Bacs move raises demand for IP skills

IT professionals with knowledge of IP-based networks and sound project management skills will be at a premium over the next three...

IT professionals with knowledge of IP-based networks and sound project management skills will be at a premium over the next three months.

Payment clearing company Bacs is migrating 50,000 corporate customers to its IP network. Users have until the end of 2005 to upgrade their connection to the Bacs payroll network before the old network is switched off.

The project will be a sizeable one for many companies due to the range of IT systems that are affected by the payroll upgrade. For IT professionals it will also be a useful addition to their CV. They will have to work with legal experts and suppliers to ensure a smooth transition to the Bacs network, which processes the nation's wages, direct debit and direct credits.

All the affected user departments - payroll, accounts payable and sales - must be represented to ensure all their specialist issues are identified and resolved.

"For big organisations Bacs will typically be tightly integrated into their payroll, accounts payable and sales systems," said Jake Liddell, a chartered IT professional through his membership of the BCS, and head of project management services at consultancy Charteris.

"They need to act immediately to make a success of the migration. Organisations must first budget for a big project and appoint a senior sponsor who can work with the payroll, accounts payable, sales, operations and IT departments to mobilise the necessary resources.

"Interfaces between central systems and the Bacs server are one issue - but a bigger challenge is defining how the payment system is integrated with different departments' applications and how to manage the change definition, testing and migration of multiple systems and business processes.

"Bacstel-IP will affect many disparate groups of people, and the challenge is to draw together these groups to deliver successful migration without disrupting the existing service."

The sponsor is the project champion and must be able to influence the main business areas involved. The project manager is the bridge between business and technology and must be able to listen to the views of all interested parties and plan a way through the systems integration issues.

A systems architect must be involved in selecting the Bacstel-IP software product and ensure that it fits in with the corporate IT architecture and infrastructure.

A designer must ensure that all technical integration issues are addressed at the design rather than during testing. They need a good understanding of the host technology, public key infrastructure security and IP networks.

Developers from each business area must understand the interface between business systems and the Bacstel-IP software product. Infrastructure specialists must determine the implications of the project for central and local servers and networks.

Testers must ensure that the system works from end to end before it is handed over to the business for acceptance testing.

A security specialist with knowledge of public key infrastructure must be involved at an early stage.

Internal auditors will want to ensure that the entire system meets corporate audit guidelines.

Legal specialists will be involved in procuring Bacstel-IP software.

Someone must ensure that all production service level agreements are in place and that all parties are aware of their roles and responsibilities.

Everyone, from business users to operations and support staff, will need to be trained in the new system.

Suppliers will be involved, providing Bacstel-IP software and also hardware, possibly ranging from a smartcard reader or other security device to a new server.

"As with all IT projects, the right planning, approach, knowledge and management support can ensure that organisations enjoy a smooth transfer," Liddell said. "The key is to understand the scope of the problem and then put experienced and highly competent resources in place."

Charteris has published a project manager's guide to Bacstel-IP

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