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Update on the Change Management Process

Executive Committee Meetings

Update on the Change Management Process

7 September 1998


1. At its eleventh meeting in April 1998, the Standing Committee reviewed an Update on the Change Management Process (EC/48/SC/CRP.17), which provided a report on progress achieved in the six priority project areas of the 1998 work programme, namely the Operations Management System; a protection database; the Supply Chain; systems replacement; human resources management; and financial services. This report provides additional details on progress achieved and should be read in conjunction with paragraphs 387 to 420 of the Overview of UNHCR Activities (A/AC.96/900).


2. The design and development of UNHCR's new Operations Management System (OMS) remains a high priority for the Organization. Three dedicated project teams, consisting of staff from Headquarters and the Field, worked from February to the end of May 1998 on three separate areas of the OMS. These were:

(a) Processes, procedures, schedules, and tools;

(b) Monitoring, control, evaluation, and reporting systems; and

(c) Management responsibility, accountability, and structure.

3. An OMS Project Board was established at the end of March 1998 to oversee the development of the new OMS. The Board's membership represents 13 different functional areas of UNHCR so as to ensure that all areas of concern are taken into account. The Project Board has a dual function of overseeing, firstly, the development of new processes and procedures and, secondly, the design and development of new information systems to support the OMS. It has met six times since the beginning of April 1998 and has reviewed a range of working papers and proposals.

4. The process for documenting the OMS is proceeding on two tracks. The first involves the completion of the conceptual design of the OMS through the preparation of working papers on key aspects of the system, which are presented to the OMS Project Board for review and endorsement. Among the working papers endorsed by the OMS Project Board are papers on planning, programme and project design, resource allocation, budgeting, programme structure and evaluation. The second track, which builds upon the first, is the drafting of a new OMS Handbook, which will be the embodiment of the new OMS and which will serve as the standard reference tool for the management of UNHCR operations.

5. The working papers convey the key innovations which will be introduced by the OMS and which are expected to strengthen the Organization's operational capacity and maintain its focus on achieving efficient, effective and timely results, and on measuring impact of implementation. Among the innovations featured in the papers are the following:

(a) Introduction of the concept of a "solution strategy", a high-level operations plan which covers all the countries concerned in a refugee situation, and which will provide an overall strategic framework for UNHCR and its partners' operational response, the timeframe for which is determined by the objectives of the operation and not solely by the calendar;

(b) Improved integration of protection activities into programmes by ensuring that protection activities are planned and programmed with the same degree of thoroughness as assistance activities;

(c) Reorientation of UNHCR's programme management towards results and impact while maintaining an appropriate focus on inputs and activities through the introduction of results-based, performance budgeting as the standard format for the presentation of UNHCR budgets at all levels of programmes;

(d) Introduction of a single, comprehensive budget structure for programme management so that all costs can be linked to defined outputs;

(e) A higher level budget approval process linked to the solution strategy, so as to enable project level assessment and design to take place within a framework of reasonable resource expectations;

(f) Conversion of the current country operations planning process into a yearly work-planning exercise within the strategic framework established by the relevant solution strategy;

(g) Enhanced resource allocation linked to implementation, in which initial allocations of resources for operations are systematically refined prior to and during a given implementation year as resources become available and financial projections evolve throughout the year;

(h) Improved performance monitoring and reporting through the utilization of the monthly situation report, with an emphasis on the tracking of performance indicators as the standard basis for programme and project reporting within UNHCR and between UNHCR and its partners;

(i) Enhanced evaluation of UNHCR programmes through the introduction of a range of evaluation mechanisms for programmes and by ensuring that a greater range of UNHCR operations benefit from both self-evaluation, as well as evaluations led by evaluation specialists either from within or from outside the Organization.

6. Many of the envisaged improvements in a new OMS can only be delivered through the introduction of new information technology which will inevitably be a multi-year process. The first new information technology tool to be provided within the OMS Project will be the OMS Knowledge Base, which is an electronic repository of UNHCR's published operational guidance references. The OMS Knowledge Base will include a fully searchable UNHCR Manual, including the draft OMS Handbook, an electronic library of task-based guidance and tools in the form of checklists, formats and procedural support, a policy library and a "best practice" library. The first edition of the OMS Knowledge Base will be published in the fourth quarter of 1998 as a CD ROM. It will also include the new personnel administration manual within a database called "InSite", which is a comprehensive collection of documentation, including manuals on the Career Management System (CMS), classification manuals, post adjustment manuals, pension fund regulations, staff rules and regulations, memoranda, forms and calculation spreadsheets.

7. Once the basic OMS design is complete, for which the target date is the end of the third quarter of 1998, efforts will be focused on two key areas:

(a) Continued definition of requirements for replacement of information technology systems in support of the OMS; and

(b) Identification and implementation of improvements in the way UNHCR manages its operations in advance of the full deployment of the new OMS software support systems.

8. The initial area of focus for the introduction of the OMS will be on improved planning for operations, in particular, solution strategy development. This will be done through strategic planning workshops in major field operations, starting in early 1999, as the first phase of the roll-out of the new OMS to the field.


9. Further progress has been made concerning the planning and implementation of the Protection Information Management System/Database (PIMS). The Division of International Protection has started testing a first prototype design of the situation report component, which will make available to UNHCR Headquarters an easily accessible and searchable database containing operations situation reports submitted on a monthly basis by all UNHCR field offices. Subject to successful testing in some selected field operations, the situation report database will be gradually rolled-out to other field locations at the end of 1998 and throughout 1999.

10. The critical events component of the database relates to more specific protection information (mission reports, notes for the file, and other documents, and is intended to cover a limited number of sites in major operations. In view of the more complex functionality required for the replication and management of such a large volume of unstructured data, the Information and Communication Systems Service (ICSS) will undertake a thorough evaluation of different software options for the implementation of such a database, including Groupware solutions to facilitate teamwork. One important concern is to ensure that the chosen solution will fully integrate with current and future information technology systems adopted by UNHCR, as part of its wider information technology strategy. Following this evaluation, a prototype of the "critical events" database should be ready for field testing during the first quarter of 1999.


11. The design of the Supply Chain directly addresses the current fragmentation of information and sometimes uncoordinated activities of supply management staff by integrating them into a single, uniform Supply Chain function. The Supply Chain will provide a mechanism for UNHCR to track and maintain all UNHCR-owned assets. The Supply Chain is an important component of the OMS and will be supported by a new, integrated information technology system.

12. Following the development of the Supply Chain concept, the project team has focused on the design of business processes. This process design phase, which takes into account the requirements of finance, programme and other UNHCR functions, has now been completed. These processes include the five major Supply Chain functional areas of planning, sourcing, delivering, managing assets and supporting implementation. Standard operating procedures for the users and operators of the Supply Chain are being drafted, with field testing of these procedures planned to begin in the fourth quarter of 1998. The first Supply Officer post in Sarajevo will assist in managing this and other pilot field tests, such as verification of the bar-coding initiative that will determine which type of bar-coding technology should be used and which processes it must support.

13. The first Supply Chain computer-based training module, Introduction to the UNHCR Supply Chain, has been completed and will be distributed to staff members and concerned external organizations and individuals in the last quarter of 1998. A development plan for the remaining modules has been established, and the drafting of training materials has begun in parallel with the identification and testing of Supply Chain procedures.

14. Detailed requirements to be included in a Request for Proposal (RFP) have been prepared for the new information technology system. The selection of the appropriate software package and a specialist company to undertake integration will take place together with other OMS functional areas. The development of an updated master item catalogue and a customer catalogue has begun. This will be based on Headquarters and Field input and will be harmonized with other United Nations organizations, using the United Nations Common Coding System (UNCCS) as a common generic database.

15. In addition to the design of the Supply Chain, interim improvements are continuing on Supply Chain-related systems, with updated releases scheduled for issuance by late 1998. As an example of this, a working group has been established to review and recommend unified requisition and dispatch procedures for all goods ordered from Headquarters.


16. Progress has been made in the replacement of UNHCR's information technology systems in three important areas, each of which is discussed below:

(a) The Information Technology (IT) Steering Committee has become operational, and the position of the IT function within the organization strengthened;

(b) A systematic approach to the identification and approval of IT initiatives is being established; and

(c) A list of potential IT systems initiatives has been identified and progress is being made in identifying user requirements.

17. The IT Steering Committee was established in March 1998 and has held two sessions to date. A third session is planned for early September 1998, when the information technology strategic plan will be reviewed and discussed. In view of the need for the organizational unit, which deals with information systems, to have a role which cuts across all Bureaux and Divisions and to provide an increased emphasis on support to field operations, ICSS is now supervised directly by the Deputy High Commissioner and will receive guidance from the IT Steering Committee.

18. For the initiation of large IT projects, ICSS plans to use a new process which will involve user and technical staff working together to develop a detailed project proposal. Each proposal will be signed-off by user management sponsors and ICSS, and then presented to the IT Steering Committee for endorsement. The project proposal will present critical information about the proposed effort including, but not limited to, a clear definition of scope and objectives and indication of required investment. ICSS intends that this process should clarify support for critical initiatives, obtain management approval and commitment of resources, and provide direction for coordinating IT systems activities.

19. A list of potential system initiatives (Annex 1) has been compiled, based on the new OMS processes and procedures. This list will likely grow over time and each high priority initiative needs to be further defined through the project proposal process before approval. Out of this list, user groups have been working with technical analysts to define requirements for the following systems.

(a) Finance and budget;

(b) Supply Chain;

(c) Situation reports (SitRep); and

(d) Knowledge Database (in development).

In addition, some high level requirements have also been explored in the form of functional prototyping for protection and programme management - strategic planning - and a critical events database.

20. Adequate resources (human and financial) have not yet been committed for the development of an RFP for integrated systems. Resources are required from all user groups that will be impacted by the new systems and a Project Proposal requesting these resources will be submitted to the IT Steering Committee. RFPs for other OMS system initiatives, which are not covered by integrated systems, will be planned once the OMS team has completed its definition of new processes and procedures. When the definition of business processes is complete, proposed system initiatives will be further defined through project proposals and approval requested from the OMS Project Board or the IT Steering Committee, depending on the size of the project.


21. Enhancing UNHCR's human resource management system remains a high priority of the Organization, as part of its effort to enhance accountability and ensure that operations achieve appropriate results. Work has been undertaken in the following areas.

A. Delegation of authority for locally-recruited staff in the field

22. During the course of 1998, the first stage in the delegation of authority of human resources management to line management in UNHCR's offices in the field is being fully implemented and is on target. This first stage includes the full administration and management of locally recruited staff in all offices outside Headquarters. Main tasks completed have included the preparation of an updated Personnel Manual, the preparation and implementation of a global training programme for administrative staff and for Representatives, the preparation of a comprehensive human resource management database (to be included in the OMS Knowledge Base), the preparation of accountability tools for human resource management, and the development of a number of IT applications in support of the delegation efforts.

B. The Career Management System

23. The first cycle of the Performance Appraisal Report (PAR) of the Career Management System (CMS) will conclude on 31 August 1998. Staff members completed the second phase of the cycle, the mid-term review, during the first and second quarters of 1998. To help staff prepare for the final step of the cycle (the final appraisal), training covering communication skills within the context of performance appraisal discussions was offered to all staff members at Headquarters during the summer months. The same training package, accompanied by instructions for trainers, was distributed to all field offices during August 1998.

24. The competency framework review is ongoing and aims at the elimination of some duplication, the filling of gaps between competencies and the integration of UNHCR policy priorities in the areas of gender, refugee children and adolescents, and women refugees. Staff/Management consultation has been concluded in reference to gender-related revisions to core and managerial competencies.

25. Discussions continue with the Staff Council for the establishment of two staff/management bodies in support of the CMS: the Joint Monitoring Committee, which will review implementation of the CMS, and the Rebuttal Board, which will review formal disagreements over appraisals. The information system designed to collect CMS-related data has been piloted in three offices at Headquarters and one field office and will be deployed for general use in the near future.

C. Review of Human Resource Management Policies

26. Work has been undertaken to review human resource management policies such as contractual arrangements, promotions, postings, recognition and reward schemes, human resource planning, and the management of staff reductions. UNHCR has participated actively in inter-agency consultations on these and other human resource issues of concern to the United Nations Common System. Proposals in respect of contract policy, promotions, posting, as well as recognition and reward schemes, will be discussed with management and staff representatives, with a view to submitting recommendations for the High Commissioner's approval before the end of 1998.


27. In relation to initiatives taken in order to strengthen financial management within UNHCR, the Division of Financial Management Services (DFMS) has undertaken work in the following areas.

A. Decentralization of Financial Services

28. The training programme in support of the decentralization of certain financial functions has continued this year with training in Asia, East Africa and the Americas. As of April 1998, 658 staff in five regions had been provided with financial management training. This includes 65 Representatives, 292 professional staff and 301 local staff who deal with financial matters. By year's end, it is planned to train an additional 160 staff in Europe. The training courses are divided into three levels - Financial Management for Senior Managers, Basic Financial Management and Control, and Basic UNHCR Financial and Control Concepts.

29. The training has generally been well-received. In September 1998, countries in Asia and the Pacific, and the Americas will take over responsibility for their own accounts processing and will be responsible for retaining the supporting documentation in the country. The Accountability Agreements between the Bureaux Directors, the Controller and the Country Representatives are being prepared as part of this process.

30. In addition, 38 staff members, from both Financial Services at Headquarters and finance posts in the field, have attended three Train the Trainers courses held in Geneva. This is in preparation for a full handover of all training activities to UNHCR staff. At present all professional staff are being trained by consultants assisted by UNHCR staff.

31. Preparation continues for the installation of the "hotline" in Financial Services at Headquarters. This is part of the support package that will be provided to decentralized operations and should be fully operational by September 1998

B. Financial Management System

32. A full-time team of four members has been assigned to document the requirements for finance and budget systems. The work began in April 1998 and includes a review of practices and policies, as well as the definition of user requirements. The team members have been reviewing UNHCR accounting policies and practices which could impact the design of new systems and are recommending changes in accordance with United Nations Accounting standards and, to the extent possible, international accounting standards.

33. The team members are collecting the finance and budget requirements from staff at Headquarters and the field, including members of the team from OMS, Supply Chain and Human Resources, and are documenting them for inclusion in an RFP. The RFP will be the basis for the evaluation and selection of new financial and budget systems. The work on the definition of requirements, evaluation and selection of new financial systems is expected to continue throughout 1998.


34. The next few months should bring further concrete results with the completion of the draft OMS Handbook, the issuance of the OMS Knowledge Base, including a new Personnel Manual, improved recording of protection information through the SitRep Project, and the issuance of one or more RFPs for new information systems.

35. Although much work has already been completed on the change projects, there remains a considerable amount still to be done before all of the anticipated results can be achieved. The task of introducing new processes and procedures, developing new information systems and ensuring appropriate training and support for staff is one that can only be achieved with an investment in resources, over time. At a time of decreasing resource availability, it is all the more important that UNHCR becomes more efficient and effective, both for its beneficiaries and for its donors. If this is to be done correctly, it cannot be achieved overnight. For some time to come, UNHCR will need to go through a transition period using existing information systems while new systems are developed and tested. At the same time, efforts will be made to introduce those new processes and procedures which are not dependent on new information systems.

36. UNHCR looks forward to the support of the Executive Committee as it pursues these efforts for improvement. The Standing Committee will be provided with a further update on progress in the change management process during the course of 1999.

(Note: Statistical and financial tables not included in this online version. See your nearest UN Depository Library.)