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Detica Placement Report

Durim Manaj
EM962
080727240

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List of contents

1 Acknowledgements 3

2 Introduction 5

3 Detica 7
3.1 Overview 7
3.2 Structure 7
3.3 Clients 8

4 My role in the Organisation 10

5 Projects I was assigned to 12


5.1 Project 1 – Fraud Management System 12
5.2 Project 2 - VSS 13
5.3 Project 3 – London School Travel management system (SPTS) 13
5.4 Project 4 - SupportWorks 14

6 Problems Encountered 16
6.1 Project-based 16
6.2 Personal 16

7 Newly acquired and developed skills 19


7.1 Technical 19
7.2 Transferable skills 19
7.3 Where I applied my university knowledge 20

8 Summary 22

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1 Acknowledgements

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1 Acknowledgements
I would like to thank Claire Revell, Queen Mary Industrial placement manager, for
her support with my application for the placement and her continual support and
advice while working at Detica. Thank you Claire.

I would also like to thank the Detica managed services team for welcoming me into
your great team and making me feel welcome from my first day. You were always
there to help me if I ever needed it. Working with all of you was a pleasure. Special
thanks to Mark, Andrew and Richard. Thank you Mark for always pushing me to
become better and helping me understand everything. Thank you Andrew for taking
me under your wing from the beginning and helping me become more confident in
my own abilities. Thank you Richard for being so approachable and helpful with any
questions I ever had.

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2 Introduction

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2 Introduction
The degree I study at Queen Mary, University of London gave me the opportunity to
also work for one year. One of the main reasons for my choice was that my
chances of getting a graduate job would greatly improve thanks to the skills I would
acquire by completing the placement year.

This report will give you an overview of my Industrial Experience at Detica. I will be
talking about the company I was working for, where I was based, what work I was
doing and what I have gained from this Industrial placement year.

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3 Detica

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3 Detica
3.1 Overview
Detica is an international technology consulting company specialised in collecting,
managing and exploiting information to reveal actionable intelligence. The company
was founded in 1970 by Bruce Smith who developed system-engineering
techniques for NASA’s Apollo space programme. It was initially called Smith
Associates and its mission was to carry out research on defence matters for the UK
government. The company grew steadily over the years, with further expansions in
the public sector and its first foray into international markets in 1995. In 2002 the
company was floated on the London Stock Exchange and was subsequently
renamed to Detica. In 2008 BAE systems, the largest European defence and
Security Company acquired Detica in alignment with its company strategy to
expand its Intelligence and Security business. Detica has a proud reputation for
being able to solve complex and demanding challenges, as recently shown in the
work Detica has been doing in cyber space. This highly influenced my decision to
work at Detica.

3.2 Structure
Detica is structured into different business units. Some of these business units are:
 Consulting
o Detica is mainly a consultant led company providing bespoke
consulting services to its clients helping them achieve their business
objectives. Detica excels in solving its clients’ most complex
problems.
 System Integration & Manages Services
o This business unit delivers world-class systems development and
integration services to Detica’s clients. They plan, create, developed,
release and support large computer systems. System Integration is
mainly responsible for building unique computer systems. Managed
Services then provide a wide range of services to the Detica clients,
such as application management, infrastructure management and
data analytics. Both of these business units work closely with the
clients.
 Electronic Systems Group
o Its roles are to design, build and install world leading technology. The
services they offer are normally tailor made to specific client’s
business needs. They provide a competitive advantage to their
clients by using custom made or off-the-shelf technologies.
 NetReveal
o This unit is responsible for operating the NetReveal software
package. It is a global software product providing solutions to detect
fraud and manage risk and crime. This software is used in Banking,
Insurance, Border protection, Tax compliance and Intelligence &
Defence.
 Business Development.
o A multi-disciplinary group within Detica whose primary aim is to help
the business achieve an ongoing, sustained growth.

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These business units are then assigned to a client type, including among others
Intelligence, Defence or Commercial clients (see Figure 1). One business unit can
be assigned to multiple client types and multiple client types can be assigned to a
single business unit. The business unit I was assigned to was the ‘Managed
Services’, the department providing 2nd and 3rd line support to clients. Prior to the
Detica Managed Services creation in 2001, most projects were delivered without
any formalised project support, hence creating difficulties for Detica to fix issues
with the system after it had gone live, as the developers had been re-assigned to
other projects. To address this issue, Managed Services was formed to provide the
clients with long term application support. Since then, the business unit has greatly
expanded and has become a major contributor to the company turnover. Detica
employees are based in offices all over the UK as well as internationally. The
company’s headquarters is based in Guildford, where I have been spending most of
my placement year.

Figure 1. Detica company structure.


3.3 Clients
Detica is now seen as the primary service provider for a number of different clients.
These clients all vary in the work they do, but they all use Detica to help them
achieve their business objectives, be it to stop insurance fraud, identify threats to
the public or provide creative services. Figure 2 shows some of the clients that
Detica currently works for.

Figure 2. Detica clients.

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4 My role in the Organisation

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4 My role in the Organisation


I have been working as a technical consultant, providing 2 nd and 3rd line support to
four different projects, making me the first point of contact for any incidents. I will
describe the tasks I had to perform for each project as well as general tasks
applying to all of them. My main responsibility was to maintain a good relationship
with the client by offering a satisfying service to their systems. Moreover, all
incidents were to be resolved within the pre-agreed time frame. I also had to make
sure that the management team was aware of any serious incidents reported by the
client.

As a technical consultant, I had to diagnose the cause of faults on the system and
implement valid workarounds and fixes, which involved logging issues within a
Service Level Agreement (SLA)-tracking application called SupportWorks. After an
incident had been raised in SupportWorks, I had to let the client know that the issue
was acknowledged by the team, who would then work on it and solve it. This was
done to ensure that all Service Level Agreements (SLA) were met. An SLA is a
contract between Detica and the client by which the company and client agree on
the response/workaround time for each type of incident, which differed according to
the type of incident. The ‘severity 1’ incident type implied that the whole system was
not working. The response time for this was 30 minutes and the workaround time
was within 2 hours, which meant that we had to respond to the client within 30
minutes after they had reported the incident and solve the issue within 2 hours. It is
important that all SLA’s are met in order to keep a good relationship with the client.

My role at Detica is crucial, as it provides a communication channel for clients to


contact the firm when they have any issues with the system they are using.
Moreover, Detica provides support with the systems sold to clients, which makes
the company stand out from its competitors: the client is assured that a support
team is provided in case of problem.

Another responsibility was to complete the monthly service reports for the Detica
clients. The monthly service reports not only show the client all the work done on
their system for the last month but also inform the client of all the incidents and
problems. The client is therefore assured that the support provided is worth the
money spent. In addition, an internal critical incident report was to be written once a
month. This included information on all critical incidents (Severity 1 & 2) raised in
the last month. The report was then sent to the Managed Services management
team.

On a weekly rotation, I am once a month responsible for answering all support calls
on the Detica support phone. Each client is given a unique support phone number,
all the support numbers are then forwarded to a single Detica phone, called the
‘Batphone’. I particularly enjoyed my ‘Batphone’ duties as I was directly
communicating with different clients, which gave me an insight into all the different
projects managed by Detica.

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5 Projects I was assigned to

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5 Projects I was assigned to


5.1 Project 1 – Fraud Management System

5.1.1 Overview
The Fraud Management System was the project I spent most of my placement time
on. The client was one of the major telecommunications companies in the UK. The
purpose was to prevent stolen mobile handsets from being used fraudulently whilst
roaming outside their ‘home’ country. For example, if a UK subscriber got his
handset stolen while being on holiday and the latter used to make a £4000
fraudulent phone call, the subscriber would not have to pay these charges.
However, the phone company would still lose money in the phone call. A Fraud
Management system was hence designed by Detica to detect any fraudulent phone
call and inform the client, who would thus be able to investigate the call and
determine whether the phone call was fraud or genuine. All international call data
records are sent to the Detica Fraud Management system using the Near Real-
Time Roaming Data Exchange (NRTRDE) format. The introduction of the NRTRDE
mechanism in 2008 significantly reduced the time taken for all data records to be
received by Detica, thus improving the ability of the system to detect fraudulent
phone calls and stop them reoccurring. Another purpose of the Fraud Management
System was to send all call data records generated by foreign visitors roaming on
the UK network back to their ‘home’ networks, enabling them to detect whether the
calls made on the UK network were fraudulent. All call data records generated by
subscribers roaming on a network had to be returned to their ‘home’ subscriber
network within 4 hours of the call terminating.

5.1.2 My role and Responsibilities


I was providing 2nd and 3rd line support for this system (See Figure 3). The main
task was to make sure all call data records were sent to the ‘home’ subscriber
network within 4 hours. In case of failure, I had to investigate the root cause of the
problem and fix it within the SLA time frame. If no data was being sent at all, it had
to be solved within 2 hours. If less then 50% of the data was not being sent, the
time frame was then 4 hours. It was crucial that SLA’s were maintained at all times.
In case of incident, the client was to be informed immediately not only of the
problem, but also of what we were doing to fix it as well as the estimated resolution
time. Each client was given a unique Detica reference number assigned to the
problem, which facilitated the identification of the problem for future references. I
also had to make sure the Fraud Management system was receiving data from
foreign networks to help the UK
network investigate fraudulent
calls. Whenever Detica was not
receiving call data records from
our foreign partners, I contacted
the 3rd party company responsible
for delivering our data, asking
them to investigate the reason.
After that, I would raise a unique
Detica reference number and
assign it to the problem so we
could easily identify it. Figure 3. Detica 2nd and 3rd Line responsibilities

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5.2 Project 2 - VSS

5.2.1 Overview
The project VSS was also for a major UK telecommunications client, providing their
subscribers with access to mobile services directly to their home or office from their
existing 3G handset. The project is based on a femtocell device, which offers
secure 3G access to the clients’ core network via a standard DSL broadband
connection. This device is used to boost 3G signals in areas with low signal
strength. This system enables customers to make phone calls in more areas and
thus more often, as a result increasing the telecommunication companies’
revenues. The system is simple to activate and manage by the customer using the
internet, hence minimising calls to the call centre.

5.2.2 My role and Responsibilities


My role in this system was to ensure that customers could activate their femtocells
using the internet. Some incidents encountered were due to too many customers
trying to activate their femtocells at once: the system would then take longer than
usual to activate everything. As a result, the confirmation message would take too
long to appear on the customers’ computer screen. Sometimes, femtocells were
even rejected by the management system. We investigated this issue by looking
through all the logs. Most of the time, the issue would be solved by assigning a new
serial number to the femtocell, thus ensuring that it was unique and didn’t already
exist in the database.

5.3 Project 3 – London School Travel management system (SPTS)

5.3.1 Overview
The SPTS is a school travel management system designed for London. The SPTS
offers schools located in London free travel for educational visits. The school would
apply for these tickets using the webpage and navigating to the SPTS page. The
school would need to sign up to the website and create an application stating the
destination and date of the trip. This application would then be forwarded to the
SPTS team to be assessed. If it met all requirements, the application would be
approved and tickets sent to the school. The application assessment was facilitated
for the team, Detica having already implemented requirement checks in the
application process. For example, the application date had to be done at the most
21 days before the date of the trip to give SPTS enough time to process the
application. The ratio between adults and children was checked by the application
process itself, i.e. at least 2 adults for every 10 children.

5.3.2 My role and Responsibilities


My role was to ensure that the schools could easily create applications and submit
them to SPTS for assessment and on the other hand ensuring that SPTS could
access all the applications and was able to either approve or reject them. When
needed, I had to assist the schools or SPTS staff with login details. Although the
SPTS website has a ‘forgot password’ feature, the username is still needed,
therefore why the client would need to contact Detica to be supplied with their
username and instructions. I also completed a change request which allowed SPTS
to prioritise applications based on their travel date. If an application is for a trip

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within one week, it would be highlighted in yellow to show SPTS staff that this is a
priority.

5.4 Project 4 - SupportWorks

5.4.1 Overview
Another of my duties was to support internal software, the SupportWorks
application, a critical software which had to work constantly to enable the staff to
meet all of their Service Level Agreement times. This software was used to create a
unique reference number for all incidents raised in managed Services. This unique
reference number would also be given to the client for future reference while
enquiring about a particular incident. When an incident was raised, a severity would
be assigned to it, enabling the Service Level Agreement timer to begin. If the
incident was not resolved and the client informed within the time frame, the SLA
would be breached.

5.4.2 My role and Responsibilities


Some of the tasks for this project included adding new clients to the software after
new contracts were signed. Incidents were therefore able to be raised for that client.
When new employees joined the Managed Services department, I had to create
accounts for them on the SupportWorks software so that they could raise incidents
for the projects assigned to them. A problem encountered was that the
SupportWorks server had not started on Monday morning due to scheduled
housekeeping tasks the previous weekend. In this case I had to inform the internal
Detica support team, who would solve the problem it by starting the server
manually.

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6 Problems Encountered

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6 Problems Encountered
During my placement, I had to overcome a number of problems, either related to
the projects I was supporting or linked to my settling into Detica.

6.1 Project-based
The main challenge encountered was a latency issue with one of the systems
supported by me, the Fraud Management System. All call data records had to be
sent to the ‘home’ network subscriber within 4 hours but our system was taking
significantly longer to complete, sometimes more than 12 hours. I had to investigate
the reason of this was happening, checking the server logs to see when we were
receiving the files and when they were being sent to the ‘home’ networks. I
discovered that the Fraud Management system was doing this in less than two
minutes, and I concluded that we were receiving files which had already exceeded
the 4 hour limit. I forwarded this information to our client and asked them to check
how long it was taking them to deliver the files to us. They discovered that some of
their FTP collection points were underperforming and were delivering files late. The
client immediately started to implement changes to fix this problem, while I had
created a daily report showing the hourly latency on the system for all to check
whether the latency was improving. This incident was resolved when the client
discovered that there had been a bug in the SQL code used to send the files to us.

Another challenge I encountered was with the service reports. The service reports
are an important mechanism for Detica to show the clients the work done on their
system for the last month. The first time I completed the reports, I felt challenged
because I had to collect different sources of information to show all necessary
information for the last month. At first I had difficulty finding the information and
making sure that it was correctly displayed in the service report. However, the more
service reports I completed, the better I became at analysing the information and
ensuring that all was correct. I later received good feedback from one of my team
leaders stating that my communication skills had greatly improved.

6.2 Personal
In the feedback provided by my manager for my review round, it appeared that it
had taken longer than usual for me to settle into Detica. One of the reasons for this
was that I was not used to a professional working environment. I was
understandably nervous when I first joined the company, I didn’t know the people I
would work with, I didn’t know the projects I would be working for and, most
importantly, I didn’t know if I could handle all the work which would be assigned to
me. Besides, the fact that I had to commute to work did not facilitate my adaptation
to the company, as it takes two hours to travel to my office in Guildford. The working
hours were much longer than at university and the travel time added four hours to it
every day. Nevertheless, after I was introduced to the team and to the projects I
would be working on, the long travel time was not as important a problem anymore,
and I found out that other employees also travelled to Guildford from London. On
my 2nd review round, my manager told me that my attitude to work had greatly
improved since he had last spoken to me. This was also my feeling, as I felt more
confident at Detica. In fact I was more inclined to take initiatives such as picking up
any new incidents and working on them, trying to resolve issues.

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On a more personal level, I found it difficult to overcome the redundancy process


announced by the company. At first I could not really understand why employees
were made redundant, why couldn’t they just re-assign them to different projects?
Because I knew that some of my team mates were being made redundant, I felt
uncomfortable, as if I was taking one of their positions at work, although I was
aware that it was not the case. Moreover, I was impressed by the professional
attitude shown by the employees; the service to the client was never disrupted.
Furthermore, I witnessed the harshness of the business world, as someone’s place
in the company depends on the success of the business. In the end, I felt better as I
discovered that most of them had already found another workplace. This showed
me the importance of building up your employability skills, to ensure that you could
be employable in any IT company.

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7 Newly acquired and


developed skills

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7 Newly acquired and developed skills


7.1 Technical
New skills were acquired from completing training courses at Detica, others were
developed from resolving incidents. A new programming skill I acquired was Ruby
on Rails, a View-Model-Control orientated programming language used to create
web pages. I learnt this programming language by completing a 5 day training
course at Detica. It seemed like a real challenge to learn a new programming
language in only five days but I had no difficulties with it as the week went on. I had
to use Ruby on Rails often while working at Detica. I had to complete a change
request including showing new tables on the website. I also had to add new
features to the website that allowed the user to view, edit, delete and add new users
to the website. I really enjoyed working with Ruby on Rails as I had never done any
work on it before.

Oracle was another program I worked with and acquired through completing a 5
day training course. Oracle was one of the main programming languages I used at
Detica because most of the incidents raised for my projects were related to Oracle,
as the Fraud Management System and VSS were database based projects.
Whenever an incident was raised, I always had to first check that the database was
working correctly. In order to resolve some incidents, I had to write some bespoke
SQL code to alter the database. I also learnt about and had to work with Oracle
streams and Oracle failover capabilities.

I also worked with web technologies during my placement. I had to practice using
XML and .NET programming with some of the projects I was supporting. As my
placement went on, I understood that I didn’t need to become an expert in any of
these languages to be able to support the system, but rather understand how the
programming language worked as well as its syntax. I had to work with many
different software packages including Virtual Private Network software, Toad, Putty,
Visual Studio, SQL Server Management, Eclipse and most importantly Microsoft
Outlook.

7.2 Transferable skills


Throughout my placement at Detica I had to use a lot of ‘soft’ skills to resolve
incidents and be able to communicate with my clients. The main skill which
improved was communication. I had to communicate with my clients daily over the
phone and via email. This was necessary, as a good client relationship is just as
important as the product the company offers. I was also communicating with my
team leader daily to keep him updated with my progress on the tasks that I was
working on. My written communication skills were thus greatly improved. Whenever
I communicated with my clients through service reports and emails, I had to ensure
that my language was professional. Furthermore, I was in charge of the ‘Batphone’
support phone (the Detica Helpline) once a month. This was the phone number all
clients of Detica contact if they have an issue with any of their systems. I was
responsible for then passing on the details to the relevant support team so they
could solve the problem within the SLA time.

Team working skills were of crucial importance. When an incident was raised, I had
to communicate with different people on my team i.e. my manager, team leader and
other support analysts. During team meetings I had to communicate with all my

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team, inform them of my progress and any problems since the last meeting. I also
had to listen to their feedback and make changes according to it.

My time management skills were tested. I had to make sure all deadlines were
respected. This included monthly service reports and project maintenance releases.
I also learnt how to maximise the effectiveness of my working day. I created a daily
‘to-do’ list to plan my daily tasks. I also informed my team leader of them and
sometimes changed them according to his feedback. Also my two-hour journey to
work enabled me to practice my time management.

My organising skills were of great importance during my placement. An example of


this is when I had to write my service reports, which had to be sent to the client by
the 9th each month. I had to take into account the number of days it would take to
complete the service reports as well as the time needed by upper management to
review the document before it was sent. In order to actually write the report, I had to
gather different sources of information and organise them effectively so they would
be useful for the client. While working on maintenance releases, I was just given a
due-date and had to organise my time effectively for all the tasks so the release
was completed on time. Moreover, I had to ensure that I still had some time
available for my commitments with my other projects. I was supporting four different
projects and had to manage my time between them to make sure I could support
any system at any given time if a serious incident occurred. I adopted a highly
structured, analytical and systematic approach to solving incidents and problems.

7.3 Where I applied my university knowledge


I was able to pick up new programming languages quickly because I had already
acquired the skill of learning new programming languages at University. I was
aware that in order to learn a new language, you have to first understand its syntax
and then start writing simple code. You then move onto more complicated skills.
This is the process I followed to learn Ruby on Rails. Moreover, while studying the
Database Systems module, I had studied SQL, which was very useful because
during my placement I had to use SQL to resolve a number of incidents.
Through my Software Engineering module I had practiced my team working skills. I
was able to overcome the problems we had in our team such as people being late
to our meeting and not doing their work. This experience was very helpful for my
placement because people in the team would sometimes have a different solution
to an incident, so we had to agree on a right approach. Moreover, my Software
Engineering project allowed me to work with people from diverse backgrounds.
While at University I had to manage my time efficiently, having to complete work
within the deadline given, which was very useful on my placement as all my work
had to be completed within a time frame. Overall the main connection between my
degree and my work placement was the idea of working towards objectives and
having to complete them within a deadline.
Overall through my University I experienced a combination of different skills which
helped me settle into Detica, although I think I improved the most as my placement
year progressed. I was able to practice a range of different personal and technical
skills which allowed me to get the most out of my placement.

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8 Summary

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8 Summary
Overall I really enjoyed my placement at Detica. I saw myself becoming more
confident in my abilities as a computer scientist. From my placement I gained a good
understanding of my abilities and employability, my qualities and what I still need to
improve. Before joining the company, I thought that my ‘people’ skills were good and
that I needed to focus on my technical skills. However, while working, I realised that I
could pick up new programming languages and that on the other hand my ‘people’
skills needed to be improved. Throughout my placement, I practiced all of these skills
and towards the end I was comfortable in using them.

I enjoyed actually working with technology. At university, we had been taught each
module individually, such as database and web technologies, but at Detica I was able
to use the skills taught in several modules in one system. I see university as a means
to build blocks of knowledge and during my placement I was able to see all these
blocks built together into a system.

Moreover, it was an opportunity to see the inner working of an IT company. This


allowed me to learn about different roles in the company, which will help me in my
choice of career for the future. My passion for computer sciences greatly developed
from this experience, which showed me the different possibilities I would have after
completing my degree.

Furthermore, the knowledge and attitude I have acquired from my placement year
will be useful for my 4th year at university. It has also given me ideas about the kind of
projects I would like to work on as my ‘final year project’.

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