Digital Customer Information Screen upgrade

Client: West Midlands Trains
RPS team member: Mike Bradley, Luke Jones
When: 2020 – present
Contract Value: £3m+

DCIS Scope

The DCIS project covers a hardware replacement of all CISS screens across the West Midlands Railway stations.  For this scheme it totals 811 screens over 143 stations.  The project was split into three phases to ensure the WMT committed obligations could be completed in time with more complex stations being undertaken in the first two phases with the overall goal of asset renewal and a signification improvement in passenger information being shared across the network.  The software side of the program is to increase the information being presented on the new DCI screens with minimal input from WMT control room staff, by allowing access into other systems that detail train loadings and facilities, incident management and alternative routes.  During the peak of the COIVD 19 crisis the RPS team deployed on this program where paramount to getting social distancing messages developed and displayed on DICS screens across the WMT network prior to passenger numbers increasing. Shown in Figure 1 is a graphical overview of the DCIS project.

Successful management of complex programmes

As detailed previously, the work of replacing CIS is not overly complex as a stand-alone item. However, RPS were assigned this project a year into the program at only 12% completion. This was considerably behind schedule as both phase 1.0 and 1.1 should have been completed by this point. A large proportion of information from previous project managers was not available and the original ITT and contract information was not present to the procurement team. This restricted them in the sense that they were not able to assess the full detail within the contract requirements and contractor risk involved. This combined with 811 assets that each have individual installation requirements resulted in the project becoming considerably more complex than the initial overview.

Other programs that were failing also needed to be completed prior to the DCIS works being undertaken – these projects were being managed by others and needed some intervention to be able to complete DCIS on time. Some of these crucial tasks were adopted by the DCIS program, managed by RPS, to enable the project to have minimal delay.

To ensure the project had a drastic turnaround from when we received it, RPS appointed a senior member of their team to work collaboratively with WMT to develop standardized processes and systems to resurrect the failing project and realign the program for successful delivery.


Consideration of business/people change impact

To ensure that the software requirements are met with our supplier Blackbox, RPS has developed a non-functional requirements and requirements board. This board is hosted on a dedicated cloud system called Confluence (Figure 2). This system allows the RPS PM to assign the status of each requirement. As they are completed, they get passed along from the requirement and into acceptance by TOC and Abellio when required. Each board is individually detailed with the contract requirements set by Abellio and assigned to the following structure:

  • EPIC – The process map or other top level grouping of requirements
  • Feature – A logical grouping of Abellio requirements
  • Functional – An Abellio functional requirement
  • Non-Functional – An Abellio non-functional requirement
  • Interface – An input or output requirement
  • Backlog item – Any other requirement that is not part of the Abellio requirement set

This system examples the control that the RPS team has brought into the program. It provides control of each software release by ensuring TOC superusers are engaged prior to software being released for use to WMT. Prior to any works being released to the wider control room, a detailed business change process is undertaken – giving clarity to all parties. Figure 3 shows a section of the management plan hosted on Confluence for each business change section undertaken within the WMT network.   This plan details how the messages are passed to the business, who the audience is and what the outcomes should be and what benefits the change brings.  To ensure this process is auditable all communication messages are hyperlinked to the management plan demonstrating communication being undertaken prior to works going live.

The range of tools and techniques

Cost Resource Loaded Programmes

To bring the DCI project back into line and ensure efficient reporting to the senior sponsors, the RPS team has deployed a combination of basic and advanced project management systems. The first system to be implemented was a detailed hardware programme to match into the existing software programme. This allowed the team to develop a critical path and ensure delivery of materials and resources where not overallocated. Once completed, a confirmed end date for phases 1a and 1b were provided – providing much needed information to the client.

The same programme was utilized to develop an outline plan for phases 2 and 3. This plan was cost loaded which also identified the short falls in the existing budget. The cost loading exercise was completed with existing supplier costs and industry averages to ensure the budgets provided were accurate – allowing additional funding to be applied for.

To further enhance planning, a three week look ahead template was introduced to the programme for our supply chain to develop on a weekly basis. This system was then shared with the project stakeholders, ensuring station managers and our IT department were informed regularly of the hardware and software updates providing confidence to the delivery of the programme and ultimately reduced interference from third parties, diverting the project teams attention from critical activities.


Dashboards and standard templates

Microsoft BI has been utilised on this programme to provide feedback to the executive team. Cost and change management were communicated through this platform. RPS developed this for WMT using live information from our SharePoint files giving the executive teams confidence on management of the programme based on real time data. This enhanced the decision-making process and timescales of key strategic decisions and all the required information was available in one place. Prior to RPS taking control of the DCIS programme the NEC3 option A short form contract was not being utilised. To gain control of the project it was deemed urgent to develop a number of key NEC contract forms for WMT to allow risk, change, quality and cost elements to be captured and recorded. This key documentation provided protection for both the client and contractor and have helped increase communication between both parties as well as the operating relationship.