Closure Report

Project Summary

Background

MyEd is the University's Staff, Student, Alumni and Visitor User-Centred Portal (UCP). The portal comprises on over 100 channels serving services and content to different audiences. In previous years upgrades to MyEd have proven cumbersome and costly. This project was established to replace DTI011 (suspended) and SAS002 (closed), following a re-scoping of those projects’ funding, scope, timescales and milestones. Before this project the User-Centred Portal (UCP) work composed of projects separately funded by Service Excellence (SE) and Digital Transformation (DTI).  So far, these projects have done valuable research work, technical investigations, and trials of content in MyEd. Challenges regarding business readiness have caused the scope of delivery to be restricted. The scope of this project was to use the outputs of previous projects to deliver new infrastructure and technology (uPortal 5 framework), delivering a new, mobile orientated, User Interface better aligned to the need of Students. The scope also included migration of all usable content to the new technology. 

In detail, the project aimed to:

  1. Deliver an enhanced technical framework (uPortal5 back-end/React front-end), which improved service delivery and user experience
  2. Deliver an improved user experience in MyEd, centred around student needs

The project delivered 3 preview releases, followed by a successful switchover to the new MyEd. The project was required to deliver by the hard deadline of 31st July 2019, this milestone was achieved.

Objectives and Deliverables

No.

Description

Priority

Delivered?

O1

Project Delivered with Appropriate Governance

 

 

D1.01

Approved Revised Project Brief

Must-Have

Y

D1.02

Re-Baselined Project Plan

Must-Have

Y

D1.03

Planning Completed

Must-Have

Y

 

 

 

 

O2

Project Benefits

 

 

D2.01

High-Level Benefits Documented

Must-Have

Y

D2.02

Benefits Log Created

Must-Have

Y

D2.03

H-L Benefits Baselined and Success Criteria Created

Must-Have

Y

 

 

 

 

O3

Technical Framework Design

 

 

D3.01

MyEd Progressive Framework Design (MyEd Deployed to Dev) Created

Must-Have

 Y

D3.03

MyEd Progressive Framework Design (Iteration Period)

Could Have

 

D3.04

MyEd Progressive Framework Design (Final) Created

Must-Have

 Y

 

 

 

 

O4

uPortal5 Instance (Minimum Viable) Implemented

 

 

D4.01

Containerisation Decision

Must-Have

Y

D4.02

Infrastructure Design Documented

Must-Have

 Y

D4.02.01

Build Process Defined

Must-Have

 Y

D4.03

DEV Infrastructure Built

Must-Have

Y

D4.04

TEST Infrastructure Built

Must-Have

Y

D4.06

Live Infrastructure Built

Must-Have

Y

 

 

 

 

O5

uPortal5 Instance (Minimum Viable) Implemented

 

 

D5.01

Dev uPortal5 Framework Installed

Must-Have

Y

D5.02

Test uPortal5 Framework Installed

Must-Have

Y

D5.03

Production uPortal5 Installed

Must-Have

Y

 

 

 

 

O6

MyEd Content Audit

 

 

D6.01

Migrating Demo Content Identified and Approved

Must-Have

Y

D6.02

Non-Migrating Content Identified and Approved

Must-Have

Y

D6.03

Migrating Content (Refactor-only) Identified

Must-Have

Y

D6.04

Priority Re-Build Content Identified

Must-Have

Y

D6.05

Content Migration Strategy (Process and Technical) Documented (incl Migration timescales). Critical input for Iteration 1 Checkpoint D9.01.

Must-Have

Y

 

 

 

 

O7

MyEd UI Redesign

 

 

D7.01

Graphic Design Investigations

Should Have

Y

D7.02

Case Studies Review

Should Have

Y

D7.03

Previous UX/BA Work Review (DTI011, DTI020 and SAS002)

Should Have

Y

D7.04

Current MyEd Enhancements Reviews/Feedback

Should Have

Y

D7.05

Initial User Access UI Agreed

Must-Have

Y

D7.06

Improved User UI (Suitable for Restricted - User Opt-In)

Must-Have

Y

D7.07

UI Iterative Improvements (Cycles Monthly)

Could Have

Y

D7.08

Improved User UI (Suitable for Full User Redirect)

Must-Have

Y

 

 

 

 

O8

MyEd Content Migration

 

 

D8.01

Migrate and re-factor sample content for the restricted group

Must-Have

 Y

D8.02

Migrate and re-build (to MyEd Progressive) sample priority content for the restricted group

Must-Have

 Y

D8.03

MyEd v4.3 New Content Gatekeeper Decision Point

Must-Have

 Y

D8.04

MyEd v4.3 New Content Freeze

Must-Have

 Y

D8.05

Migrate and re-factor all non-priority content for a restricted group

Must-Have

 Y

D8.06

Migrate and re-build (to MyEd Progressive) all priority content for all users

Must-Have

 Y

D8.07

All MyEd 4.3 Content Actioned (Migrated, Ditched or Replaced)

Must-Have

 Y

 

 

 

 

O9

Iteration Checkpoints

 

 

D9.01

Iteration 1 August 2018 Checkpoint

Must-Have

Y

D9.02

Iteration 2 September 2018 Checkpoint

Must-Have

Y

D9.03

Iteration 3 October 2018 Checkpoint

Must-Have

Y

D9.04

Iteration 4 November 2018 Checkpoint

Must-Have

Y

D9.05

Go/No-Go Checkpoint Decision

Must-Have

Y

 

 

 

 

D10

MyEd Progressive User Access

 

 

D10.01

Restricted User Group Access - Group and Process

Should Have

Y

D10.02

First User Access (Restricted group; migrated sample content (re-factor and re-built); Production; uPortal5

Must-Have

Y

D10.03

Full User Optional Access (All users opting in; all content; production; uPortal5)

Must-Have

Y

D10.04

All UoE Users Transferred to MyEd Progressive

Must-Have

Y

D10.05

MyEd v4.3 Decommission

Must-Have

 Y

 

Project Methodology

The project was delivered using Agile with daily stand-ups and fortnightly sprints.  Each sprint was followed by a sprint retro (end of sprint review) together with a sprint planning session (planning for the next sprint). Sprint user stories were managed within Jira.

Project Release Plan

Preview versions of MyEd were made available to students and staff:

  1. Release 1.0 (Preview for students) went live on 27/3/19 (CI903-035)
  2. Release 2.0 (Preview for staff) went live on 27/5/19 (CI905-071)
  3. Release 3.0 (Preview for staff) went live on 1/7/19 (CI906-055)

The switchover to the new MyEd took place successfully on schedule on 11/7/19.

 

Project Governance

In addition to the standard project governance within Applications Directorate, governance was provided by the User-Centred Portal Programme Board which met approximately every four to six weeks.

Analysis of Resource Usage:

Resource/Budget   Financial Year 17/18   Financial Year 18/19   Financial Year 19/20

  Total  

Cost   £53,440   £296,735 *   £10,500   £380,625
Budget   £53,500   £230,000   £10,500   £294,000

 

*does not include £19,950 funded by Development Services

Explanation for variance

The project budget was revised to reflect:

  1. Additional funding allocated by Digital Transformation (required to deliver unplanned JIRAs and to fund additional effort to deliver the project by the hard deadline of 31st July 2019)
  2. Additional 57 days required for a contract software developer from 14th May to 31st July 2019 (funded by Development Services)
  3. An additional 35 days were allocated to the project to finish development for start of term and complete outstanding JIRA before closure.
  4. An additional 30 days were required to complete the project in 2019/20

Benefits

Several benefits were identified during project planning these were:

Expected High-Level Benefits

  • Provide a personalised experience which supports students in their studies, restricted to the current user attributes available to MyEd, for:

    • Content relevant to their particular context (e.g. course/programme, time of year, year of study) and which is structured around their needs
    • Language which is descriptive and easily understandable
  • Enable users to access MyEd wherever they are, and on all devices (particularly beneficial for ODLs, international, and Widening Participation students)
    • Faster loading and reduced data use for low-bandwidth devices and mobiles
    • Caching to allow offline access
  • Optimise platform aligning to best practice allowing continuous service improvement
    • Faster response time to user needs and changes in service provision
    • Less management overhead and specialised technical knowledge required, making us more flexible
    • Robust technical implementation which is not reliant on bespoke code
    • Reduced support enquiries
  • Create potential to decommission applications within other UoE systems once functionality available within MyEd.

Short term

  • Improved presentation of content, including improvements to language and support information, using student feedback and UX process
  • Increased understanding of our services, leading to reduced support from staff and better communication between staff and students
  • Reduced service turnaround time to responding to student needs
  • Technical improvements which are of particular benefit to ODLs, international, and Widening Participation students
  • Small improvements and trials of content targeted at a student’s particular context
  • Increased engagement with student population

Long term

  • Further improvements and content personalised to the student’s context, making it more useful and relevant to them (the “helping hand”)
  • Putting in place our student engagement and UX process for the MyEd service
  • Laying the technical groundwork to deliver further content as business readiness and data becomes available

The table below shows the outcomes of benefits in each area.

Benefit

Metric/Success Criteria

Outcome

Improved student experience (e.g. content, layout, language, support)

Non-quantifiable, will be assessed using qualitative data from student feedback over the course of the project.

Student feedback has been very positive, students have expressed how easy the new UI is too navigate.

Enable users to access MyEd wherever they are, and on all devices. Faster loading and reduced data use for low-bandwidth devices and mobiles.

MyEd v4.3 provides no control over page refreshes, so whole page reloads whenever user refreshes any content. MyEd Progressive allows content-level refreshes limiting data use.

Student feedback about using MyEd on mobile devices has been fantastic. 

Caching to allow offline access.

Page caching not available in v4.3.

Achieved but difficult to quantify.

Optimise platform aligning to best practice allowing continuous service improvement

Non-quantifiable, will be assessed using qualitative measures e.g. engagement with uPortal community

The new deployment process allows for faster and less complex deployments. 

Faster response time to user needs and changes in service provision.

Baseline to come from previous projects, e.g. WEB009 MyEd Upgrade

Achieved

Less management overhead and specialised technical knowledge required, making us more flexible.

Baseline from Production Management overhead to be established

On going, the tangible measurement of this benefit can be reviewed after a longer period of time. 

Robust technical implementation which is not reliant on bespoke code.

Not quantifiable.

Although not easily quantifiable, the technical implementation is already allowing small changes to be made and employed under service with less cost and in a shorter time. 

Reduced support enquiries amongst services accessed through MyEd

Baseline to be established.

Ongoing, however, not measured at this time. 

Reduced duplication between services, with the possibility of decommissioning unneeded applications

 

Criteria to be identified where

During the migration process several channels were identified that were either duplicated elsewhere or no longer needed. 

Key Learning Points

What Went Well
  • Team work: The project team worked very well together. Several members of the project team commented that the collaboration between Apps Man, Dev Services and Service Operations was excellent. There was clear direction and practical support between the project team members of these teams, building good momentum. the team created a supportive environment. 
  • UX: The focus on user research was hugely important in understanding student needs and was critical to ensure that work was concentrated where it was needed to address these student needs. We have done a considerable amount of research into understanding student needs. This has allowed us to build an improved interface for students, based on what they actually need rather than what we think they need. Initial feedback indicates that students really enjoy the interface and find it much easier to use. The research we have done has also given us considerable insight into student requirements which has benefit for future MyEd work, as well as many other student-facing services. This research has already been shared and is being used by other ongoing work, such as SEP. 
  • Resourcing: The development lead changed at a critical point in the project (March 2019). Thanks to well designed and established technical procedures allowed the familiarisation and handover significantly easier for the incoming technical lead.
  • Technical: Automating environment provisioning and configuration with Puppet. This allowed regular deployments throughout the project, enabling a speedy response to issues and keeping stakeholder engagement.
  • Deployment Strategy: New infrastructure means considerably shorter deployments for the majority of our content. Changes which only touch the front-end can now be rolled out in minutes and only require a single staff member to deploy. Also, rolling out the new MyEd as a preview proved to be a very successful technique. This facilitated feedback including identification of bugs at an early stage. Also, MyEd code (config, back-end, front-end, portlets etc.) is tidy, documented, and a very mature MyEd deployment process has been established that caters from small to large releases.
  • Technology: The use of a popular, modern web framework like React means that we can benefit from the existing international community. Our development staff will have many more resources to draw from in improving their skills. 
  • Content: the project was able to reduce the use of “proxied” content. In addition to the project facilitated clearing the database and migrating only required records, populating users from IDM.
  • Open Source Collaboration with the team and engagement with the Apereo open source community contributed to the success of the project.

 

What Did Not Go So Well
  • Resourcing: The project suffered constant issues in securing resource. A good deal of time and effort was therefore spent by staff in coordinating this, for example: developers checking their schedules and coordinating with other projects, service staff coordinating and raising staffing issues, project managers trying to negotiate and book resource. Technical expertise was passed from members leaving the project team to those joining via appropriate handovers, however, familiarisation and knowledge level was difficult to be matched while striving to meet deadlines. A decision was made to hire and add another developer in the project team close to switch-over.  This impacted the project team and lead developer significantly, and once again, additional work outside of hours was required in order to fit all relevant tasks in the planned releases.
  • Out of hours working: A lot of unrecorded time has gone into the project and has directly fed into the success of the delivery of this improved MyEd service. The mere fact that out-of-hours work was required, proves the team’s difficulty to adapt to the changing circumstances while trying hard to deliver within the given timeframe. 
  • UX: Because the project focused solely on student users, we have had some negative feedback from staff who were impacted by the changes. This is unavoidable since we were not given any budget/scope to address staff requirements. We have managed to pick up some of this within the project but we should continue to prioritise this for future work.
  • Governance: Some members of the project team perceived there to be a lack of engagement at the senior level in project governance, although this did seem to improve over the course of the project. This meant that we were forced to delay key work due to decisions not being made in a timely manner by the governance board, or issues (such as lack of resourcing) not being addressed. A project team should feel and be empowered to manage a project on their own.  Feedback, input and direction from boards is welcome, but trust should be shown to the project team to make decisions and implement project delivery. Layers of management and influence came from outside the project team and dictated release dates, flexibility around release content and in general inspired lack of trust and loss of project team “credibility”.
  • Cross project coordination: The project suffered from a lack of coordination across all of the ongoing SEP and DTI projects. While some work has been done on this, the effort seems largely targeted towards coordinating across senior management. This has led to a lack of understanding and missed opportunities amongst the actual project teams. We had ongoing issues trying to coordinate our work with that being done on the API programme and related SEP projects (for example, we had a series of almost identical meetings with the API programme going over the same set of requirements, as there was no one tasked with coordinating this at a higher level). There is a burden being put on the staff involved to do this coordination themselves, which leads to inefficient duplication of effort and also coordination not being done due to lack of time. This could be addressed by putting a group and/or system in place specifically tasked with coordinating effort across all projects. 
  •  Project Management:    A project manager was not proactively engaging with the project, did not invest in understanding the remit of the project and subsequently made project team efforts feel very much a box-ticking exercise. Moreover, there were several occasions where the project manager would make key decisions without consulting the project team. It should also be highlighted that the team and programme board felt that a contract project manager did not have the same ownership as a permanent member of staff and that for future projects of this strategic importance it is recommended to have a senior member of staff as project manager. 

  • TechnicalWorking with uPortal (the system).  uPortal is a very complex and old system, where configuration is very much database-driven, styling and layout configuration is inflexible.  Decoupling the front-end from the back-end proved a very difficult task due to uPortal limitations and has resulted in certain duplication being present (e.g. theming / styling).

  • External consultancyConsultancy and guidance from Unicon was not particularly helpful in all occasions and the latest on-site visit was not very productive either.

 

Looking ahead
  • Continuous development: There is the urgent need for a model of continuous improvement of the service, rather than continue this project-based approach for making any changes to the service.
  • InfrastructureContainerise our infrastructure configuration will improve both development and delivery experience.
  • Using APIs: The service should move to a pure API-first MyEd architecture in order to truly decouple the front-end from the back-end, and particularly make MyEd integrations with other systems more efficient (e.g. IDM).
  • Technical: Not all content was moved over to MyEd Progressive, meaning that it still requires the more lengthy deployment process. This work should continue as much as possible.
  • Future Upgrades: The improvements we have made should make it easier for us to keep up to date with upgrades in the future. regular updates are required to keep our technical debt down and reduce the need for large-scale upgrade projects in future.
  • UX Students: The service should continue to monitor student use of the new interface, especially over the start of term. This will allow us to understand what further improvements need to be made. There is also a risk that if we do not continue to make improvements we will lose the goodwill we have built up with students over this project.
  • UX Staff: The project focused on student requirements only, meaning that considerable work still needs to be done in improving the interface for non-students, especially staff. Although we were able to do some research on staff towards the end of the project using LTW funding, we have not been able to implement any of these changes.
  • External consultancyThere is a hidden cost in staff time around any engagement with an external consultancy, whether it is remote or in person. A lot of time is required to make sure that issues are ready to be worked on, that appropriate access is granted, etc., in order to ensure that the time is spent productively. This should probably be taken more into account and estimated during project planning, if we were to consider doing this type of engagement again. 

Outstanding Issues

There are no outstanding issues. Several JIRAs have been identified to be taken forward with the next project. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Project Info

Project
UCP uPortal5, Content Migration and UI Redesign
Code
DTI044
Programme
Digital Transformation - User Centred Portal and Notifications
Management Office
ISG PMO
Project Manager
Tim Gray
Project Sponsor
Lisa Dawson
Current Stage
Close
Status
Closed
Project Classification
Transform
Start Date
30-Mar-2018
Planning Date
11-May-2018
Delivery Date
11-Jul-2019
Close Date
01-Nov-2019
Programme Priority
1
Overall Priority
Normal
Category
Discretionary

Documentation

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