Delivering Value Through Oversight

Public Sector

A state agency engaged North Highland to serve in a Quality Assurance and Independent Verification and Validation (IV&V) role. Through monitoring and oversight, the project team helped the organization deploy a more automated, controlled, and maintainable pension solution that delivered improved operation metrics.

A Public Sector Case Study

Client Situation

The client, a state agency, needed to implement a new pension solution to support its retirement system. This retirement system manages over $40 billion in funds and serves all state employees, in addition to the majority of the state's local governments and education agencies. It also pays retirement benefits to approximately 150,000 retirees and disability recipients each month. Previously, the client relied on three large mainframe legacy applications, numerous small applications and shadow systems, and business processes that were extremely manual and had few controls.

The client engaged North Highland to deliver IV&V oversight. In this role, North Highland was to provide an independent review and assessment of the project deliverables and processes towards the end goal of implementing a “state-of-the-art” pension system. The scope of the initiative included monitoring and tracking the processes and project execution activities of both the SIV and the state.

Our Approach 

Throughout the engagement, North Highland utilized its MAP/5SM methodology: an approach based on project management, quality management, risk management, metrics, methods, and tools. The SIV and state project team deployed three major functional phases over 42 months through a System Development Lifecycle (SDLC) process that involved elicitation, design, construction, testing, and implementation. The IV&V team monitored all tasks and activities associated with these SDLC phases and requirements traceability processes (the RTM), and reviewed associated deliverables. To confirm that key workstreams remained on track, North Highland continually monitored the project plan for accuracy and feasibility, and identified risks (providing mitigating strategies) on an ongoing basis.

A key component of North Highland’s project approach involved ongoing communication to ensure stakeholder alignment. The IV&V team presented an independent view with supporting metrics at every project steering committee meeting. At the end of each SDLC phase, the team produced formal lifecycle review reports on project effectiveness as well as product delivery phase-end reports that highlighted key success factors and lessons learned. Putting ideas into action, North Highland went beyond identifying issues to provide proactive, value-added solution recommendations. The project team validated all major deliverables with specific guidance around urgency and approach to correct any flagged deficiencies.

Value Delivered

North Highland provided an independent, forward-looking perspective on the project by raising key risks, issues, concerns, and by providing actionable recommendations to address them. The state agency successfully implemented its pension solution, and communicated that the IV&V role and team made key contributions to that end. 

The project team used its MAP/5SM approach to help the client validate that its SIV complied with the terms of the contract, performed processes effectively, and produced quality deliverables, fulfilled both technical and non-technical requirements, assigned the required skilled resources, and acted in the best interests of the project. Because of the close, consistent monitoring that the North Highland team delivered, the solution was implemented effectively— an accomplishment not commonly achieved in comparable state implementations.

Throughout the initiative, North Highland helped the client’s workforce to develop an appreciation for metrics, accountability, and IT engagement—a shift that helped to embed capabilities that extended beyond the terms of the engagement. Because of this successful IV&V work, the client retained North Highland to provide additional project management services to oversee post-implementation enhancements, develop an IT/business support structure, define call center improvements, and to identify and implement process improvements.

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