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Application Development & Cloud Solutions

Case Study – Clean Energy Regulator   

Background 

The Clean Energy Regulator (CER) is responsible for accelerating carbon abatement for Australia through the administration of the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting scheme, Renewable Energy Target, and the Emissions Reduction Fund. As part of the Government’s Climate Solutions Package, the Climate Solutions Fund provided an injection of $2 billion towards projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the economy through the existing Emissions Reduction Fund, including giving farmers, small businesses and Indigenous communities the chance to improve the local environment and benefit from new revenue opportunities.  

These funds and schemes are administered via systems internally developed and maintained by CER. The systems primarily use cloud-based Microsoft Dynamics 365 as the central repository of information. Staff members also internally access Dynamics 365 to administer and report on the schemes. 

The Dynamics 365 system was migrated from an older on-premise installation in 2019 to the Microsoft Power Platform cloud. The transition to cloud infrastructure highlighted several deficiencies in the architecture, stability and flexibility of the systems, which limit their capacity to support changes to the above schemes.  

Objective  

CER engaged Chalfont to provide development and advisory services to help stabilise the existing functionality within the system and enable new functionality to be developed in a standardised, robust way. As part of the engagement, CER needed to mature the processes around management of code and introduce continuous integration and the deployment of code. 

Chalfont was also responsible for providing general improvements to the system as they were raised by the business over the course of the engagement. 

Solution 

Chalfont provided development services and expertise that followed Microsoft best-practice patterns and guidance. This was actioned directly working with CER to enable these patterns and practices to be implemented. 

This included: 

  • Providing advisory services in relation to Microsoft Dynamics 365 best practices and techniques for development; 
  • Reviewing the current state of the code base, including methods and practices used for improving, maintaining and deploying the code; 
  • Restructuring the code repositories for the CER to a monorepo (single repository for codes and assets) pattern that allowed related code to be managed more efficiently; and 
  • Developing solutions to complex business problems using the techniques and processes described above. 

Additionally, part of the solution was to enable knowledge transfer. Chalfont developed a Wiki that development staff could access, extend and contribute to, containing: 

  • Best-practice guidance on the creation of Dynamics 365 products and artefacts tailored specifically to CER requirements; 
  • Agreed architectural decisions that have a day-to-day impact on developers, such as how development environments are to be established and run; 
  • Documentation on all Dynamics 365 environments and their purpose; 
  • Security configuration and design, from business, functional and technical perspectives; and 
  • Documentation on all configuration tables within the system including their purpose and if changes are required between development, test and production environments. 

Approach  

Chalfont has a strong focus on understanding users, their needs and problems and how best to deliver a solution that addresses these in a sustainable way. As part of the CER project, Chalfont: 

  • Worked as part of a larger scrum team, following the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) ensured we were able to deliver value to each program increment; 
  • Learnt and understood the systems, and their relative complexities, to respond to changing priorities and issues; 
  • Had experience using Azure DevOps and a culture of using and maintaining Epics, Features, Product Backlog Items and Tasks; 
  • Had the capability to assist in the analysis, design, and workshopping of solutions for business using User Story and Journey Maps, and associated tools such as Azure DevOps and Miro; 
  • Developed solutions using both Behaviour-Driven Development (BDD) and Test-Driven Development (TDD), and used automation tools and continuous integration; and 
  • provided experience in Dynamics 365 and .NET Development with a focus on Microsoft Cloud Services. 

Overcoming Challenges 

Chalfont faced several challenges in delivering a satisfactory outcome to CER, these included: 

  • Lack of System Support Documentation: the existing system did not have any documentation available regarding its configuration or structure. Chalfont proposed and subsequently developed a Wiki within Azure DevOps that provided much of this information and would allow for it to be added to over time; 
  • Legacy Code and Functionality: the existing system was initially developed over a decade ago and relied on several external systems and processes to operate. Chalfont recommended a change to this approach to both simplify and centralise code rather than relying on external systems to perform the processing. 

Outcomes Delivered  

As part of Chalfont’s engagement at CER we have: 

  • Enabled the CER Dynamics 365 team to automate the deployment of Dynamics 365 solutions from development through to production using Azure DevOps Pipelines; this includes automated unit testing and UI testing using Microsoft recommended tooling such as EasyRepo; 
  • Developed a recommended approach for Dynamics 365 environment management, including automating the processes for environment creation, unit testing and regression testing; this also addressed aspects such as the management of production data including data cleansing and scrubbing; 
  • Led the improvement of the Dynamics 365 system, in particular ensuring that the application is managed in accordance with Microsoft best practice, best-practice guidance and documentation regarding the system were also subsequently incorporated into Azure DevOPS Wikis; and 
  • Reviewed the existing code repositories and structures and provided recommendations on how to improve the management of code. These were accepted by CER and Chalfont successfully implemented them. 

Chalfont also worked closely with a business unit to design and develop an automated process for performing complex year-on-year calculations and forecasting for high carbon dioxide emitting facilities.  

Previously, these calculations were manually entered and calculated via a spreadsheet. This task took approximately 30 minutes per facility report, with approximately 100 reports delivered yearly. As a result of Chalfont’s engagement, these manual processes have been eliminated entirely for most facilities or, where required, reduced to a manual-input task taking approximately 30 seconds to complete.