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Update on Project Delphi

Executive Committee Meetings

Update on Project Delphi

8 January 1998



1. At its ninth meeting in October 1997, the Standing Committee reviewed document EC/47/SC/CRP.54, which provided an update on progress achieved in Project Delphi. This conference room paper focuses on progress achieved since that report and the oral report given by the Director for Change to that meeting of the Standing Committee. A programme of work for 1998 is included, and an Annex is attached, which provides a detailed progress report on each action that was outlined in the Delphi Implementation Plan annexed to the Update on Project Delphi (EC/47/SC/CRP.23).


A. Overall priorities

2. Since the last meeting of the Standing Committee, a concerted, three fold effort, detailed in the following paragraphs, has been made to move forward with the implementation of Project Delphi.

3. First, work has focused on those change initiatives considered as most critical to achieving the ultimate objective of the change process, namely making UNHCR more effective. This includes the development of the new Operations Management System (OMS), the design of a Protection Database and Information System, the creation of the Global Supply Chain, improving internal and external communications in the organization, as well as enhancing human resources management. The aim is to achieve maximum impact while making optimal use of the limited resources available. Progress made so far is outlined later in this report

4. Second, closer integration of action by members of senior management responsible for implementing Project Delphi has been achieved. Regular consultations are held under the chairmanship of the Director for Change. This has resulted in improved coordination among the various change initiatives, with Directors assuming an active role in leading the reforms in their respective areas, and a greater consensus at the highest level of the organization as to the approach to the priority actions.

5. Third, more time and effort has been devoted to engaging staff at large in the change process. The Director for Change has convened monthly open meetings at Headquarters to update staff and give them an opportunity to express concerns and put forward ideas. Written records of these meetings are prepared and distributed to the field. Improved dialogue and communication should result in greater understanding and support for the change process. At the same time, the involvement of more staff in individual change initiatives, such as the development of the OMS, is being promoted.

B. Priority Areas of Attention

6. The following is a brief description of progress achieved in the most important areas of Project Delphi since the Standing Committee last met.

Design and Development of the Operations Management System

7. In September 1997, the OMS Phase Two Team presented its proposal for carrying out the remaining OMS design and development work. The tasks to be carried out have been divided into five project areas, as follows:

(i) Processes, procedures and schedules;

(ii) Tool development;

(iii) Monitoring and control systems;

(iv) Software systems development; and

(v) Management structure, responsibility and accountability.

8. The Change Group, comprising the Change Management Support and Coordination Unit and the OMS Phase Two Team under the leadership of the Director for Change, has assumed overall responsibility for the first three areas. The Division of Financial and Information Services (DFIS), with the assistance of the Division of Human Resources Management (DHRM) and the Supply and Transport Section (STS) in the Division of Operational Support (DOS), is playing a key role in the fourth area, while the Inspection and Evaluation Service is covering the fifth area. Ensuring close coordination and consultation with the Operations Bureaux and Divisions in Headquarters and the Field remains a challenging and essential aspect of the design process for all of the project areas.

9. In addition to reviewing and building upon the work of the OMS Phase One Team, the Change Group has carried out a detailed review and analysis of the current Programme Management System. This review has resulted in consensus on the core problems with the current system for which solutions have been identified and which are providing the focus for OMS development efforts. Among the solutions being proposed are the following:

(i) A field-oriented operations management manual and knowledge database;

(ii) Operations management tools and task-oriented tool development;

(iii) New programme management software;

(iv) A new programme hierarchy;

(v) New data elements, including a new budget structure;

(vi) New programme and project formats designed expressly for field management needs; and

(vii) Revised resource allocation procedures.

10. In order to enable the project to move forward significantly in 1998, the human resources dedicated to this critical work will have to be increased. A project manager with systems development experience will be recruited to coordinate efforts on the design of software support for the new OMS. In addition, the small team currently developing the new OMS will be reinforced for periods of between three to six months as of January 1998.

Design of a Protection Database and Information System

11. The Division of International Protection (DIP) continued its efforts to enhance UNHCR's protection management capacity and expertise. With the assistance of two consultants, the newly created Protection Training and Support Section (PTS) developed the conceptual design of a Protection Information Management System/Database (PIMS) and carried out an assessment of the Office's global protection staffing requirements. A PIMS design workshop with the participation of protection staff from selected field offices and from UNHCR Headquarters was held in October 1997. Specific Plans of Action have been prepared for the further development of PIMS and for improving protection staff selection and deployment processes. PTS will be responsible for implementation, including ensuring the compatibility of PIMS with other information management systems currently being developed within the OMS framework.

12. DIP has continued its protection training programme for UNHCR staff worldwide.

In 1997 training courses targeted staff members who joined UNHCR in the four year period between 1992 and 1996. In total, more than 700 Protection and Field Officers were trained. Training activities in 1998 will focus on staff members recruited in 1996, 1997 and 1998. In addition to the basic protection courses, PTS will also undertake thematic protection training on refugee status determination, voluntary repatriation, returnee monitoring and People-Oriented-Planning (POP), as well as protection workshops and Train-the-Trainer courses.

Global Supply Chain

13. The main objective of the Supply Chain Project is to create a single, fully integrated function to deliver goods and services to a set of "customers" including beneficiaries, UNHCR staff, and implementing partners. A Supply Chain seminar held in August 1997, with a wide range of participants from Headquarters and the Field, confirmed that this objective was realistic and that the approach adopted to attain it was sound. The supply chain will use modern information technologies to streamline current procurement and logistics activities within UNHCR. It is expected that this will expand the organization's capabilities, improve responsiveness and generate cost savings.

14. In order to achieve these aims, the supply chain project has undertaken an analysis of business processes, information technology (IT) requirements, workflows, and current cost structures. This approach, using extensive input from staff members in the field, has produced the following tangible outputs:

(i) An objectives-based project management plan and supporting IT acquisition plan;

(ii) Documentation maps of current and proposed new supply chain processes;

(iii) A cost model and business case for the supply chain; and

(iv) A comprehensive assessment of IT solutions and options available to meet supply chain needs.

15. In the immediate future, the supply chain will focus on further analysis and field validation of the newly designed processes, review and presentation of a number of policy issues impacting the development of the supply chain, and conversion of operational business requirements into specifications suitable to support the procurement of a supply chain IT support system.

Improvement in Communications

16. Following the presentation of the report by the Communications Review Board in July 1997, further work on developing a strategy for communication was carried out. A Paper on Communications was presented to the Senior Management Committee (SMC) in December 1997, emphasizing the need to revitalize external communications in order to articulate more effectively UNHCR's mission in an increasingly complex environment. It underlines the role communication can play in refugee protection, conflict resolution and prevention and in mobilizing the necessary political, moral and financial support for UNHCR's positions and activities. It puts forward ideas in terms of the external audiences UNHCR should target, the messages it must try to convey, and how its resources (in terms of staff and work units) can best be put to use for this purpose.

17. The paper also highlights the need to rationalize and improve internal communications, particularly those between staff and management. Enhanced communication is critical to achieve good working relationships, maintain staff morale and increase productivity. Effective internal communication is recognized to be a source of strength, institutional solidarity and teamwork. The paper addresses ways in which UNHCR can make its internal communications more timely, open and effective, through the use of technology (such as the Intranet and e-mail), a more streamlined and selective information flow, as well as through encouraging more frequent, transparent debates and exchanges among staff and between staff and management.

18. The SMC will revisit the issue of communications, including an action plan to address policy issues, structure and with a focus on the field, in late January 1998. In the meantime, consultations between the concerned units at Headquarters dealing with communications are being undertaken by the Director for Change in order to review a number of specific issues relating to the strategy.

Introduction of the UNHCR Global Intranet (HCR-Net)

19. The HCR-Net, UNHCR's organizational Intranet, was launched at Headquarters on 15 July 1997. The Intranet, a private, secure network built on internet standards, is being used to inform staff on operational and administrative matters, and is starting to be used as a centralized repository for a wider body of organizational information.

20. The scope of the HCR-Net will include electronic publication of information, access to UNHCR corporate information systems, a medium for technology-assisted learning, and a foundation for productivity-enhancing workflow applications. The use of HCR-Net (at Headquarters) and e-mail (for the field) in the electronic distribution of information which, in the past, required expensive reproduction and distribution resources, will result in cost-savings.

21. Currently all UNHCR Headquarters staff have access to HCR-Net. During the first part of 1998, HCR-Net will be designed to make its introduction into the field easier, especially in locations with poor telecommunications infrastructure. Access to certain corporate information systems will be timed to coincide with HCR-Net deployment to the field, which will be progressive, starting in mid-1998. Security of UNHCR communications will continue to be guaranteed through "Virtual Private Networking" infrastructures. The HCR-Net will provide the means by which offices in the field, as well as staff at Headquarters, have timely access to the right types of information to support, inter alia, decentralized decision-making.

Human Resources Management

22. The Career Management System:

(a) The formal implementation of the Career Management System (CMS) started on 1 September 1997, with the first Performance Appraisal Report (PAR) cycle running up to 31 August 1998. Staff have been carrying out Step 1 of the cycle, namely agreeing with their supervisors on their objectives, the competencies to be demonstrated, as well as their training and development needs for the year, supported by refresher training events and a telephone and e-mail helpline. A number of Divisions and Bureaux at Headquarters, as well as offices in the field, organized a "CMS Day" where time was set aside to undertake this important activity. In February and March 1998, a mid-term review will be undertaken where staff and supervisors will examine progress achieved and make any necessary adjustments.

(b) Emphasis is being placed on monitoring the functioning of the new system. The experience gathered in the course of the implementation of Step 1 (as well as the remainder of the CMS cycle) will be used to help refine and, possibly, simplify the new system. This is likely to include, among other things, a review of the competency framework. Other CMS priorities for the coming months are the introduction of a CMS data collection tool, as well as work on the integration of CMS data into key human resource processes such as recruitment, postings, promotions and training.

23. Posting of staff:

(a) Early in the Delphi process it was recognized that a change was needed in the way in which UNHCR assigns and deploys its staff, and that a more effective procedure would make an important contribution to enhancing the organization's efficiency. Recently, a significant step in this direction has been taken with the decision to introduce a new process with respect to the "Compendium" which lists posts that are, or are expected to become, vacant.

(b) These changes are currently being reviewed by the Joint Staff/Management Advisory Committee (JAC) before being introduced in 1998. Previously issued on a yearly basis, the new Compendium will be issued every month. In addition, streamlined procedures for application and decisions on posts are being introduced. These changes will facilitate vacancy management, bring greater transparency to the postings process, and ensure a more effective match between the requirements of individuals and the organization.

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

(a) A plan for implementing in 1998 the delegation of human resource management for locally-recruited staff in the field has been developed by DHRM. The main aim is to improve the responsiveness of administrative actions by having them taken as close as possible to the duty station, while introducing greater accountability in the management of human resources.

(b) The delegation will be supported by the delivery of extensive training and tools (such as a Field Human Resources Administration Manual) in 1998.

25. Joint Staff/Management Consultative System:

(a) Constructive dialogue between staff and management is critical for the well-being of any organization, and particularly one the size of UNHCR. The Staff Council and DHRM have developed a proposed new Joint Staff/Management Consultative System which has been broadly endorsed by senior management and will be implemented globally during 1998.

(b) A new three-tier system of consultation at the local, regional and global level has been proposed, with the tier three Joint Consultative Committee (JCC) officially replacing the JAC by the last quarter of 1998. The new system will ensure that all staff are able to express their views on those issues that affect the conditions of their work and life, and that consultations between staff and management are clear and transparent.

Systems Replacement

26. A first step towards the eventual replacement of UNHCR's information and decision support systems has now been completed. Following the receipt of responses from vendors to the Request for Information (RFI) (issued by UNHCR in mid-July 1997) for integrated financial (planning, finance and budget), supply chain and human resource management software, three integrated software products have been shortlisted. In preparation for the next step, the issuance of a Request for Proposals (RFP), a more detailed review of the information systems requirements of the organization, as well as of other potential solutions that could supplement gaps in the shortlisted software, will be carried out in the first half of 1998. This process will be undertaken within the framework of the fourth OMS project area, namely Software Systems Development (see also paragraphs 7 and 8 above).

27. In October 1997, the SMC undertook an initial review of a draft Strategic Information Technology (IT) Plan for UNHCR with a planning horizon of the next five years. The document is being finalized, following which it will be submitted to the SMC for final approval.

Decentralization of Financial Services

28. As set out in the Project Delphi Plan of Action, DFIS is responsible for providing the Office with accurate and timely annual accounts and for maintaining a vigilant and effective control over the financial operations of the Office. In addition to the work being done within the context of the new Operations Management System for a new financial management system to replace the current Financial and Management Information System (FMIS), the DFIS has undertaken the following activities aimed at supporting its strategy for the decentralization of certain financial functions:

(i) DFIS has been restructured to provide an integrated financial service at Headquarters which will focus on analysis, policy setting, issuance of guidelines and training;

(ii) Work on partial delinking from the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG) has advanced and implementation is scheduled to begin as of January 1998. It is envisaged that this will allow UNHCR better control over its accounts, as well as end delays in processing and posting of accounts;

(iii) The gradual transfer of the responsibility for accounts processing from Headquarters to the Field will begin as of January 1998, with the former Yugoslavia and Southern Africa operations assuming these functions as of that date. Other operations will follow progressively during 1998, as the pre-requisites in terms of training and staffing are met;

(iv) To date, three training modules on financial management have been developed and delivered to senior managers, middle managers and local staff of former Yugoslavia and Southern Africa operations. The next round of training is planned for the second and third quarter of 1998. Two other training modules are being prepared, one targeting implementing partners and the other targeting competency development for General Service staff;

(v) Job descriptions for the Financial Management Advisor (FMA) have been developed and posts are gradually being staffed as another pre-requisite to decentralization and further delegation of authority. These positions are key to ensuring the integrity of financial administration and for advising the Directors of Operations on all aspects of budgetary and financial management; and

(vi) DFIS has also finalized a paper on Financial Management Accountability which has been widely distributed, including to all Representatives in the field. It defines key principles to guide managers in discharging their increased financial management responsibilities. A practical "checklist" on financial management accountability for senior managers, as well as an instrument specifying to whom what authority is being delegated, are also being prepared to complement the paper.


29. Details of progress on the 100 actions listed in the Delphi Implementation Plan (EC/47/SC/CRP.23, annex) can be found in the attached Annex. More than half have now already been implemented and many others, which are still ongoing, have already achieved substantial progress. The remaining major actions (discussed in Section II B above) will remain priority projects in 1998 and these can be summarized as follows:

(i) Operations Management System: further development of the OMS, including formulation of new planning mechanisms, design of a new budget structure, the establishment of new processes, procedures and tools in electronic format as a Field Operations Manual, and accountability mechanisms;

(ii) Protection: establishment of a protection database which will facilitate the task of the DIP in monitoring UNHCR's protection activities to ensure the consistency of those activities worldwide;

(iii) Supply Chain: establishment of a supply chain linking the Field with Headquarters and incorporating asset management,

(iv) Systems replacement: replacement of UNHCR's corporate financial and personnel information systems and the introduction of field systems in the areas of operations planning/management, finance and personnel;

(v) Human Resources Management: the delegation and decentralization of human resource authority and processes, the implementation of CMS, and the review of the essential components of human resource management in the areas of core/non-core posts, recruitment, contractual arrangements, postings, promotion, rewards and sanctions, and staff reduction;

(vi) Financial Services: a new financial management system and implementation of the decentralization of financial functions.

30. Since its inception in late 1995, The Project Delphi umbrella has proven to be a useful mechanism in providing a framework for the planning of change projects and for their initial implementation. With more than half of the changes now implemented, it is important to give priority to the six project areas outlined above and which are critical to overall success. The work in 1998 will therefore focus on these projects and resources will be targeted towards this end.

31. It is essential that efforts in the six priority areas are complementary. While initiatives started under Project Delphi are being mainstreamed in the Office's structure, the need for coordination and complementarity of these and future change programmes has to be maintained. Structural adjustments will take place, to this effect, through the utilization of existing resources. The function of Director for Change will be continued in 1998, with responsibility to provide coordination of, and guidance for, UNHCR's change initiatives.

32. The Standing Committee will be provided with further reports on progress in the above six areas at future meetings.

(Note: Tabular Annex not included in this online version. See your nearest UN Depository Library.)

1 This table updates annex I of EC/47/SC/CRP.23.

2 Acronyms are spelt-out in the key on page 27.