Cabinet Office dangles £15m for help ditching its Single Operating Platform for cloud-based ERP system

Project 'SOP2SaaS'... it just rolls off the tongue

The Cabinet Office is offering a £15m contract for a consultancy to help it shift central government enterprise applications to an as software-as-a-service delivery model, part of an ambitious refresh programme.

The tender notice, published earlier this week, is the first sign the British government is forging ahead with its application refresh programme since PM Boris Johnson's administration won office. It states licences for the applications the winning bidder will implement and configure will be procured separately.

The tender asks for a service partner to "facilitate an operations and technology transformation across finance, HR, payroll and procurement and the replacement of the Single Operating Platform ('SOP') and associated systems… with a Software as a Service ('SaaS') cloud-based Enterprise Resource Planning ('ERP') solution".

Hence the catchy moniker of the SOP2SaaS programme.

In December last year, Andy Helliwell, executive director of Government Shared Services (GSS) at the Cabinet Office, published a blog, saying: "The move to [a] cloud-based ERP system is the essential precondition for other aspects of the strategy. We need to sustain momentum here. Our strategy highlights our preferred approaches and how we should be working with suppliers and implementation partners."

Alongside it, the government also published a strategy document [PDF] that describes how the implementation of a single, core ERP system offers departments "greater efficiency and value relative to the substantial investment required".

The plan is to shift all government departments to one of three application providers. The strategy doc says the government shared services body "currently has the ability to support three tier-one suppliers (Oracle, SAP and Workday) with products that meet government's requirements for moving to the cloud (SaaS)".

The strategy document also notes that the GSS has provided "business case guidance to support departments with ERP procurement".

Meanwhile, a Workday pilot at the Government Commercial Organisation (GCO) and a Home Office switch to Oracle Fusion Financials in the cloud have been done and dusted. The Home Office is now implementing Oracle Fusion HR applications.

The strategy document maps out the Whitehall enterprise application estate (see diagram), which also includes MHR Integra (payroll software), Agresso and Microsoft.

It claims the new architecture will be based on "open standards, consistent technical designs and APIs will be used to link systems, creating a seamless, faster, error-free workflow that greatly improves our overall effectiveness".

The GSS expects Single Operating Platform to move to the cloud in roughly 2021.

Clearly a lot of the government's thinking is based on the Home Office's migration to cloud Fusion applications. But the Home Office's history with Oracle has not always been a happy one.

In 2006, a damning report from the National Audit Office described failures with new accounting systems for the department's inability to deliver its accounts on time. Once a fix was implemented, it led to an adjustment of the bank account and creditor balances by £67m, according to Parliamentary records.

They say history repeats itself: first as tragedy, then as farce. Let's hope for the government's grand application strategy this aphorism is proved untrue. ®

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