The UK’s Ministry of Justice is ditching a £100m ERP procurement as it strives to get in step with a new Cabinet Office shared service strategy for enterprise applications.
The department responsible for court, prison and probation services is set to withdraw a market prior information notice, launched in July 2020, which aimed to speak to suppliers about a “prospective contract opportunity for the supply, configuration, implementation, support and maintenance of a configured ERP SaaS Solution” in a potential 10-year agreement.
The MoJ is part of the “Delivery” cluster of Whitehall departments — which also includes the Department for Work and Pensions, the Home Office and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs — deemed to be working together on ERP procurement under the new shared service strategy launched this month.
Despite the fact the departments have long relied on Oracle ERP systems, the Cabinet Office confirmed that further procurement of SaaS applications for the cluster would consider alternative vendors in the “next couple of years”. This came in the same week that Big Red celebrated the Home Office going live on Oracle Fusion for its SaaS ERP system.
In its 2020 procurement, the MoJ had said it wanted enterprise software to cover finance, HR and commercial functions in the core department, as well as 33 agencies and non-departmental public bodies, and the territorial offices in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It would include HR records, staff recruitment, payroll processing for approximately 82,000 employees.
The MoJ is currently within the “Single Operating Platform” (SOP), the “Delivery” cluster of departments that moved their Oracle R12 eBusiness Suite systems to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure in October 2020 to meet a commitment in the 2019 shared service strategy refresh to enable "SOP cloud hosting."
That strategy had detailed plans to move to SaaS during the current financial year, 2021/22, and had seen a £15m procurement launched in April last year in a hunt for a consultancy partner for the SOP2SaaS programme.
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The Cabinet Office, which leads Shared Service Strategy, told The Register the closing date for tenders had passed and it received final tenders from compliant bidders. But it has paused the next stage of the procurement while it explores whether going ahead with it would be “appropriate to support the implementation of the new strategy.”
The MoJ said it sees the new strategy resulting in a simplified centre for core business functions, including HR, to save time, cut back on office red tape and, er, offer taxpayers better value for money.
Lessons from the past
In support of the March 2021 Shared Service Strategy, parliamentary secretary for the Cabinet Office, Julia Lopez, said: “The pandemic has proved, beyond doubt, the benefits of — and need for — agile back-office systems. It has opened our eyes to what is possible, and how we can be more efficient and cost-effective. This new Shared Services Strategy will iron out any systemic inefficiencies to leverage advances in technology, and improve our central processes, so that together we have more time and mental bandwidth.”
Perhaps it might be more eye-opening for Lopez to consider the catalogue of failure lurking in the history of central government ERP. It includes an abandoned MoJ ERP project for shared services which wrote off £56.3m in 2014 and a 2.3 million Oracle licence mountain accrued perhaps unnecessarily by the department.
The Home Office's history also includes a damning report from the National Audit Office that said failures in implementing a new Oracle accounting system were what led to the department's inability to deliver its accounts on time. Once a fix was implemented, an adjustment of the bank account and creditor balances of £67m was required, according to Parliamentary records. ®