Inception Workshop Kick-Starts a New Project for Suffolk County Council

Suffolk County Council, located at the iconic Endeavour House building in Ipswich, is responsible for major services countywide including: Education, Environment, Leisure and Culture, Public Safety, Social Care, Trading Standards, Transport and Registrars. Their vast IT network has to cope with ever more information and changing requirements in order to provide the best services possible to residents and businesses across the county.

The Inception Workshop

IJYI began working with Suffolk County Council in 2019 on two projects designed to improve online services to schools, parents and carers across the county. These projects encompassed the school lunch portal and the school transport project. Both projects formed part of Suffolk County Council's migration from a legacy system to Microsoft Dynamics 365.

IJYI then went on to assist Suffolk County Council with their “Making Tax Digital” project which is part of a new Government initiative to make changes to the way schools record VAT.

Suffolk County Council engaged IJYI to conduct a two-day Inception Workshop in April 2020 to initiate a project to replace their existing Analysis of Additional Needs Tool (AANT). The tool is designed to provide a standardised method of early intervention for Educational Psychologists (EPs) and has been developed since 2012 with further development recently by the Suffolk Psychology & Therapeutic Services department of Suffolk County Council. Over the last two years the EPs have conducted over 200 assessments and provided measurable benefits to many children as a result.

The software which was being used was based on old technology that was no longer fit for purpose and so required a complete update with a modern Software as a Service platform. Due to restraints on face to face meetings the workshop was conducted remotely via Microsoft Teams and utilised PowerPoint and Trello as the key tools for presenting and gathering information.

The workshop aimed to use interactive exercises to accelerate the gathering of the key information required to define and progress the software element of the AANT project. This included:

  • Setting the scene and understanding the project background
  • Identifying key business drivers
  • Defining a summary elevator pitch for the project
  • Analysing the unique selling point for the customer
  • Defining the project scope
  • Analysis of the stakeholder community
  • Definition of the high-level technical solution
  • Indication of high-level timeline and estimated cost

What is an Inception Workshop?

Inception Workshops are commonly used at the start of complex projects with multiple stakeholders. These types of projects benefit hugely from an Inception Workshop at the beginning because it ensures that there is a shared understanding across all members of the project team.

The primary objective is to achieve consensus of what the project is hoping to achieve. This includes exploring what the risks are and what it will take to get it done. The workshop is designed to remove assumptions and ensures all viewpoints are understood.

“Being part of the IJYI Inception Workshop was a really positive experience. The team were open and accommodating throughout. The 2 day workshop was extremely well orchestrated and left us with a clear roadmap for our project. I would recommend an IJYI Inception Workshop to anyone wanting to kick-off a new project.” 

Gareth Morris, Senior Technical Lead, Suffolk County Council

Setting the scene

This project was initiated to replace the existing AANT software with a modern Software as a Service platform that will provide an intuitive user experience, reliable data storage and security as well as making it easier to expand the number of Educational Psychologists (EP) and other stakeholders accessing the AANT.

The first exercise completed in the inception workshop asked the team to identify the key business drivers behind the project. The top five identified were:

Ensure the AANT is easily accessible and be able quickly provision access

Help vulnerable children across the UK with effective AANT assessments supported by a modern solution
Ensure secure storage and transfer of sensitive data
Provide child & educational psychology consultation and intervention planning as early as possible to support inclusion and reduce exclusions

The workshop then focussed on ensuring that all requirements specified for the platform have a direct link back to these five drivers.

The scope of the project was defined by the team at a “Big Rock” or Feature level. The team then agreed the essential high-level functional and non-functional items that will be required to put the Minimum Commercially Viable Product out to market with key customer benefits identified as:

  • Reassure and empower staff
  • Speedy access to psychologist knowledge and skills
  • Generate reports with comprehensive psychological detail
  • Privacy by design which adheres to National Cyber Security Centre
  • Cloud standards and GDPR

“The team at Suffolk County Council approached the Inception Workshop with huge enthusiasm and creative thinking. It was a great experience to be a part of this process and despite the constraints of not being able to meet face to face we were able to run a really effective workshop. As a team we outlined a clear understanding of the requirements, size, scope, constraints and risks of the project which has enabled IJYI to put a defined path to delivery in place.”

Chris Pont, CEO, IJYI

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