The College wishes to introduce a Workload Allocation Modelling Tool (WAMT) to facilitate an existing model which schools currently deploy and implement with various spreadsheet based mechanisms. This leads to inconsistencies and inability to report across the College. The current approaches don't support modelling and the exploration of different scenarios. This would be an essential component of the new tool. Without a WAMT, the College would continue to operate inefficiently using its current mix of sub optimal excel spreadsheet based approaches. The College would also continue to be unable to properly model, plan and forecast academic workload allocation.
The College was looking for a cloud based solution which can provide all reporting directly via the application and not through BI Suite.
The scope of this project was:
- to consult with the relevant business areas, both administrative and academic staff, within CAHSS to determine the business requirements with regards to an academic Workload Allocation Modelling (WAM) system through discussions
- to procure a cloud-based system that delivers best value for the College
- to consult with business areas responsible for golden copy data relating to HR, Student Systems and Timetabling such that these data are fed into the system manually
- to undertake a pilot project to confirm the solution delivers the business requirements using manually data import
Programmatic integration with golden copy data systems was out of scope.
Objectives and deliverables
|O1||To confirm business requirements with regards to WAM within CAHSS|
|D1.1||Business requirements for WAM||Mandatory||Achieved|
|O2||To determine sources and availability of required golden copy data|
|D2.1||Secure access and approval for data use from HR, Student Systems and Timetabling data owners||Mandatory||Achieved|
|O3||To procure a cloud based business solution|
|D3.1||Documents supporting the appropriate procurement process||Manadatory||Achieved|
|D3.2||Product evaluation and selection||Mandatory||Achieved|
|O4||To implement the selected solution|
|D4.1||Deployment of WAMT for CAHSS||Mandatory||Achieved|
|O5||To run a pilot project with manually data import|
|D5.1||Configuration of WAMT for use by selected schools within CAHSS||Mandatory||Achieved|
|D5.2||Import manually available data for selected schools within CAHSS||Mandatory||Achieved|
|D5.3||Plan and deliver communications with project stakeholders||Mandatory||Achieved|
To confirm the on-going product support arrangements
|D6.1||Define requirements for data interfaces and prepare outline plan to implement||Desirable||Partially achieved, Transferred to HSS020|
|D6.2||Prepare a school roll-out plan with training plan, training material and user documentation||Desirable||Partially achieved, Transferred to HSS020|
|B1||Greater efficiencies through better visibility of staff workload||Potential to achieve, Transferred to HSS020|
|B2||Potential avoidance of staff recruitment||Potential to achieve, Transferred to HSS020|
|B3||Fairer distribution of workload across all Schools||Potential to achieve, Transferred to HSS020|
|B4||Add ability to model various what-if scenarios against College workload data||Potential to achieve, Transferred to HSS020|
The success criteria was for all Mandatory Deliverables to be achieved which they have.
This project successfully procured and deployed a cloud based WAMT for CAHSS. A pilot is now running for schools (or parts of) within CAHSS: HCA, PPLS, Divinity and ISPEHS. WAMT was configured in order to support the specific workload allocation model used by each of the school in the pilot. The relevant data for each of the pilot school was manually imported. Training to was provided to seven staff directly involved in the pilot: the two College WAMT coordinators and five school WAMT coordinators. The College WAM champion also attended part of the training.
We note that efforts have been put into gathering requirements (D1.1) and communication (D5.3) during this project, but continued effort will also be needed in future phases to promote WAMT and support an harmonisation of the understanding of what WAM is and isn't across all schools. The College has taken steps to address this by appointing a senior academic to champion the use of WAM across the College.
The project Board agreed to extend the length of the pilot in order to allow for more testing and to provide cover for the start of term period. A new project, HSS020 CAHSS WAM Extended Pilot, has been started to monitor the pilot. This project will evaluate the success of the pilot and plan for potential roll-out of WAMT to the College. The desirable deliverables D6.1 and D6.2 which could only be partially achieved in HSS016 have been transferred to HSS020.
Analysis of Resource Usage:
Staff Usage Estimate: 50 days
Staff Usage Actual: 63 days
Staff Usage Variance: 12.6%
Explanation for variance:
The project was extended by over three months. The configuration took longer than anticipated due the increased complexity caused by the local variations in the workload allocation models implemented by the schools in the pilot. The decision to extend the trial period over the start of term period meant PM effort was required to cover the overall extended period.
Key Learning Points:
- The G-Cloud framework was used to procure WAM from Simitive which simplify the procurement process.
- Simitive have been engaged and supportive, in particular with outreach and dissemination efforts to schools within CAHSS and other Colleges. Simitive ran face-to-face demonstrations and webinars to introduce WAM to interested parties. This helped in getting buy-in from the schools in the pilot and raising willingness to use WAMT for those CAHSS schools not in the pilot. Both CSE and CMVM are also interested in WAMT and following the progress of the pilot.
- Simitive have been responsive in supporting the technical deployment and configuration of WAMT.
- Data owners (HR, Student Systems and Timetable) have approved used of the relevant data for the pilot, including some financial data which was not part of the original scope. This increased the potential for MI/BI reports that can be produced directly from WAMT. This should enhance the appeal and usefulness of WAMT.
- Enough data was available and of sufficient quality to support the pilot.
- The College BI team and College WAMT coordinators did some excellent work in manipulating the data to enable it to be imported into WAMT. They also took on the extra task of completing the configuration of WAMT from Simitive which increased our understanding and knowledge of the application.
- The school WAMT coordinators were opened to sharing their local practices. This led to a wider awareness of local differences which started a discussion/review of the College workload allocation model. This is now taken forward within CAHSS by a WAM Champion.
- Request for a top level URL was turned down because the pilot would not be available to all within the ed.ac.uk domain. The deployment of WAMT had, up to that point, be done on the assumption that the final installation could be opened to the other Colleges if there was an interest. The current URL, https://wam.cahss.ed.ac.uk/, is fine for CAHSS but it will not be suitable if other Colleges want to use WAMT. Either the URL will have to change, at a cost, or separate instances will have to be used which may create confusion for users.
- Difference in interpreting and implementing the College workload allocation model in individual schools increased the complexity of the configuration of WAMT. However, the ability of WAMT to support these different models enriches the pilot and will give a greater reassurance that WAMT has the ability to support any model the College may want to use.
- A change of PM at Simitive during the configuration phase generated some delay and confusion. There are more than one way to code some of the configuration parameters, and a different approach was chosen by the new PM for some of these.
- Simitive's preferred governance model didn't naturally fit with the CAHSS devolved school structure. Our expectation was for the work allocator in each school to become a point of contact for Simitive. However, Simitive asked for a single point of contact for the College. This led to the creation of the role of WAMT College Coordinator who acts as system administrator, coordinate the requests from the WAMT School coordinators and engage directly with Simitive. All WAMT coordinators were trained to the same level to provide a common shared knowledge and cover for individuals.
- The delays in setting up Single Sign On were caused by Simitive's wish to keep the communication via a single point of contact being the PM. The inability to put the technical teams on both side directly in touch created a lot of unnecessary back and forth.
- One stakeholder noted that they didn't feel that the business case for WAM was clearly stated and that they were still unsure as to what the purpose of the system was. It is expected that the participation in the pilot will bring a hands on understanding of WAMT and that the ongoing work of the College WAM Champion will clarify these uncertainties.
Recommendations for future similar projects:
The recommendations below are particularly relevant to the follow-on projects on pilot monitoring, possible roll-out to CAHSS and/or adoption of WAMT by other Colleges:
- Create and/or explicitly document the workload allocation model for unit/school/College into a detailed policy document to ease the configuration of WAMT for the unit/school/College. Templates and knowledge gained from the existing pilot should be used to guide the documentation of the workload allocation model in the format and level of details required by WAMT, and supplement the existing unit/school models.
- Identify early on staff responsible for allocating work and that will have the capacity to take on the role and responsibility of WAMT coordinator. They are critical to the successful deployment and running of WAMT.
- Create a user group for WAMT coordinators to share knowledge and appoint a chair to act as a single point of contact and manage to the communication with Simitive. A mailing list is already in use for this during the pilot.
- A strategic decision should be made at the College level on what workload allocation model(s) are permissible. The CAHSS Staffing Management Committee is responsible for the College model. This committee manages the model outside of its implementation in WAMT, and can advise and direct WAMT coordinators on implementation queries. Similar steering groups could be identified or created in other Colleges to support similar WAMT implementations.