Corporate Information Handover Project – Enabling Data Migration
Author: Tahir Ahmad
Publication Date: 09/07/2018
To ensure the migration of the required data to Crossrail’s infrastructure maintainers and TfL in an accurate and timely process, Crossrail needed to organise its corporate data so that it can be accessed as part of an intelligently structured archive.
However, with Crossrail’s corporate structure being set-up to reflect the needs of a project, it did not a mirror the business as usual structure of TfL or take into account their information retention requirements when creating data structures.
This paper reflects on the challenges of aligning Crossrail’s and TfL’s information architecture and desired outcomes; mapping records from a large number of teams to the corresponding departments within TfL and their associated information needs. It will be of interest to any projects wishing to effectively migrate corporate data from one organisation to its client or operator and maintainer.
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In 2014, Crossrail’s Project Handover Strategy and Plan set the approach to handing over the railway to the Infrastructure Maintainers. With this in mind, Crossrail’s technical information team formulated the Handover Information Plan which identified the scope of work that was to be undertaken to ensure a comprehensively collated data set was configured.
Within this, it was identified that corporate information that related to the operational, financial, governance and legal history of Crossrail as limited company organisation, would need to reviewed ahead of handover.
TfL and DfT are the corporate sponsors of Crossrail and upon completion the project becomes the Elizabeth line and is handed over to TfL as the new owners. Therefore all appropriate data needs to be handed over to TfL to maintain a meaningful and consistent body of data that can be accessed by the new owner, not only for legal and governance purposes, but also for the retention of best practice processes.
Therefore, it became apparent that the end goal was to create a body of corporate information that was fit for handover to Transport for London (TfL). The emphasis of the initiative evolved into a delivery focussed project, with data quality and standards remaining a ‘business as usual’ function of Crossrail’s Corporate control.
The first questions that needed answering were:
- What does Crossrail need to handover?
- Who does Crossrail migrate the information to?
- How do we migrate the data?
It would have been very easy for Crossrail to simply state that all information that was held within IT’s information estate would be packaged up on a hard disk (a large one!) and delivered to TfL via courier in 2019. Whilst this may be a relatively easy task, utilising a business analysis approach and understanding the needs of the end user was imperative to achieving a successful outcome. The process was therefore broken down into manageable steps.
Step 1; Review the pre-existing requirements from TfL with regards to Corporate information requirements.
Upon investigation it appeared that no pre-existing requirements had been set.
With regards to processes in this documentation analysis phase, the only documents identified were extracts from TfL’s project management methodology documents. TfL utilises a project and Programme management methodology named Pathway, which seeks to rationalise TfL’s approach to how it undertakes projects and programmes across its business.
Although the handover/migration of operational information is discussed, there was no significant reference to the handover of governance or corporate information of pop-up companies such as Crossrail. However, there was a reference to TfL’s preferred method of handover of hard-copy records in that records should either be scanned into “the DMS” (Document Management System) or retained within TfL’s “Records Store”.
Step 2: Create an appropriate team to identify the migration requirements
In light of there being no appropriate process in place, it was felt that a working group needed to be set up. Two workstreams needed to be addressed concurrently:
1. Liaison with TfL
- To identify who would own the data in TfL
- To identify where the data needed to go to in TfL
2. Review the Crossrail data. IT and Information management combined to identify
- What IT systems were utilised by the business?
- Who were the product owners?
- Discuss the output of the data
- Requirements for the system(s) during Crossrail’s organisational demobilisation period within 2018-19
Creating these workstreams led to an understanding of what outputs the system could generate and how best to manage the data. Further details of this can be found in the LL paper ‘Archiving Crossrail’s Data‘ .
Liaison with TfL identified their ‘Disposal and Retention Schedules’. These documents listed document types and the length of time that those documents should be retained for. As they were broken down into functional area of TfL’s business (HR, IT, Health and Safety etc.), it served as a method to inform Crossrail on how we should incrementally build a model of information for corporate handover.
With the initiative starting in 2016, the natural risk of apathy and lethargy was identified on the task of preparing information years ahead of migration. With an understanding of human nature, it was decided that a top-down approach from Crossrail was crucial in launching the project across the business.
As such, sequentially, 11 Directors were approached to relay the benefits of preparing information in readiness for Corporate Information Handover in 2018-19, which would be documented within a bespoke individual Directorate Information Handover Plan (DIHP).
This initiative presented a win-win scenario for Directors as they were able to support Crossrail’s legacy whilst enlisting help to do the granular work required to meet the desired outputs of the Directorate’s DIHP.
The Directors were requested to brief their Directorate, cascaded by Heads of Department and to also assign an individual – a “handover champion” – within the directorate to act a coordinator and focal point for the collation of information and general liaison.
It was felt that approaching team managers directly – the bottom-up approach – would simply not have gained the kind of instant traction that having senior Director support would achieve.
The Broad Process
Using the Retention Schedules as a baseline from which to work, the Directorates were tasked to decipher if they had information that correlated to the documented requirements of TfL’s Retention Schedule. If they did, the location of those items was recorded within the DIHP and also within a Corporate Handover Master Deliverables List (CHMDL). This was a spreadsheet containing a list of all the records, line by line, that Crossrail is to handover to TfL and the location (URL) where the records are stored. Creating the CHMDL would allow IT to simply access each URL and extract data from the appropriate repositories into their Archive solution.
With Crossrail being a temporary organisation, serving to meet the needs of a construction railway, TfL’s Retention Schedules were not designed with an organisation like Crossrail in mind. As such, there were large bodies of information that Crossrail considered particularly important, not only from a governance perspective but also from a best practice/intellectual property perspective, that was not covered within the Retention Schedules. As such, Directorates were further tasked with identifying information that they deemed relevant for handover, especially information of commercial or legal importance.
Once a draft structure of information was created by a Directorate, this was shared with counterparts at TfL for comments and once proposed information sets were approved, this was finalised within the DIHP, alongside detailed instructions on the extraction of data by IT.
Having carried out all of the above, the overall the migration process can be broken down into these six key steps:
- Identify what the receiving organisation needs (in this case TfL)
- Source and document the satisfactory fulfilment of the data needs
- Assess if anything else is required for handover
- Create a structure of information
- Communicate this with the receiving organisation (in this case TfL)
- Once all queries are clarified, document the final information set within the DIHP and the CHMDL including URLs and security levels for each line item
1. Stakeholder Awareness and Engagement
- Crossrail’s unique stakeholder composition makes the provision of clear requirements complex. The need for early requirements on what data is required to operate, maintain and govern a railway is essential so that it can inform the processes and approach by the project’s staff.
- In the context of Corporate Information Handover, if stakeholders were clearly defined from the outset, not necessarily names but roles, many person-hours would have been saved in trying to ascertain who the decision maker was from TfL on what data needed to be migrated and how.
- A dialogue between TfL heads of department and their Crossrail counterparts should have occurred from the outset as a regular business as usual process. Not only to discuss IT/IM issues but on all things requirements and regulatory related.
- It is imperative constant communication (stakeholder management) is maintained to ensure there is no vacuum of responsibility. Having organisation-wide demobilisation plans to hand helps significantly in informing the approach to this.
2. Senior Management Support
- Top-down support is essential to gain traction and remove lethargy to sub-teams in ensuring dialogue occurs with the information handover team and work is carried out to the requisite standard. Utilising metrics on handover performance that showcases which directorate has completed their work can be utilised to influence action from individual directorates.
3. Key Functions
- Information Management teams within a project should look to set up their IM estate with the end in mind. Organising data so that it is handover ready from the outset and encouraging teams via written standards to do the same with their working information set-up.
- The provision of I.M champions within each Directorate by the IT department is advisable as a way to disseminate information, relay process and standards, train colleagues and be a reference point for I.M issues. This is a community of practice that should be managed by IT; also ensuring that when an individual leaves the organisation a suitable replacement is sourced. This would have been very useful if there was a point of contact for me to liaise with when initiating the handover project.
- The IT or IM function should enable users to perform tasks more efficiently and help them overcome learning barriers. Many users felt SharePoint lacked the convenience and familiarity of Windows Explorer. However more widely distributed guidance on how a user can connect to SharePoint information via Windows Explorer via the ‘Sync to SharePoint Workspace’ would have driven SharePoint adoption and usage.
- User acceptance criteria needs to delve deeper in order to aid the transition of a user from an old methodology to a new one. The emphasis should be on clarity and simplicity in order that the user can easily assimilate the new methodology.
- Training or guidance can be through ‘Top-Tip’ emails that provide users with a quick and useful tutorial on how to perform certain IM-related tasks. Users very rarely seek out Information Management training; therefore ‘bitesize’ distribution of knowledge would be ideal to bring training to the people.
5. IT Housekeeping
- Openly accessible Windows-explorer based network drives cause great difficulty in accessing information once a team member with security permissions leaves a project.
- Personal drive access should be limited and regularly reviewed as it becomes very difficult to scale back on the data usage of the drives once access is granted. There were many instances where users had backed up large amounts (10 Gb+) of mobile phone images, music and movies. Contacting high usage users of the drives and asking them to remove their data, wasted time and resource.
- IT and IM teams should not be wedded to data migration mechanisms from the outset. At Crossrail, the initial thoughts were to transfer the Electronic Document Management System in its entirety (Bentley eB) to TfL via migration of the licencing agreement.
- However, the switch was made to a more scalable and flexible solution in the form of hosting multiple databases and datasets within a Microsoft Azure (Cloud) based archive. With the advancement of technology, future projects should seek to data as nimble as possible and not deeply embedded within business systems. Data should be managed so that is able to migrate from one platform to another without significant complexity causing delays.
7. Project Demobilisation
- The demobilisation phase of a project can cause handover focused teams problems whereby the focus of teams is on delivery and not governance; this creates a perception of the handover dialogue as a hindrance rather than part of the lifecycle of their work.
- This is where top-down support is required and keeping this on the radar of the CEO or Programme Manager is imperative for the successful handover of the project.
- Demobilisation also represents a problem for the project manager of the initiative, in that, those points of contact within Directorates may leave the organisation at short notice.
Going forward it would be recommended to deploy a dashboard, or a section within an information handover focused progress report/dashboard, that showcases:
- A process identifying what needs to be done for Information handover
- An explanatory brief identifying the Benefits of fulfilling the handover requirement
- Current progress /Progress updates
- Trends and forecast of requirements fulfilment
- Risks and mitigations considered
- Action, if any, required by the senior stakeholder.
Ideally the lessons learned on this project will inform future projects. It is hoped this paper contributes to the knowledge being retained.
BIM Co-ordination Specialist, Crossrail
Tahir Ahmad is the BIM Coordination Specialist for Crossrail in London. His current responsibilities include BIM performance analysis and improvement and management of the Crossrail BIM Information Academy: Enabling BIM strategies to work in practice.
Tahir is utilising his information management and business analysis background to launch and lead initiatives to champion BIM for Crossrail, extolling the efficiencies and outcomes integrated Engineering Information management can create. Leveraging the value of interoperable and accessible data sets allows informed, smart infrastructure management at every stage of a project from design to operations.