The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) aims to promote sustainable economic growth and the development of the countryside.
DARD has responsibility for food, farming, and environmental policy and the development of the rural sector in Northern Ireland. It provides a business development service for farmers and growers, and a veterinary service with administration of animal health and welfare.
The Department, as an accredited EU paying agency, oversees the application for and associated payment of over £230m worth of EU Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) funds, to 27,000 farm businesses in Northern Ireland.
The EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the system of agricultural schemes and subsidies, was reformed for the 2015 claim year.
DARD use an extensive number of IT systems to allow for application, validation, inspection, claim entitlement calculation and claim payment. The significant and fundamental legislative changes and subsequent change to the administration of CAP must be reflected in DARD’s systems - to ensure DARD can continue to receive and process applications, and make payments in line with European legislation.
It was critical that DARD met the obligations laid down by the EU, in terms of CAP payment processing, both in terms of accuracy of payments, and timeliness of payments. In order to mitigate the risk in doing so, DARD engaged Neueda to drive the implementation of CAP Reform across all systems impacted by the change.
In developing these changes for CAP Reform, a team from Neueda:
- Contributed to the implementation of an IT Strategy to allow for the development, implementation and support of new systems required as part of CAP Reform;
- Engaged at all levels within DARD to introduce Agile principles across the Department, ensuring that these were adopted through all stages of solutions development and delivery;
- Supported the Programme Management function in reporting against key stage delivery, planning, risk and issue management and critical path development;
- Supplemented and mentored DARD business analysts enabling them to provide User Stories as per the Agile methodology adopted by DARD;
- Augmented the DARD software development team using SCRUM to deliver fully functional software;
- Developed and implemented new release, change management and deployment planning guidelines and processes (as well as supporting software tools); and
- Continually worked with DARD to assess, and where necessary refine, the delivery model as required.
A key factor in the success of the project has been the Neueda engagement model with DARD. All Neueda staff working on the project are fully integrated with DARD staff in blended teams that encompass strategy and architecture, programme and project management, business analysis, software development, quality assurance, and release management.
This carefully tailored approach and engagement model has delivered a range of business and technical benefits to DARD, including:
- Single ownership of the project outcome;
- All DARD and Neueda personnel are focused on managing the entire project, not their contribution to it;
- Ability for DARD to quickly and easily flex its IT development capacity and capability in line with anticipated workload;
- Delivery of technical best practices developed by the Neueda team across a range of industry sectors and customers; and
- In-built mentoring and knowledge transfer to ensure that these best practices are transferred to the DARD team and deliver sustainable long-term benefits.
Despite the challenges associated with the development of such a large number of business critical systems, particularly during the first year of reform, the 2015 scheme year proved incredibly successful for DARD.
All major business and legislative milestones were met successfully. This included the launch of the online application in March 2015, systems to support claim validation checks, on-site and remote inspection, entitlement calculation and payment.
The successful implementation of these systems, allowed DARD to make over 96% of payments to farm businesses before the end of the 2015 calendar year. This result far exceeds any other UK region.
Building on the success of the 2015 scheme year, DARD has opened the 2016 scheme year by launching a geo-spatially aided application form. This was an incredibly complex piece of development; however, with help and support from Neueda, this was successfully launched as planned.
DARD has also managed to successfully embed the Agile methodology, allowing the teams to develop in a truly Agile environment. The Programme Management layer has provided the business and other stakeholders with the level of visibility and understanding required, in order to successfully complete such a large piece of work.
DARD’s internal team have also benefited from Neueda coaching and knowledge share, both formally and as part of the Neueda approach, working within and as part of the DARD Agile development teams.
The model implemented by DARD is seen as an example for others to follow. DARD has recently facilitated visits from other government departments, who are keen to learn from the success of the DARD Agile implementation.