The Health and Research Council of New Zealand embarks on an application transformation journey

The Health and Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) manages the Government's investment in health research. The council supports a workforce of 2,446 people including full-time equivalents, research contractors and part-timers across more than 30 research institutions.

In the 2012/2013 financial period the HRC invested $84.39M to support health research, delivering health gains for New Zealand. The organisation also contributes to maintaining an ethical and safe health research environment, by providing advice on gene technology, approving health and disability and institutional ethics committees, monitoring the data and safety of large clinical trials and reviewing applications to use new medicines in trials.

The majority of the HRC’s funding for operational costs and investment in health research is provided from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. Further contributions for funding come from agencies and organisations that are involved in the HRC’s Partnership Programme. 

The Challenge

Managing the complex and growing demands of the funding and reporting processes requires the HRC to have robust, secure systems. More than a decade had passed since Datacom developed the HRC’s primary funding management system, called ERIC, using Microsoft VB6 technology. The system was designed to manage funding applications, proposals and reporting across the organisation. It was now ageing however, running on legacy technology and could no longer support a rapidly changing environment. It became evident to the HRC that the system would not be capable of complete integration with the new technology portfolio. A previous attempt to upgrade one of the applications already integrated with ERIC had led to a permanent break in connectivity between the two, and three weeks effort to put a workaround in place.

The HRC embarked on an application transformation journey with the development of RATA – a new application to replace the legacy system.

The Solution

Since the development of ERIC Datacom had provided application management services for the HRC, supporting business requirements through enhancements and change requests. This strong existing relationship with the HRC led to Datacom being the service provider of choice for the application transformation project. Furthermore, the business knowledge and technical experience gathered during ERIC’s life cycle meant HRC trusted Datacom with the full responsibility for defining the strategy and best approach.

The first phase of the project involved extensive business analysis to review all existing requirements.

The new application was built with the vision of efficient, ongoing supportability using a robust technology stack. The unified platform went live in September 2014 with modern and highly customisable interfaces, more efficient binding in data services, and stronger integration with current Microsoft technologies and other applications. Importantly, it is also standards compliant.

The application was designed to interface with multiple systems and is expected to bring substantial operating cost savings to the business and to enhance the quality of ongoing support.

The HRC now has a solution that is fresh and technologically advanced. End-users have a solution that is efficient and fit-for-purpose. Datacom has established a framework for high-quality, cost efficient support. While RATA is new and modern, it retains elements of the look-and feel of the old system, which has reduced retraining needs.

“We now have a system that will ensure our future needs are met as we develop new in-house applications. Our long standing professional relationship with Datacom ensured our business needs were met and delivered.”

Vivien Lovell - Group Manager Business Systems, Health Research Council of New Zealand

The Partnership

Datacom and the HRC have developed a long-term relationship as a result of close collaboration, effective issue tracking, and a responsive team with a flexible approach. The high level of engagement with the client through all stages of the project led to the delivery of a high-quality solution.


  • The design of a fit-for-purpose application which mirrors the dynamic health and research sector
  • Users save time and effort through better usability, a richer graphic environment, up-to-date technologies, integration with other systems, and better reporting
  • Improved functionality through better supportability and systems interoperability

Technologies Delivered

  • Windows desktop software application
  • Microsoft technologies: .NET 4.5, Windows Presentation Foundation, Entity Framework
  • Microsoft Exchange, AD, Crystal Reports, Excel