Cheshire Police celebrates three-year migration to Oracle Fusion by lobbing out tender for system to replace it... one year later

Fighting crimes in between upgrading databases

Updated Cheshire cops have begun tendering for a new £11 million ERP system just a 12 months after the current one - Oracle Fusion - went live following a three-year migration.

In a notice published last week, Cheshire Constabulary, on behalf of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, said it was looking for a "supplier to provide a solution, or combination of systems" to "support functions including finance and procurement, purchase to pay, HR, reporting and payroll service".

The prior information notice, usually issued to whet suppliers' appetites before procurement officially starts, revealed the police force is "keen to understand the level of interest in this opportunity" and is set to hold an online supplier event on 7 May.

Suppliers may want to know what they are getting themselves into. The tender notice makes no mention of Oracle technology, upon which the force has been running its functions as part of a "Multi-Force Shared Service" group set up in April 2012 between Northamptonshire Police and Cheshire Constabulary. Nottinghamshire Police joined in April 2015 and Civil Nuclear Constabulary in April 2016. Capgemini was the services partner.

This promised an "integrated ERP and duty management system (DMS) with a modern self-service and mobile interface," according to a Capgemini report published in 2017 that detailed the project [PDF].

The system is important because it integrates the finance and HR aspects with how the force is run – who is on duty and when.

The tender documents made it clear Cheshire police plans to sever that link but did not specify why. It stated the future system "will need to have the ability to interface/integrate with critical systems such as: duty management, force control, operational training."

Fusion defuses

The multi-force system initially was built on Oracle E-business suite and plans began for an upgrade around September 2016. The following month, the management board [PDF] cheerfully said the "investment in Fusion upgrade on the Oracle platform within the Multi-Force Shared Service alongside new partners" would "generate future savings and improve services."

But then, things did not exactly go according to plan. Although an Internal Audit Plan said the move to put finance on Oracle Fusion would take place in October 2018, it was delayed.

Worse, the expected new partners in the project began to drop out.

At the point of setting the 2018/19 budget, Avon & Somerset and Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service were still anticipating joining the Fusion project. But in July 2019, a management board report [PDF] said, "With both organisations deciding to withdraw, Cheshire's share of the costs increased. These include holding CapGemini, the key contractor, to account for any failures on their part."

Oracle Cloud Applications eventually went live on 1 April 2019, according to an audit report [PDF]. The report detailed the cost of the delay to the Multi-Force Shared Services as £1.02m.

A six-month delay at a cost of around £1m may be par for the course for an Oracle migration project. But that does not explain why, only a year after going live, Cheshire Police is now looking for a new system, with seemingly no intent to keep working with the Oracle system it has just created.

Oracle and Capgemini have so far not responded to The Register's requests for comment. ®

Updated at 11:36 UTC on 01/05/20 to add:

Cheshire Police got in touch to tell us: "This is a prior information notice for a market engagement event which will be taking place virtually on Thursday 7 May. This is a very early stage process, and no decisions have been yet as to future directions."

Updated at 09:07 UTC on 04/05/20 to add:

Cheshire Police has sent us another, updated statement:

Our current contract is set to end in the autumn of 2022 and as a public sector organisation we have a legal duty to go to tender for all contracts worth more than £189,330.

The system we use is extremely complex and it is important that we start planning as early as possible.

In order to ensure that we are able fulfil our statutory requirements, the constabulary will be hosting a market engagement event which will be taking place (virtually) on Thursday 7 May.

This is a very early stage process, and no decisions have been made yet as to future directions.

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