UK Cabinet Office calls off its search for a 'partner' in Whitehall SaaS ERP migration

'This is not the outcome you were hoping for,' bidders told

The UK's Cabinet Office has cancelled a procurement to move a group of central government departments off Oracle's wares to Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) ERP systems.

In a procurement document, the team responsible for co-ordinating cross-government activity said it would end the search for a supplier to transfer the Cabinet Office, Department for Work and Pensions, Ministry of Justice, and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs from a hosted Oracle eBusiness Suite (version R12), which supports 8,500 staff in the UK, to a SaaS application.

Procurement began for the implementation 'partner' in April 2020 in a move designed to help shift the government departments away from the "Single Operating Platform" supported by SSCL, a Sopra Steria-run joint venture, to SaaS, hence the, er, catchy moniker SOP2SaaS.

In March, the Ministry of Justice cancelled a £100m procurement to move the department to a SaaS system, partly to be in step with the government's Shared Services Strategy [PDF] launched a few weeks earlier.

Meanwhile, the Cabinet Office said it would pause its search for a partner for SOP2SaaS – now renamed MyCO – while it explored whether going ahead would be "appropriate to support the implementation of the new strategy."

It now seems the answer is no.

"The Cabinet Office's work with [other government departments] as a member of the policy cluster, under the auspices of HM Government's shared services strategy, has deemed this procurement to be no longer viable," the official procurement notice said.

"Discussions with other government departments in the policy cluster and Government Business Services have resulted in the conclusion that a contract awarded as a result of the MyCO Implementation Partner procurement would not deliver the agreed policy cluster strategy. Therefore, regretfully, the Cabinet Office has made the decision to terminate the MyCO Implementation Partner procurement."

Seemingly addressing consultancy firms in the running for the £15m deal, the procurement notice said: "The MyCO Programme realises this is not the outcome you were hoping for and would like to thank you and your colleagues for the hard work undertaken during the course of the procurement. We do hope that you will continue to participate in future Cabinet Office and Crown Commercial Service Procurements."

Thanks for your time

As well as the time wasted by suppliers and civil servants in discussing and shaping the deal, the cancellation raises questions about the future of the central government ERP programme, which has already undergone a number of redesigns in the last two years.

In a strategy refresh published on 26 September 2019, since deleted but saved by The Register here [PDF], the plan had been to move all SOP platform departments to the cloud by the end of the 2021/22 financial year. The original tender said the move to SaaS would take place before October 2023.

Programme leader, Andy Helliwell, has since left to become operations director of the Cabinet Office's COVID-19 Task Force.

In any case, the more recent Shared Services Strategy for Government (March 2021) puts the Cabinet Office in an entirely different cluster to the main "Delivery" group. It joins the "Policy" group, which includes the Department for Transport and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport – currently on a variety of different systems.

The Home Office, meanwhile, is part of the "Delivery" cluster and has already moved to SaaS in a Fusion-based HR system, which went live in March, having already moved to Oracle Fusion Cloud Enterprise Resource Planning.

The Cabinet Office and the MoJ have been contacted for comment. ®

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