Brit local authority appoints a systems integrator in leap to Oracle cloud, but support time-bomb is already ticking

This should have been started a year ago, Solihull council docs say

Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council, responsible for administering the sleepy suburban cul-de-sac just south of Birmingham, England, has awarded a £1.6m contract to an ERP systems integrator.

But before the contract has even started, the winner, Version 1 Solutions, could find itself up against a pressing deadline.

The council has commissioned the service provider to help it take the leap from its ageing Oracle ERP system to a shiny new cloud system. The problem is, work was already supposed to have started, according to council documents.

The authority has been using Oracle E-Business Suite since 1999. But the system, described as "a major strategic system for the Authority", is in need of an upgrade. This is because of a strategic decision to continue with Oracle, the ending of prime support on the current version of Oracle EBS in 2021, and the digital ambitions of the council, the document said.

"The version of Oracle EBS that is installed across the Council is version 12.1; this version will end premier support at the end December 2021. It is therefore essential that the migration project commences early in the financial year 2019/20 to ensure that the migration is complete by the end of December 2021. This will need to be done whichever option the Council decides to take," said a planning document submitted to a council meeting in December 2018.

Already well into the financial year for 20/21, the timing to appoint an SI to guide the complex migration may present some challenges to the vendor.

Oracle itself will of course be fine. In April last year, the council awarded Big Red a £4m contract, without any competition, to cover its move to Oracle Cloud.

In the tender document, the council said it needed to upgrade its core finance, HR, procurement, organisational development and business intelligence functions from its own on-premises systems to a cloud-based system.

"Oracle's Software as a Service (SaaS) financials, human capital management and other technology components have been selected as providing the best way forward to both replicate current facilities and provide a basis for transformation," it said.

The council's justification for avoiding other suppliers in the ERP market in a fair and open competition was that it had invested a large amount of finance and resources into operating the software and systems.

"Moving away from Oracle would therefore cause disproportionate technical difficulties, and the cost of moving to a different system would be prohibitively high," the contract extension notice said. "SMBC needs to invest in upgrading the system, in order to future proof business critical systems, therefore SMBC has decided to move to Oracle's latest product, Fusion Cloud."

The Oracle contract includes "scope to cover any potential future purchases or upgrades to software and products as well as providing headroom should the number of licences required change over time".

We can only hope the council has budgeted for additional support to keep its old version of Oracle running just in case the project slips and they are not ready to migrate when the prime support for 12.1 runs out. The clock is already ticking. ®

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