eSynergy Partners with Ofqual to Resolve Legacy Issues and Reduce Costs

Overview

The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) regulates qualifications, examinations and assessments.

They are a non-ministerial government department, with jurisdiction in England. Ofqual ensures that:

  • Regulated qualifications reliably indicate student knowledge, skills and understanding.
  • Assessments and exams demonstrate what a student has achieved.
  • People have confidence in the qualifications they regulate.

Ofqual’s internal digital services users are essentially content customers. They utilise internally developed systems, operationally, to fulfil their day-to-day obligations as England’s overseer of qualifications, exams and other assessments.

eSynergy has been supporting Ofqual with its digital business strategy since January 2020 and, in August 2020, Ofqual and eSynergy, together, began a legacy refresh programme…

Problem: establishing processes

Due to the rapid organic growth of digital services in the organisation, and application/architecture design not following established patterns, over time, the technical debt had significantly increased.

This meant that there was a reliance on the engineering team’s knowledge over defined processes to support and enhance systems − with the mixture of physical onsite servers and virtual machines slowing delivery times still further. This was a classic IaaS situation; as early cloud adopters, they had fallen into the trap of thinking a like for like solution would do the job.

The digital team at Ofqual were also struggling to meet business expectations for new digital and data enhancements as the technical debt had become an overarching burden.

 

Solution: a phased approach

In August 2020, Ofqual commissioned eSynergy to work − in partnership with them − on the Replacing Legacy Technologies Programme.

This entailed working on their Awarding Organisation workflow platform, developed using .Net Core and Typescript (following Agile methodology). This platform acts as a CRM when linking in with citizen-facing services, and supports internal processes between teams, data sharing and the visualisation of intelligence, performance and risk metrics.

Each new system area included both a discovery and a design phase. These phases were used to create simple reusable patterns, before entering an iterative build phase. The aim of this phased approach was to fully explore the challenges and issues identified by years of code growing organically, without the use of a simple contemporary architecture in Azure to manage service growth effectively.

By utilising the Microsoft Cloud Adoption Framework for Azure best practices, this work was able to demonstrate that organisations can better align their business and technical strategies, realising the full benefits of the cloud.

Outcome: legacy issues addressed

The work eSynergy has undertaken with Ofqual has addressed legacy issues through the iterative implementation of simple contemporary architecture, utilising reusable patterns and service design standards.

These solutions integrate with and work alongside existing Awarding Organisation portal services. As a result of this programme of work, Ofqual has no legacy technology left in this portal.

This exercise has migrated all but a small number of on-premise servers into Azure, re-platformed Azure deployment environments, implemented continuous integration − with fully automated test coverage − and removed inefficient usage of Azure services through a simple contemporary architecture. All of this means that Ofqual’s Azure costs have been slashed while the total cost of ownership has been vastly reduced due to automation, better ways of working and increased operational efficiency.