StepChange, a charity that helps people to tackle their troublesome debt, has used the Pega platform to join up its online and contact centre debt support services.
Describing the charity’s digital transition at the the Pega Customer Engagement Summit in London StepChange, CEO Phil Andrew said: “The problem of problem debt is absolutely enormous. The UK is the country which keeps these problems hidden – we do not want to talk about debt. The most common thing we say to people is: ‘We wish we’d seen you a year ago.’ We want to get people assistance before they fall into crisis. We need to help people earlier.”
The debt advice service offers help via a digital service and telephone service, supporting 620,000 people per year.
However, Andrew said the online and call services were effectively disconnected. Describing the setup, he said: “We have a bunch of in-house systems which are largely undocumented. It is quite difficult to find out why things go wrong.”
The systems used at StepChange were not joined up, which meant there was not a single source of the truth. To support people contacting the charity, he said staff needed to switch between several screens, including Microsoft Excel, the charity’s customer relationship management (CRM) system, as well as use a desk calculator.
Andrew said the charity partnered with Pega to make its IT systems more efficient, as part of its 2020 vision to double the number of people it helps.
The new system has enabled StepChange to reduce the time staff take to manage people contacting the charity from an hour to 20 minutes.
Challenges of running an agile project
Discussing the deployment of the new system, Andrew said that among the biggest challenges StepChange faced was that it needed to develop the system in an agile way, but this is not an approach the charity’s trustees were accustomed to.
“Trustees were used to a waterfall approach. Imagine the difficulty in explaining agile [methodology],” said Andrew.
This meant that questions posed by the trustees such as exactly what is being developed, when will it be ready and how much will it cost could not be easily answered due to the nature of running the project in an agile way. “This does not inspire confidence in a board of trustees,” added Andrew.
The team was also too prescriptive on a go-live date, which subsequently could not be met. “We could not go live in November 2018 and the board can back when we had the delay,” said Andrew.
He said scope creep was another of the challenges StepChange encountered during the agile project, especially when some “nice to have” suggestions become full features, requiring extra work.
Discussing working with Pega, Andrew said: “I’ve done three major SAP implementations, and Pega is easier than SAP.” However, he added that StepChange found it far harder to transfer knowledge between the Pega consultants and in-house people.