To deliver its implementation of EESSI and connect its social security institutions to the cross-border electronic exchanges, within the EU Commission-set timeframe of 2 years.
To build a Microsoft Azure environment to deploy its implementation of EESSI.
> Easy to redeploy the application when a fresh instance of RINA is required as everything was written in infrastructure as code.
> The capacity to monitor, configure and control its server estate from a single dashboard has been truly transformative to the BPDTS team.
> DWP and the BPDTS team has the autonomy to manage its own environment following the upskilling and knowledge transfer sessions Sol-Tec conducted.
> EESSI delivers significant benefits to EU and UK citizens in the form of faster payment of benefits.
Department for Work and Pensions team up with Azure specialist Sol-Tec and lead the way to delivering faster benefits payments to UK and EU Citizens abroad
In all, this complex, cross government programme took 22 months to get up and running and there were certainly hurdles on the way. The EU Commission had to deal with many Member States (often with very different environments and deployments in their home institutions). Having such a knowledgeable and experienced Azure specialist on the UK Programme team made all the difference when issues had to be resolved. It meant the UK were quickly trusted to know their stuff. In the end, Sol-Tec’s expert capabilities and can-do attitude meant the UK was among the first early adopters of the application.
I am incredibly proud to have worked with DWP to deliver such a fundamental and critical project, with such a timely result. The positive feedback we’ve received on this project simply goes to further highlight the hard-working, can-do work ethic of our people, which, teamed with our technical and sector expertise, goes a long way to achieving great results such as this.
Knowledge transfer to the immediate Product Team and the wider live support teams has been brilliant. This was critical for the longer term in allowing the Product Team to stand-up and fully ‘own’ the Product.
EESSI (Electronic Exchange of Social Security Information) is an IT system that helps speed up exchanges between EU national authorities, to securely facilitate faster calculations and payment of benefits such as pension and sickness. Back in July 2017, the EU Commission made its central EESSI system available to Member States with a two year timeframe within which to finalise their national implementation of EESSI and to connect their social security institutions to the cross-border electronic exchanges.
In each nation, there would need to be an EESSI access point hosted by one government department and in the UK, DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) was the elected host. The UK has several government departments associated with the administration of UK citizen benefits; HMRC, Department of Health and Social Care, Department for Communities (Northern Ireland) and HM Government of Gibraltar. Each of these, including DWP itself, would need an implementation of RINA (Reference Implementation of a National Application), an application which speaks to the access point.
Within 2 years, DWP in its host role, would need to take responsibility for architecting the platform to host the EESSI application, as well as ensuring that all relevant UK departments had their own instance of RINA and the connectivity required to access the EESSI application. With a high penalty for nations failing to accomplish the implementation within the timeframe set, DWP recognised the value of partnering with a cloud specialist, to secure the expertise to deliver a ‘right first time’ result.
As a public sector organisation, DWP submitted its invitation to tender through the G-Cloud Framework which led it to Microsoft, who subsequently introduced it to Sol-Tec, one of its leading Azure Partners in the UK.
With no existing Azure environment in place, Sol-Tec’s first piece of work was to work with DWP to plan and implement a secure and resilient Azure foundation. Sol-Tec conducted an initial discovery of DWPs existing on-premise environment to establish an Azure blueprint to meet its needs.
As one of just 7 ExpressRoute Partners in Europe, Sol-Tec used this Azure service to establish the necessary connectivity. With the Azure foundation live and the connectivity in place, it was time to build out the environment. Using a combination of Azure third party tools such as CLI (Common Language Infrastructure) and terraform scripts, Sol-Tec was able to ensure that everything it set up was created in infrastructure as code, which means that now, if DWP needs to deploy a server or redeploy RINA to a fresh instance, all it need do is run a script.
Wes Jackson, Cloud Architect Lead
Before the new Azure environment, complete with EESSI application, could be launched, a rigorous internal governance procedure was undertaken to review the level of risk the application posed to its security. It was also necessary to ensure that all applications, services and infrastructure were appropriately backed up, monitored and alerted in line with DWP targets. With Azure’s built-in security tools and intelligent insights, security sign off and design authority were quickly and easily achieved and the BPDTS team (DWP’s internal support team) has been truly impressed with the service management capabilities now available to them.
With the project now drawing to a close, Sol-Tec conducted a number of knowledge sharing and transfer sessions to equip the BPDTS team with the necessary skills to manage the environment moving forward.
Lindsay Wharton, Lead Digital Project Manager
DWP has been truly impressed by the capabilities of Azure. The capacity to monitor, configure and control its server estate from a single dashboard has been truly transformative to the BPDTS team.
DWP and the BPDTS team have also benefited from the upskilling and knowledge transfer sessions Sol-Tec conducted. With the autonomy to manage its own environment, it isn’t bound by the expertise of a Partner and the mounting costs associated with that.busy.
But the real benefit for DWP comes from the ease with which they can now redeploy the application. Since everything was written in infrastructure as code, they can simply click a button to run a script that will then build the infrastructure it needs. This delivers real value over the manual point and click alternative, both in time saved to deploy and by reducing the risk or errors which would of course result in additional time and resource to resolve.
Lindsay Wharton, Lead Digital Project Manager
Overall, EESSI delivers significant benefits to EU and UK citizens in the form of faster payment of benefits. This is quite simply because the speed of information exchange underpinning the co-ordination of Social Security between countries, has been vastly improved through this digital transformation project.
Sol-Tec continues to work with DWP, assisting the Hybrid Cloud Services team to help deploy its shared services model in Azure.