Coal Authority scoops the BCS Management Award

A project which turned a paperchase into a computer-based system has won the UK Coal Authority the BCS Management Award for 2002,...

A project which turned a paperchase into a computer-based system has won the UK Coal Authority the BCS Management Award for 2002, writes John Kavanagh.

One of the Coal Authority's jobs is to keep track of mines, not least to produce reports for people buying houses or seeking planning permission. Demand for this service has more than doubled to 500,000 reports a year in eight years.

"It was previously a paperchase system," mining reports manager Joe Dearden told the 120 leading IT people at the Management Awards Dinner. "This project has allowed us to combine all processes into one to give us a fast, accurate, cost-effective, high-volume service."

The authority worked with services group Cap Gemini Ernst & Young to develop a service including a geographic information system. The contract used the Government's public finance initiative approach, which meant the service supplier took on the development risks.

"We now make better use of staff," Dearden said. "With the previous system we had highly qualified technical staff doing the work. We now have staff more tied to things we need to do, and the ratio of non-technical to technical staff in this area is now 4:1."

Steve Pennell, IT manager at the UK Coal Authority, said, "When we started we had mainframe systems, Cobol and Fortran systems. With the millennium issues about to come up, the Coal Authority didn't have the money to do the build or the knowhow to manage all the risks involved, so we put together the public finance initiative approach and used Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, who understood the risks and the maturity of the business."

Pennell praised everyone involved, and underlined the support from the top of the organisation and from Cap Gemini Ernst & Young. "It is an incredible privilege to win this award, and it would not have been possible without the co-operation of quite an extensive team," he said.

"We had great backing from both our chief executive and the director of the service.

"Lots of thanks are due to our technology partners, Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, who fielded a world-class team."

The runners-up for the awards were British Airways and Royal Bank of Scotland International. The three finalists were separated by just 1% of the judges' votes.

The entrants were judged on impact on the business, the relationship between IT staff and users, and management of business change.

The award was presented by BCS president Geoff McMullen and guest speaker and senior IT industry figure John Leighfield. The award event was compered by Paul Lewis, presenter of BBC Radio 4's Money Box programme.

The BCS Management Awards are sponsored by Deloitte & Touche, the Woolwich and Unisys. They are run in association with the Financial Times, the Institute of Directors and the BCS Effective Leadership in IT Group.

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