Modernising UK Passport Processing
Client:Her Majesty's Passport Office
- Upgrade and modernise legacy systems nearing obsolescence
- Secure migration of more than seven terabytes of data onto new systems
- Provide HM Passport Office with more scalable, resilient and secure application infrastructure
- Initiate the Critical Legacy Systems Programme (CLSP) and upgrade legacy hardware and software to modern, vendor-supported versions
- Relocate the systems to CSC’s modern data centres and upgrade the security provisions
- Build, test and support the data-validation database system
- The systems were implemented and moved with no impact on either business continuity or the number of passport applications processed
- The IT platform has become more stable and responsive
- Important security measures have been modernised
A passport may look like a simple thing, just a small bound booklet bearing a state seal and the holder’s photograph and signature. But the UK passport is widely viewed as the gold standard of identity documents, and its production involves business processes and information systems that are anything but simple.
In the UK, all passports are issued by Her Majesty’s Passport Office, totalling around six million a year. HM Passport Office is responsible for maintaining the security and integrity of all UK passports and the associated passport holders’ personal information. They also enable relevant data to be shared with other UK bodies, such as police forces and Border Force.
In 2009, following a competitive tender process, HM Passport Office awarded a 10-year contract to CSC to design, develop and support a new passport-issuing system that would replace its ageing Passport Application Support System (PASS). The new system, known as the Application Management System (AMS), was delivered by CSC and went live in 2013.
One of the first projects HM Passport Office needed to directly address in collaboration with CSC was the issue of legacy infrastructure and, as a result, the Critical Legacy Systems Programme (CLSP) was initiated in 2013.
“We needed to do something to modernise these systems,” recounts HM Passport Office’s portfolio director for Strategy and Change. “A lot of these systems were old and coming out of support. We needed to ensure that security provisions for our systems and data centres were upgraded to comply with the latest requirements.”
CLSP's helping hand
HM Passport Office established five main goals for CLSP:
- Upgrade the legacy infrastructure to a new platform based on modern, vendor-supported hardware and software versions. The original inventory included 30 separate systems, of which 13 required migration or re-platforming, seven required integration to new systems, and 10 were to be decommissioned.
- Decommission 155 servers, implement 118 new servers, and securely migrate over seven terabytes of data.
- Relocate systems out of ageing legacy sites into modern data centres owned and operated by CSC.
- Upgrade system-security provisions to appropriate levels, and achieve associated security accreditations.
- Build, test and support a replacement for HM Passport Office’s OmniBase solution, a verification system used by more than 85 third-party organisations - including Border Force, the Foreign Office and police services - to check the validity of UK passports.
More than a dozen HM Passport Office systems required refreshes, including the business-critical Main Index database and Consolidated View Database (CVD), both of which are integral to passport production. These databases hold approximately 135 million passport records.
In addition, this complex programme had to be delivered within the context of the UK Government’s major cost-saving initiatives, so it was imperative that the goals of the programme also achieved value for money. Both HM Passport Office and CSC recognised the need to collaborate and bring the programme in on time, to a high quality, and within budget.
To help the development work progress in an agile manner, a series of face-to-face progress and board meetings were supplemented by collaborative design and security workshops. The respective programme teams also worked together to deliver presentations on the approach, design and solution to wider HM Passport Office stakeholders. This secured engagement and identified risks, issues and opportunities before they could impact the overall programme. In addition, an incentivised pricing framework, Guaranteed Maximum Price Target Cost (GMPTC), was used for the associated contract to encourage CSC to deliver innovation and costs savings to HM Passport Office.
Both parties agreed on a staged deployment into the live environment in order to ensure a smooth transition, and deployments progressed throughout late 2014 and into early 2015.
To ensure minimal impact on HM Passport’s Office day-to-day business, the final live cut-over to the new CSC data centre was completed during the UK’s three-day Easter 2015 weekend. While the work progressed, the CSC and HM Passport Office teams camped out in CSC’s Liverpool data centre to closely monitor the situation and respond to any issues. The work went smoothly, and the deployment was hailed as an exemplar of how a live deployment event should be planned and executed, with no impact on the number of passport applications processed.
CLSP has increased the number of passport validations HM Passport Office can handle. Early performance tests conducted by CSC show a 40 per cent gain in traffic volumes. Even greater gains could be realised in the future.
Upgraded security is another major benefit facilitated by the modernisation and migration of the systems to CSC’s more modern data centre facilities. The stability of the new platform also means that new security measures can be added with comparative ease and speed.
The HM Passport Office portfolio director attributes the success of CLSP to HM Passport Office’s close coordination with CSC. “We were jointly managing the programme so closely, which was crucial to achieving such a successful outcome.”