IT management consulting service provides fresh impetus for new website project
When Police Mutual Assurance Society wanted to update its web presence, it turned to OCS Consulting for advice. The organisation's existing website lacked the up-to-date information that prospective customers sought. Thanks to some expert IT management consulting, Police Mutual Assurance Society was able to define the project, select a content management system, and is now implementing a new website.
Founded in 1922, Police Mutual Assurance Society is the UK's largest affinity friendly society with 170,000 members. It offers savings, investments, pensions, insurance, and mortgages for serving and retired officers, police staff, and their families. Police Mutual Assurance Society has 180 employees and assets of £1.1 billion.
For Head of IT Derek Eaton, the website is just one responsibility of many. The most recent version was introduced in 2003 and contained details of products and services along with an annual PDF financial statement for registered members. By 2006, the website had fallen behind new organisational branding and was difficult to update due to an old content management system (CMS) administered by IT staff.
Modernise and expand
Apart from the CMS issues, any changes had to be checked for financial industry compliance before a web administrator made monthly updates. New market research also revealed the growing significance of the web as a sales and customer service channel - it was time to modernise and expand.
"We wanted to replace the content management system, allow more timely updates to the website, and publish more frequently," said Eaton. "We had a lot of things to do and we needed to find out how much it was all going to cost."
Apart from new branding, other ideas included a workflow-driven approvals procedure, a call-me button, feedback forms, and business-led updates. This meant creating a set of ordered tasks within a costed project plan, something that Police Mutual Assurance Society saw as daunting.
In February 2006, Eaton looked for external help in examining the business case and scoping out the project. A proposal from OCS Consulting proved a refreshing change as, rather than rely on a slick PowerPoint presentation, its consultants talked with senior staff.
"OCS Consulting did a totally different presentation and their proposal was very convincing," said Eaton. "They broke the assignment up into stages - one of the selling points for us - and were able to demonstrate that they'd done this sort of work before."
The proposal outlined these manageable stages - familiarisation, discovery, documentation, and presentation - along with interim reporting. Reliable estimates of costs and time scales for the work were also provided, allowing Eaton to rule out other potential suppliers in favour of OCS Consulting.
A key part of the two-month scoping project was the 'discovery' phase. This was a series of highly-productive workshops with business users from different departments - like the call centre and compliance. Once the business case was documented, OCS Consulting prioritised the tasks needed to improve the website. Eaton was also kept fully informed throughout.
"OCS Consulting has a simple two-page weekly report which told us where they were, what they were doing next week, and any changes to the project plan. It kept me up-to-date all the way through," says Eaton. "The reporting during the scoping project was excellent."
The work carried out is best described as 'IT management consulting'. Although IT orientated, it was based around an in-depth appreciation of Police Mutual Assurance Society's culture, business environment, and requirements. By the end of the project, Eaton knew what he wanted to know.
"The key thing I received from OCS Consulting was a plan of how to deliver all the activities, in what order, and the costs. They also identified that one of my first objectives was to implement a new content management system," said Eaton.
Acting on behalf of Police Mutual Assurance Society, OCS Consulting then ran a full tender process based on its knowledge of the CMS market and previous projects. The Immediacy content management system was selected, as used by the BBC, National Express, and MerseyCare NHS Trust.
"Immediacy is a really good piece of software. It has a nice approvals system which closely fits with the financial services market too," said Eaton.
Work by a firm of web designers is now underway to deploy the new website. Eaton believes that the web scoping exercise and search for a content management system would have been impossible without help.
"OCS Consulting added additional resources to my IT team with a 100 percent focus on the project," said Eaton. "This external assistance gave me the expertise which I haven't got in-house and I think that OCS Consulting offer good value for money too."
The new website will go live in Summer 2007. Beyond that, Eaton is planning a core system review, something that OCS Consulting has already provided some expertise for. Backed by the renewed confidence of knowing that IT management consulting and other technical expertise is now available on tap, Police Mutual Assurance Society is looking forward to continued success.