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How Defra Uses Microsoft Dynamics AX To Process Billions Of Pounds

Duncan MacRae is former editor and now a contributor to TechWeekEurope. He previously edited Computer Business Review's print/digital magazines and CBR Online, as well as Arabian Computer News in the UAE.

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Defra and Hitachi Solutions Europe work together to deliver Government’s new digital by default approach

Hitachi Solutions Europe and Defra, the Government Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, have launched an integrated finance running costs and human resources system at the Rural Payments Agency to more than 2,000 employees.

This is the first in a series of releases of new IT to transform the way Defra delivers the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to 100,000 customers in England. The CAP is a system of agricultural subsidies and programmes that covers farming, rural development and environmental measures.

New payment service

Defra opted to work with Hitachi Solutions following a formal tender process to develop and implement a new running costs and scheme accounting system to make payments, which amount to £15bn over seven years, from 2015 onwards. In late July 2014 the CAP Delivery Programme began the gradual introduction of a new application and payment service for all new CAP schemes with its first application release.

Defra said Hitachi Solutions was able to demonstrate the agility and flexibility of Microsoft’s ERP technology known as Microsoft Dynamics AX, which suited its requirements.

paymentsJo Broomfield, programme director at Defra, said: “Given the regular reforms of EU policy, it was vital that the chosen solution was agile and could be easily adapted in the future as required. Microsoft Dynamics was deemed to be the best system to meet both our current and future needs. Hitachi Solutions was able to demonstrate advanced knowledge and experience of working with Microsoft Dynamics technology. The implementation of the new HR and running costs modules of Microsoft Dynamics AX has gone smoothly and users have spoken positively about the system.”

The CAP Information Service is one of the Government Digital Service’s 25 ‘exemplar’ services being designed to make them simpler, clearer and faster to use. By implementing a system of customer feedback based on an agile methodology, Defra is able to use this feedback in future software deployment and gradually introduce online services to its people and customers.

Broomfield explained: “By delivering the solution in stages we are able to have much more control over the project and make any necessary changes to the system as we progress. Our experiences to date have given us increased confidence in both the system and in our ability to successfully deliver the next phase of the project.”

The next step is to use the new finance system to make payments for Pillar 2 (schemes which promote rural development and protect the environment) for which there are 74,000 customers with payments totalling £600m per annum and this is planned for April 2015.

Defra is the first central government agency to implement Microsoft Dynamics AX technology. Steven French, executive pice president at Hitachi Solutions Europe, said: “This project has been a huge success for Defra, particularly given that projects of this magnitude in the Public Sector often run over budget and off schedule. We believe that this should be viewed as a showcase for demonstrating the benefits of Microsoft Dynamics in the Public Sector environment.”

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