https://dwpdigital.blog.gov.uk/2016/01/07/the-unsung-heroes-of-systems-maintenance/

The unsung heroes of systems maintenance

picture of the Service Transition Change & Release Management team

Behind all the DWP digital solutions for the citizen is an army of technical experts making sure the systems in the background keep running smoothly.

They toil ceaselessly to update software, make changes to background systems, and test interfaces to check everything works perfectly before it goes live. It’s thanks to their work that these changes happen so seamlessly.

Dealing with a complex network of systems

The technology needed to support DWP is massive, varied and complex, with lots of interdependencies and interfaces across systems. Updating these systems requires intricate coordination of many internal groups and projects, multiple suppliers and vendors, and a great deal of expertise. This integration will grow increasingly more complex as the Department introduces new technologies and involves more suppliers.

Some systems have multiple interfaces, so updating a major customer database can involve the controlled taking down of over 20 other interfacing systems. So after making the updates we have to test, do controlled restarts of the systems, then a final user acceptance to check everything works.

Meticulous attention to detail

The fact that these updates occur week in, week out, without any disruption to the user doesn’t happen by chance. It’s the result of massive amounts of effort from project teams and suppliers. It’s also thanks to meticulous and detailed planning to assess, and impact test, and assure the organisation that changes can be done in a controlled manner.

Working round the clock

We can’t interfere with the daily work of our systems. So the Infrastructure and Operations Services Change and Release Management function acts as the focal point in coordinating these updates. The team manages the flow of updates so that they can be done at night or at weekends.

On any typical weekend there can be up to 170 changes made across a large number of business-critical systems. These can range from implementing the latest major release for Universal Credit, to running a disaster recovery test.

As well as ensuring these changes work, the team optimises scheduling to account for diverse requirements. For example, they ensure live services are protected and also that the users’ needs for out of hours service availability are considered.

To do all this over a weekend, with all systems being ready to use first thing on Monday morning, is no mean feat. We are really proud that we can do all this without anyone noticing.

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