Building healthy rural economies with the Rural Payments Agency
- Service Data and AI
- Sector Central government
- Duration 18 months
- Client Rural Payments Agency
Helping provide farmers with financial stability and contributing to healthy rural economies.
The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) is responsible for paying English farmers, traders and land owners EU subsidies. Without these subsidies, the rural economy would simply not survive, as the majority of farmers rely on additional funds to make their operations viable.
The IT system at the RPA was highly complex, expensive to run, and performed poorly, meaning that payments were rarely made on time. These delays caused significant hardship for farmers, who operate on tight margins and often lack financial security. Not knowing when their payments would be processed made it difficult for farmers to plan ahead, and was a huge source of frustration for them when dealing with the RPA.
We undertook an in depth assessment of the RPA's IT systems, identifying more than 30 different underperforming platforms and environments, a lack of workable business continuity and disaster recovery options, uncontrolled data usage, an inability to cope with the required number of concurrent users, and the overloading of database and application platforms.
We then completely transformed the infrastructure of the systems, creating a high performing and reliable solution for the RPA.
We designed and built two new private clouds in Crown hosting data centres on Openstack architecture and Cisco UCS networks. We then migrated the poorly performing databases, introducing real application clusters (RACs), a considerable amount of Oracle DB tuning and seamless disaster recovery failover capability. We also made virtual machine (VM) additions to the solution presentation layer.
The new IT system provides significant time and cost savings to the RPA, as well as enabling them to deliver an improved payments service to farmers.
The new architecture we built reduced the IT system's annual running costs from £34m to £5.5 million, saving the RPA £28.5 million per year. A focus on automation, performance monitoring and environment cloning enabled us to reduce the number of staff needed to operate the platform from 63 to 26, streamlining operations and providing further savings.
Alongside this work, we also reviewed and optimised the RPA's software licences and platform maintenance procedures, saving an additional £10 million per year in fees.
In the year before the new system was launched, only 51% of payments to farmers were processed on time. Thanks to our work, this figure rose to 97%, helping the RPA to provide farmers with much needed financial stability, and contributing to healthy rural economies across England.