for security.
Creation and population data tables, views using SQL statements and design database diagrams in Microsoft SQL server.
In conclusion, an experience of a year placement at SCC has been invaluable and memorable moments of the life. It has been very beneficial providing knowledge of organisation structure, working environment and methodologies, customer services and development of both technical and personal skills. There is a strong belief that everything learned during this period will contribute in final year project on analysing requirements, managing time, selecting the suitable programming language and IDE for developing application, utilising new programming and testing methodologies. It will help in the accomplishment of future career goals i.e. to stand out as a successful developer in any competitive business market.
References and Bibliography:
1)Staffordshire County Council History
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Staffordshire [accessed 09/04/2011]
2)Staffordshire County Council (2011) Organisation Information
http://www.staffordshire.gov.uk/yourcouncil/home.aspx [accessed 10/04/2011]
3)SAP NetWeaver Business Intelligence
http://www.sap.com/services/education/catalog/netweaver/bi.epx [accessed 10/04/2011]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SAP_NetWeaver_Business_Intelligence [accessed 10/04/2011]