Northern Ireland Water ready to take the plunge with HR and finance software, prepares to flush Oracle R12.2

Utility biz has £28m to spend on replacement system

Utility provider Northern Ireland Water (NIW) has set aside £28m to replace its current Oracle E-business Suite with a new HR and finance system.

According to recently released tender documents, the business is looking for a tech outfit to "supply, implement and support a suite of new core corporate systems for its finance, commercial, inventory, human resources (HR), payroll and learning and development (L&D) needs."

The Prior Information Notice, designed for early market engagement before the competition officially starts, said the need for new enterprise software arises because of "the approaching expiration of the licencing and support contracts for its current core corporate systems."

The notice goes on to say: "NI Water requires future corporate solutions that are sustainable over time, based in modern technology, and take the opportunity of introducing new technology to positively transform our ways of working and the experiences of our customers, suppliers and staff."

The company expects to issue a contract notice, which will formally kick off the competition, on 26 November 2021. A couple of social media posts show the £419m revenue NIW is currently running Oracle's E-Business Suite financial, HR, procurement, and asset management system at version r12.2, as well as Hyperion BI tools for planning and strategic finance.

It's not obvious why the user is in such a hurry to move. Although R12.2 was introduced in 2013, Oracle says [PDF] Premier Support will be available until at least 2031.

Consultancy firm WD Buckley Associates was hired as programme manager for the project last month under a contract valued a £745,000 for two years, according to tender documents.

The water utlity has worked with Japanese IT services giant Fujitsu to roll out Oracle applications system since 1995, according to a case study published by the vendor. With Fujitsu’s help, in 2005 NIW re-implemented version 11.5.10, and said it used Business Objects XI.

A blog post from 2012 says NIW went live on EBS R12 in December 2011 making it one of the first organisations in Ireland to do so.

The Register has contacted Fujitsu and the water utility to find out when this relationship came to an end, or is due to come to an end, although social media posts suggest Fujitsu support teams still work on the system.

Northern Ireland Water, a government-owned company, supplies drinking water to 840,000 households and businesses, totalling around 560 million litres of water every day and collects 330 million litres of wastewater per day. It runs 26,700 kilometres of water mains and 15,600 kilometres of sewers in Northern Ireland.

Fujitsu has a considerable footprint in Northern Ireland's public sector, calling into question the need for competition in the province.

In March this year, the government extended a contract for the civil service HR system, also based on Oracle software, for up to six years for an estimated at £86.8m, bringing the total value to £302m, according to tender documents.

In June, Fujitsu was awarded a £9.2m contract extension by the Northern Ireland Education Authority for changes to the implementation of an Oracle HR and payroll system that was already nearly three years late.

In January last year, Northern Ireland Libraries renewed an IT services contract with Fujitsu worth £12m after running out of time to run a tender process.

All the while, the Japanese supplier has led a consortium to win a £200m contract to implement Brexit checks on goods in the Irish Sea following the UK's departure from the EU. ®

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