National Offender Management Services (NOMS) is an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice (MOJ). Bringing together the headquarters of the Probation Service and HM Prison Service, NOMS manages a mixed economy of providers in the public, private and voluntary sectors to commission and deliver adult offender management services.
NOMS is responsible for the entire offender management process, from arrest to transition from prison to the outside world. So NOMS staff has to work effectively with a large and growing population of non- departmental business partners as well as other departments and MOJ agencies.
NOMS staff needs to work together and collaborate with their many and various partner organisations to deliver effective services. Confidentiality, integrity and availability requirements are stringent, with ramifications for public safety and correct operation of the justice process. Intra-NOMS systems are rated at Impact Level 3 (IL3), which allows them to store data up to “Restricted” security level, while inter-agency systems must be suitable for information at IL2.
Offender management is a complex task: as well as public sector agencies and private sector companies, a growing number of third- sector charities and voluntary organisations play their part in the process. As the number of involved organisations grew, the silo-based MOJ ICT systems became a real barrier to progress.
Sharing information efficiently was impossible, and there were concerns that systems of such inflexibility would tempt people to circumvent controls just to get the job done.
It was clear that the old ways couldn't support service delivery in the new environment. The challenge was to provide the tools and techniques to help organisations work together effectively while adhering to the demands for appropriate security and confidentiality.
MOJ looked for a solution that could fit the changing needs of their different communities and processes, together with an organisation to help them deploy it effectively.
NOMS selected collaboration specialists and Microsoft Gold Certified Partner Transputec to deliver the solution, after working with Transputec to build and deploy a SharePoint solution for a smaller user community.
After putting out to tender the museum selected Transputec Computers plc as its technology partner for the whole project - providing a complete migration solution from consultancy to implementation.
There were two main components to the solution:
Mobile workstation security Windows® Vista with BitLockerTM. Integrated data-protection features encrypt the entire operating system, and users can only start their computers using a detachable USB key and authentication password. This solution, combined with VPN connectivity, is suitable for working with information assessed at IL3.
Collaboration Services SharePoint Server 2008 provides the foundations for the services supplied to NOMS users and their partners. There are two implementations, both hosted in a Ministry of Justice Data Centre. Both are designed, implemented and fully managed by Transputec.
The most secure requirement is for NOMS users themselves to share and manage IL3 level information with their agency colleagues. The wider collaborative requirement, and the subject of this case study, is for NOMS users and their partners in the public, private and voluntary sectors. This is an IL2-compliant system.
Known as the Justice Community Network or JCN SharePoint, the system equips more than 2000 users from many different organisations with a complete collaborative environment. To indicate the size of third-sector involvement, and the scale of the collaboration challenge: Clinks (www.clinks.org) is a charity that supports voluntary organisations that work with offenders and their families. Clinks appear on the diagram as just one entity, but they have over 300 organisations as members who play a part in the offender management process. Involvement of this sector is likely to grow as more public services are commissioned outside of public sector organisations.
JCN SharePoint, designed, implemented and managed by Transputec, provides a complete platform for inter-agency working across the three sectors. It's more than just infrastructure; applications, repositories, trained people and mechanisms for change are all in place to provide a successful, dynamic collaborative environment.
Transputec provide an end-to end service including:
- infrastructure design and management
- requirements definition, platform tailoring and application development
- ongoing mentoring and training for people in NOMS and partner organisations
The Transputec NOMS team works closely with NOMS and MoJ staff. They work with them to understand their requirements, delivering applications and support that satisfy their needs. This is ongoing; as needs change so do application requirements, and new people, teams and organisations need introducing to the system. It's the team's job to understand what's required, build the relevant document libraries and sites, and train people to get the best out of them. As the reach of applications grows, so has the training; non- departmental business partners are just as important as NOMS staff when it comes to service delivery. JCN SharePoint training now features in the MOJ Learning Academy.
The result of this change-oriented outlook is a popular, productive inter- partner system that stimulates effective, controlled collaboration.
For organisations trying to manage inter-partner relationships, JCN SharePoint is revolutionary. Here are just some of its advantages:
Scalability and reliability. A tiered infrastructure with clustered database servers and multiple web servers lets Transputec provide top-rate performance as content volume and user base grows. The same architecture ensures high availability, important as the system becomes more critical to the smooth running of the services provided by NOMS and its partners.
Security. Rather than an inflexible security model that needs IT staff to manage it, content owners themselves control who can access what. Access controls are granular and work at document library level. It's easy to see who can access what, and audit trails show who has accessed what. Transputec-supplied programs scan documents for their classification levels, and alert administrators if any content is placed in the system that is above its designation.
Not just documents but teams and people too. Team sites manage meeting records, project details and surveys, as well as contact and role details for their members. This helps turn the system into a complete collaborative environment.
Ease of use, ease of discovery. A portal approach helps people navigate and search through team sites and document libraries to find the information they need. Not reams of unlabelled folders, but document stores with clear ownership and audit trails. People are as easy to find and work with too: team and personal sites make it easy to identify and contact the right person in the right team in the right organisation.
Control with flexibility. It's straightforward to make sure that the right people have access to the right information. People working on the same task may have different visibility requirements; in JCN SharePoint they can be given exactly the access they need. It's simple to invite appropriate teams and individuals too.
One version of the truth. Each document in the store only exists once; subscription and alerting make sure that the right people get informed of any changes. So everyone can be assured they have access to the current version, and know when anything has changed. This approach makes information easier and quicker to find. This revolutionises meeting management and results in smaller, easier to manage mailboxes too.
Version Control, check in/checkout. It's easy to track and work on a document, with no danger of conflicting updates or overlooked changes. Subscription and RSS feeds keep the right people updated.
Information gathering. The system isn't just about information dissemination. Online surveys revolutionise gathering too. Response rates have rocketed, surveys complete in hours or days, and the data is ready for analysis without re-keying.
Capturing best practice. As the community learns more lessons about effective collaboration they add their knowledge to JCN SharePoint where it's available to all.
Managed as a service. Transputec take responsibility for all aspects of the running of the system, so change and improvement is quick. Not bogged down in inter-provider discussions.
JCN SharePoint brings significant benefits to NOMS and their partners, leading to improved service delivery and higher productivity. Let's let NOMS themselves describe the benefits they get from their system.
From the JCN Homepage:
“If you work in the public sector and need or want to collaborate securely with individuals and business partners from across the Justice Sector, including other central Government departments, local governments, charities and private sector suppliers, the Justice Community Network, or JCN SharePoint, is the perfect solution for creating and sharing information across IT platforms and locations.
“JCN SharePoint provides a collaborative platform and tools to allow users to work together on the same or related projects, irrespective of geography or sector boundaries.”
Not only is the JCN SharePoint an established and efficient service, it is also helping business units to make cost savings and reduce administrative waste: one NOMS project estimated savings in excess of £20,000 during 2009 simply by being able to replace meetings – and all the associated accommodation and travel costs – with a virtual workspace.”
“NOMSnet supports both mobile working and integration of public sector and third sector working. It is a unique resource in the MOJ. As we seek to broaden our supplier base in support of the government's agenda to use competition and engage the third sector more widely in the delivery of rehabilitative services a resource which enables us to share information (the Sharepoint application) and to easily connect third parties to our world will be increasingly important.”