Oracle gets the bunting out for UK Home Office's Fusion go-live amid enterprise software shakeup across Whitehall

Idea was to shift all departments to Big Red's cloud, but some are on Microsoft, Workday, SAP, Integra, and so on


In charge of policing, UK borders and the courts, the Home Office has gone live with Oracle HR as part of the Fusion suite in Big Red's cloud, completing its move to software-as-a-service just as the government shifts plans for moving all central departments onto the SaaS model for ERP.

The Home Office, which employs around 35,000 people, had already shifted its finance, procurement, and expenses systems on to Oracle Fusion and had planned to go live with HR and payroll before the end of fiscal 2020, according to an earlier strategy document from 26 September 2019.

Chief people officer Jill Hatcher said in a pre-canned statement that the Home Office was one of the "largest and most complex government departments in the UK to have successfully migrated all of its finance, commercial, HR and payroll footprint to the cloud."

"This programme has charted the path for other departments to build on our collective experience. This go-live is a critical step in delivering business technology that is more user-centric and allows the Home Office to continually evolve," she said.

The Home Office was named a pathfinder "to work with Government Shared Services (GSS) to develop a blueprint which can then be re-used by other government departments or arm's-length bodies as a framework for migrating to Oracle Cloud," according to the Shared Services Strategy for Government 2019 document, now unavailable on the government website but cached here.

As The Register reported, that strategy was held up as the government reworked its shared service plans.

Those plans have now been updated, with Matthew Coats, director-general for Government Business Services, replacing Andy Helliwell, who had led the shared service plan, but left to become operations director of the Cabinet Office's COVID-19 Task Force.

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The new plan announced earlier this month [PDF] introduces changes which have yet to be clarified by the Cabinet Office, which leads the cross-Whitehall shared services agenda.

The Home Office was the first of a group of departments that planned to move to SaaS in 21/22, a group which also included the Cabinet Office, the Department for Work and Pensions, the Ministry of Justice, and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. These departments all have their Oracle enterprise software installations supported by SSCL, an Sopra Steria-run joint venture.

The new strategy says that, apart from the Cabinet Office, these departments will act as a "consortium to procure" software, with a new service provider to be confirmed. Under the umbrella of the "Delivery" shared service centre, they will be expected to converge on a single SaaS system for ERP, although it's difficult to imagine this would be anything other than Oracle.

"Departments and the commercial function will work together to deliver value for money by using central frameworks and national pricing models, driving commercial tension and ensuring Service Centres maximise technology, as transformation moves us into the cloud," the strategy document says. "Implementing automation and a single Software as a Service (SaaS) system for each Centre will deliver efficiencies."

The MoJ, one of the departments using the Oracle single operating platform, had in July 2020 put its feelers out to seek bids for a potential £100m contract for "the supply, configuration, implementation, support and maintenance of a configured ERP SaaS solution". The prior information notice (PIN) said the role could last 10 years and that a contract notice would appear last August, although no contract award has been made.

The Cabinet Office, which leads the Shared Service Strategy, has not yet commented on whether this procurement will consider alternatives to Oracle, although that might be unthinkable considering the Home Office has gone live with a new system in the last year.

The Cabinet Office itself, which runs on Oracle right now, has been booted out of this group. It joins the HM Treasury, the Department for International Trade, the Department for Education, the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) and others in the "Policy" Shared Service Centre.

It too is expected to procure a single SaaS ERP system, but with its constituent departments currently running a range of different systems, the outcome is far from certain.

For example, the Cabinet Office is on Oracle, but DHSC is running its finance system on Microsoft Dynamics 365 and its finance on Integra. The Department for Education, however, runs its HR and payroll on Workday, but its finance on Microsoft. HM Treasury is on Oracle. Somehow, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is supposed to lead the decision-making in this particular bun-fight. It currently runs on Oracle.

Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, the Department for Transport, and the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government are lumped together in the HMRC service centre. They all currently use SAP.

The September 2019 strategy reset said the government "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 Cabinet Office has yet to clarify whether the new strategy will open procurement up to SaaS providers beyond these named three vendors.

In April 2020, the government started the procurement for a "Sop2SaaS" £15m delivery partner to help it move from the Oracle Single Operating Platform to SaaS. That opportunity is now closed with no contract publicly awarded.

Anyone getting a sense of déjà vu might be thinking of a shared service strategy announced in 2018.

Where it will all end is anyone's guess, although The Register suspects procurement teams will be kept busy at the very least. ®


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