A Modern Data Platform for The Department of Education
The Department of Education in Ireland is a government department with responsibility for the provision of education to post-primary level. Its goal is to facilitate children and young people to achieve their full potential and contribute to Ireland’s social, economic and cultural development.
Education Shared Business Services (ESBS) is a unit in the Department of Education in Ireland. The ESBS is responsible for providing high quality shared business services to the education and training sector. This includes delivering payroll services for all education and training boards (ETBs).
The Dept of Education engaged with Version 1 for a project to build a modern data platform. The Payroll Shared Service reporting solution had been identified as no longer viable as the platform was no longer supported. In this project, we explore the initial challenge presented by this project, the solution provided by Version 1 and the difference we delivered to the customer.
The Payroll Shared Service legacy reporting solution at ESBS was no longer suitable for purpose and was becoming obsolescent. This database contained extremely sensitive and valuable information and there was a risk of losing access to that data entirely. The previous reporting tool was becoming expensive to run and lacked features and functionality that users required to meet their current and future needs.
Naturally, payroll reporting is a statutory requirement for all government departments and several hundred complex reports are required for correct reporting. With all these factors in mind, the Department of Education required a strategic data platform to enable it to provide a modern data service for the Department and all its customers.
Why Version 1?
Many businesses struggle on with outdated applications long after they have reached end-of-life, which can hold them back from working smarter, faster, and more effectively. Version 1 is an expert in industry leading data and analytics platforms and data transformation approaches. We use established Agile methodologies to help modernise data services by making them more agile and responsive to user needs.
Deirdre McDonnell, Assistant Secretary General, Dept of Education, said:
It’s been a really good process with Version 1 to get the data platform up and running. We needed the skills and expertise to create the data platform from scratch and it needs to be a really secure and multi-tenant environment for our clients. Having the Version 1 expertise on board has enabled us to get it done much quicker and to meet those objectives.
Version 1 brought their market-leading expertise to bear on the challenge, bringing experts from digital, data and cloud together. In partnership with the Department of Education, we discussed the key business objectives of the product and how we could ensure that we covered all aspects, from tech stack to training and onboarding as part of the digital transformation. We also held sessions on data strategy and gave pragmatic roadmap advice.
The initial appraisal was completed by the Version 1 technical team to get a view of the current reporting landscape, their function and overall value to the business. Then key pain points were examined and most importantly time was spent discussing what a successful solution would look like for the Department. Then this appraisal was translated into a technical solution and road map.
The customer base is quite large as the Department serves both education and training boards (ETBs) and higher education Institutes institutions (HEIs). Each of these bodies uses different systems with alternative configurations. We wanted to ensure that the end user had the same quality of experience across the board. To ensure this, a Proof of Value exercise was completed with a subset of ETBs and HEIs, which included assessing the look and feel of reports. The project was delivered in an Agile manner. This allowed the team to respond to the many edge cases across Payroll, HR and Pensions efficiently, which saved time for the customer. Testing and quality assurance was also built into every step to ensure that the final product was as fully functional as possible.
Martin Clohessy, Principal Officer Major Operations Division, Department of Education, said:
Version 1 have guided us and our customers on this data transformation journey. They have the technical expertise and know-how that we don’t have and they were a very solid guide to us in terms of the direction of travel.
For this modern data platform, the team designed and deployed a solution for the Dept of Education.
The technology used included, Azure DevOps for project delivery management and CI/CD deployment of resources, Azure Synapse for data lake storage and computation and PowerBI was used to deliver reporting and insights. In addition, Data Engineers and Visualisation Consultants were engaged to ensure that the reporting solution was to a high standard.
All of this work together provides invaluable data for the Department at every step and also lays a strong foundation for future analytics projects.
Real Difference, Delivered
Improved Data Visualisation: Utilising Microsoft’s technology stack, Version 1’s data visualisation and reporting layer approach helped bring the data to life, so users can easily understand and interpret the data and insights.
Secure Data Architecture: we created a high-performance and scalable architecture designed to achieve their specific data management goals. We designed and deployed a cloud-based solution that covers the whole data platform lifecycle, ensuring the delivery of real-time, accurate results that informs business decisions.
Better Decisions with Data: this modern platform is used for more accurate reporting and better, faster decisions. For example, Gender Pay Gap Reporting is now required in Ireland. The Dept of Education’s aim is to provide a professional, inclusive and supportive environment, where all staff members are valued for the work that they do and who they are.
Martin Clohessy, Principal Officer Major Operations Division, Department of Education, continued:
The real difference the project delivered from a Department of Education perspective is a proof of concept of what we can do. I think that’s something that’s really important. This is something that moving forward we can take complex sets of circumstances, we can define them once and we can put together a solution that will serve all of our different stakeholders.
All ESBS clients are required to publish an annual Gender Pay Gap Report independently. We helped ESBS to gather, analyse and formulate the data for these reports and centralised this within the data platform. These reports were then made available to all shared service ETBs for publication. Consolidating this process not only ensures consistency and efficiency with the delivery of reports but also gives measurable value to the solution.
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About Version 1
Version 1 proves that IT can make a real difference to our customers’ businesses. We are trusted by global brands to deliver IT services and solutions which drive customer success. Our team of difference-makers work tirelessly to provide independent advice and deliver impactful changes to help our customers navigate the rapidly changing Digital-First world we live in. Our greatest strength is balance in our efforts to achieve Customer Success, Empowered People and a Strong Organisation, underpinned by a commitment to our values. We believe this is what makes Version 1 different and more importantly, our customers agree.