Okay, so, as we crash headlong into the new financial year, several things are happening simultaneously in the background at the Children's Trust (and possibly Council-wide but I have no idea any more because we are, for all intents and purposes, a separate entity). The first of these things is the long-awaited CareFirst replacement system, namely Eclipse, and the second of these is the migration to Office 365 as a result of the GCSx (Government Central Secure eXchange) system being switched off nationwide. I will talk about these things in reverse order.
Office 365 Migration
So, GCSx is being switched off this Friday, 22nd March, because it's too costly and cumbersome to maintain. As a result, all public bodies, including local authorities, the NHS, the police and probation services, are switching to a more secure version of Outlook via the Office 365 package.
Last Monday (11th March) some of us received an email warning us in advance about the migration to Office 365 overnight, which stated that the "impact would be minimal". Ha. Hahahaha.
Cut to Tuesday (12th March) when I and several other colleagues were completely unable to log into Outlook. I called the Service Desk and they managed to gain me access to the Outlook web client, which was buggy but at least served the rudimentary purpose of allowing me access to my emails and calendars. A link to the said web client had been included in the warning email, which obviously I could not get to because I couldn't get into my Outlook (and the Service Desk did not think to create one for me, either.) And obviously I didn't think to save the said link the previous night because, foolishly, I figured it would all go smoothly.
By Thursday I still had no proper access to Outlook so I chased the log - the phone monkey I spoke to on the second occasion at least managed to get my access back, by means of deleting my old profile and creating another one. Which meant I then had to re-add my shared mailbox and all of the Chairs' calendars (though on the plus side, it did result in me actually tidying up the said list of calendars).
As a result, I also lost the ability to send emails from the shared mailbox (which we use to send out distribution emails of minutes/plans) and everyone has also lost access to the shared calendar we use to note leave, appointments, etc and which our team leader uses to help her formulate the minuting list. This is particularly unhelpful because People Solutions (our HR system) is also broken so we have literally no way of booking leave. And it's nearly Easter.
Hilariously, the reason we can't access the shared leave calendar is because it didn't get migrated. I can surmise the reason it didn't get migrated: the team sent emails out to every shared mailbox to check if they were still in use, presumably including our citywide leave calendar, which we don't use as a mailbox so wouldn't have seen the email. So when nobody responded about saving it, obviously they didn't migrate it over.
I can still send email from the shared mailbox if I use the web client, BUT I don't have access to Egress (our third-party encryption software) from there so they would not be secure. So on that basis it's not a solution to the problem because we only use that mailbox to send confidential information.
As of this morning I've also discovered I can't put anything into the Chairs' diaries, even though the permissions on their end have not altered at all, so I'm guessing they haven't migrated yet and one Outlook server is not speaking to the other.
The other weird and annoying thing to happen was that Paul's email address became "invalid" so I was unable to email him, even if he emailed me first. It soon became apparent that I couldn't see anyone else from his department (Public Health) either. Also, my address book has defaulted solely to the Children's Trust one rather than the Global one, so trying to email anyone in another department (such as Housing) is now ridiculously time-consuming, as instead of just typing their name into the address box, I have to click the "To..." button, change the address book to "Global" and then search for them.
Last week, I also had to send out an explanatory email about what GCSx being turned off actually meant, because the explanation sent out by Mr Corporate was so badly worded that nobody understood it. (Essentially, the newly secure Office 365 version of Outlook is replacing GCSx, so we can use that for other public sector organisations, whilst continuing to use Egress for everyone else...) This was after two colleagues in the office asked me what it meant and I figured it would be quicker to send an email; quite frankly, it is not my job to translate the inane ramblings of a Grade 5 senior manager and he should be able to communicate effectively in the first bloody place.
Thankfully, I was prepared for this eventuality, because I had already been made aware that GCSx was being turned off a couple of months ago; the information was shared during an email exchange with the IT support team responsible for it, during a furore created by Yvette when she had a bee in her bonnet about the sent emails not showing up in the sent folder of the secure mailbox. I had already attempted to resolve this issue, was advised it was impossible, and given a solution that we should drag items into the mailbox sent folder from our own, personal sent folders, which a couple of us were doing and the majority of people just... completely ignored. But since our Grade 4 managers never managed to gain any access to it, it wasn't being monitored in any event to ensure proper usage. Yvette got all huffy about it because it "wasn't fit for purpose" on that basis and... I think I've recounted all the drama about this already on Twitter and I'm too exhausted to go over it again. I am insanely grateful they're finally making the sodding thing obsolete because the secure email fiasco has been the absolute bane of my life for over two years now.
Anyway, I logged another call with the Service Desk about all of the above issues, after ringing them again on Monday to be told that because I'd migrated I had to log issues via the web client instead for some reason. Since then I've continued to update the log with other issues as they've arisen.
As of today, they seem to have fixed the issue of Paul being "invalid" as I've been able to email him today. (Though when I first discovered the issue it caused some temporary hilarity, as I texted him to let him know he didn't exist and he sent me an email just saying "I are exist!" - which I then couldn't respond to...)
So, all of this nonsense would be irritating enough to cope with on its own, but it's happening alongside the long-awaited CareFirst replacement, Eclipse, coming into effect...
Right. So. Buckle up because this is a long ride.
The CareFirst Replacement Project has been going on now for over three years (at a guess) and the go live date for the new system is next Monday, 25th March. I'll start with the positives, which are that it looks very streamlined, similar enough to CareFirst not to be totally confusing, more intuitive, better designed, and has functionality which makes CareFirst look like an old freespace AOL website from the late 90s. (Sadly it's still IE based; I honestly suspect we will only get shot of IE when it becomes completely obsolete, and even then I doubt it. :P)
So far, the training everyone has received (not even everyone, in fact, as there are still some people who haven't managed to attend a training session) has been sparse to say the least. It's comprised a brief click-through slide show of the basic functions, most of which was very generic and applied more to social work staff than PSS, and some "service specific" sessions in smaller groups with the Project Leader and one of the Grade 4 support staff helping to implement the system.
As yet, we have not even physically been able to look at the system for ourselves; we have been advised to ask colleagues ("champions") with access to the test system to have a go with it via their laptops, which is clearly impossible given we're a citywide service and people rarely cross paths for more than five minutes when not in meetings, and have, y'know, actual work to do the rest of the time.
I should note at this point that any new starters to the Children's Trust need to have one half-day classroom-based training session with CareFirst before they can even touch it, plus another specific session around "Assessments" (the report-creating bit) before they get access to that aspect of the system. Bearing that in mind, our training for Eclipse - which is a brand new system for the entire Children's Trust - has been so poor as to be practically non-existent, and nobody feels remotely like they know what they're doing.
The training sessions for our service have grown shorter and shorter in length the further along they've gone - the first session overran by half an hour because so many questions were being asked; the second session (which I was in) finished an hour early because they couldn't answer any of our questions and just said "that's being worked on" and deferred back to our poor, beleaguered BITSO instead; the third session (on Monday just gone) lasted all of an hour for the same reason. (My training session also highlighted the absolute laziness of one particular colleague and did at least show that it's not just me who gets so frustrated with her...)
On Monday morning we will be receiving links and passwords to a new system that nobody has properly seen, with several workflows and documents that more than likely do not work, and AFAIK CareFirst is being turned off on Friday. And whilst all of this chaos is happening, life continues in the world of Child Protection so there are multiple meetings happening on Monday which nobody has a single clue how to monitor/record/update on the new system.
The BITSO is meeting with the two CP team leaders and the Head of Service tomorrow (two days before go-live) to hash out the end to end process. We were all (as in Chairs and minute-takers) supposed to receive process guidance before the system goes live and according to an email sent out this afternoon we will know in very basic terms who is responsible for what, but the full process guidance will happen... at some point this side of never, more than likely.
The worst thing? The go-live date has already been deferred from September, so they've had six months AT LEAST to hash all of this out.
The system is very obviously not ready to go live yet. There are some background functions that still haven't even been clarified yet - such as how to change a meeting date if it gets cancelled and rearranged, because the system uses a "workflow" function to generate every aspect of the case file and the dates can't be changed manually - as well as wider process issues. During our training we noted that the headings on the CP Plan were completely different to what we're currently using, and when we pointed it out the response was "Don't worry, it'll all become clear later". Well, it's now later, and we've still had no clarity.
There's been some general discontent and disbelief about it all, and a sense from everyone that they're very likely to delay the go-live date again, however it seems more than obvious that they are, in fact, still going live on Monday. The next couple of weeks, if not longer, are going to be absolute chaos and quite honestly it's already giving me anxiety. (As mentioned on Twitter earlier, that's also because the approach to the go-live date is so similar to the Government's approach to Brexit, in the sense of ploughing blindly ahead without any thought for common sense or consequences, and frankly that's anxiety-inducing enough.)
Oh, and to make matters worse, our team leader has conveniently booked three days off next week so will not be present when the shit inevitably hits the fan. I suspect she is going to have a very full inbox when she comes back on Thursday.
I almost sent an email to my team colleagues earlier suggesting that if we have any issues with Eclipse, we should compile them into one document and email it at the end of the month (given certain colleagues are not particularly open about stuff like this) but I know full well that any issues we do raise will be perceived as us moaning / being difficult / not giving things a chance, and that's part of the reason I'm so stressy about it all.
Both the Eclipse implementation and the Office 365 migration have been so badly managed it's laughable, and if this had happened in the private sector somebody would be getting the sack. But we work in local government so absolute nonsense like this is given a free pass and considered normal. And, as ever, it feels like those of us down here on the ground are the only people with any bloody common sense.
I want to embrace the system and I honestly think it will be an improvement on CareFirst (frankly, a wet fish would be an improvement on CareFirst); I like playing with new systems and helping people use them and all that jazz, but until I can actually see it and use it and learn about it for myself, all I can do is speculate. And if I'm struggling, as one of the more computer-literate and on-the-ball members of the team, there are others who are really going to flounder when it finally arrives.
The worst thing is that I really shouldn't be surprised by this bollocks because it's par for the course now, but I am, because the whole point of the Trust was to make things better. It's been a year and nothing's changed - and we've had no information whatsoever about what happens now our TUPE arrangements are going to end. (We were supposed to have a PSS away day back in January but it got cancelled because it was a day or so after a Trust event celebrating successes - the cynical part of me suspects that's because the PSS away day was going to tell us all how we're not working hard enough.) I honestly hoped the Eclipse Project would do better than this, particularly given how long it's been in the pipeline, and it just feels like they're suddenly panicking and don't want to admit that the system isn't ready yet, so they're just going to force it onto us and paper over the cracks later.
And, like, that would be fine if it wasn't a really important database containing information about the most vulnerable children in the city, and if bureaucracy didn't reign over everything. Something could easily slip through one of those cracks - a process will be unfinished, the subsequent process won't start, a referral won't get picked up, and before you know it there'll be a child death and another serious case review. That's an extreme example, but it could very easily happen if they don't sort this out.
TL;DR: we suck at implementing changes in a stress-free and seamless manner and I am tired.
In more positive news, I really want to do a celebratory post about Farscape turning 20 (even though that makes me feel So Old), which I will probably create on Facebook in the first instance and then maybe copy over here as well. Watch this and that and all the spaces. (If I'm not dead by then from sheer incompentence.)