Implementation of Customer Information System (CIS) in Big Apple during Corona Pandemic
Dec 8, 2021
After 2,5 years of hard work, we finally reached the finish line of one of the most challenging projects in my career.
The endeavour started in 2019, when the City of New York Department of Environmental Protection (NYC DEP) selected one of CTG’s customers (Itineris) to implement a new Customer Information System built upon the Microsoft Dynamics 365 platform.
The NYC DEP project was set up to deliver customer service and billing capabilities for NYC DEP’s 836.000 accounts which includes over 9 million residents.
The project started in April 2019. The analysis and design phase was a very intensive period with more than 200 workshops to align on the system requirements and the master test plan.
Then the 6 months development phase started and testing became more and more important in the project.
Reports, output documents, privileges, duties and bills are just a few items that were in scope of testing. On top of that, 100 data streams had to be developed and validated to ensure correct data exchange with all involved third party systems.
A few weeks before the end of the development phase, the coronavirus broke out in Europe and the US. The virus spread rapidly, with a number of confirmed cases across these continents. This was certainly an event, typically categorized as an unknown risk that could not be predicted in advance with a huge impact on the project timeline and resources.
This pandemic completely changed our way of working. From one day to another, everybody had to work from home. We all had to get used to this new situation. No onsite visits nor face-to-face meetings anymore. The virtual working environment was the new standard and the complete project team had to cope with it.
Once we started the deployment phase, the focus of testing moved to system integration testing and end-to-end testing. Next to the functional testing activities, a parallel track was started to verify the performance of the batches and the response time of business critical user actions.
Obviously, the initial go live date that was planned at Thanksgiving Day 2020 was not realistic anymore. It was decided to postpone the go live to Labour Day in 2021.
The additional time due to the extension of the project was mainly used to implement several high-priority functional change requests and performance improvements of the solution. Additional training courses were organized to improve and optimize remote working activities of DEP users. Obviously, the testing phase was extended with a couple of months as well. The test management team decided to plan additional testing activities and focus on more in-depth testing of business critical processes and regression test execution.
While the corona vaccine campaign started getting up to speed, user acceptance tests were successfully completed. 40 testers executed more than 13.000 test cases in 6 months’ time. And all these activities were performed remotely across different time zones and continents. In pre-covid times, nobody would have thought this was manageable. But this again proved that we should never underestimate the power of human adaptability.
In the second quarter of 2021, the number of new covid cases significantly decreased, and the customer slowly started to return to their offices.
The training classes for the end users could be organized onsite, still respecting social distancing and wearing masks.
The go live came closer and closer. The final testing activities including retesting of major fixes and regression tests were successfully finished. All acceptance criteria were met and a formal GO from the business sponsors was received to proceed with the go-live.
Cutover activities were defined step by step and put in the right order to be executed. Owners were assigned to every activity planned during this last phase of the project. The cutover officially started on September 1st with a first step shutting down the legacy system and starting the extract of the data from Legacy.
Who thought that nothing could stop us anymore from going live with the new CIS Solution, did not expect the impact of Hurricane Ida. What happened was never seen in New York City before: A flash-flood warning — the first ever for New York City. More than 7 inches of rain in short time. Cars floating like toys in a bathtub, walls shaking like an earthquake and water that surged into basements.
Due to the loss of power, the cutover activities had to be suspended. 12 feet of water in the Lefreak building’s basement was being pumped out and the team was waiting for power to be restored.
After 24 hours power has been restored to the data centre, and the cutover team resumed their activities. They did a tremendous job putting the team back on track.
The production acceptance tests were the last hurdle. These were successfully executed concluding the cutover activities. The final go/no go meeting was just formality, a go was given by the business sponsors for a go live!
This has been an exciting experience with a lot of ups and downs, but finally we are LIVE. It was also great to share these intense moments with the other CTG consultants that have been part of this major achievement! I will certainly remember the great collaboration, the commitment of everyone and the fun that we had, even in this virtual working environment.
Want to know more about this exciting project or about our testing expertise in other projects? Contact us!