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Another day, another ERP project behind schedule: This time it's Norfolk County Council and an Oracle system

Cost of over-run was unknown, but won't be as bad as delays at other authorities, council document claims

Norfolk County Council will have to wait a bit longer for that a-ha moment when it finally turns on its new £18m cloud-based Oracle ERP system as the go-live date is delayed until April.

Expected to accrue between £20m and £31m in savings over 10 years, the project joins a list of local authorities with late-running enterprise application projects including Surrey County Council and West Sussex.

In May 2020, Norfolk council published deals including £13.5m for Big Red's software and £4.4m for the "service partner" Insight Direct.

It promised a fully integrated ERP SaaS system including UK local government HR, finance, procurement, payroll and analytics services.

The council has run HR and finance systems built on Oracle E-Business Suite since around 2006. The business case for investment said the system was "proving difficult and costly to extend, replace and integrate."

"Peripheral systems have been added, resulting in a fragmented systems landscape. Integration, capability to develop, data and analytics, and ultimately business processes all suffer as a result," it said.

The council, however, must wait a little longer to move off this ageing system.

A council select committee heard in November last year that during "validation testing it [had] become apparent that the go-live date would require pushing back from November 2021."

The committee agreed a new date of April 2022 "to avoid critical Christmas and New Year periods."

COVID-related remote working also "contributed to the delays which had resulted in moving back the go-live date," the committee heard.

While the delay in implementation would have some financial impact, the report went on, "final costs as this stage were not known."

With perhaps unmerited schadenfreude, it continued: "The over-run costs known to date were much lower than other local authorities are experiencing in introducing similar software."

One advantage of the April 2022 live date would be that data for a complete tax year would not be spread over 2 different systems, the report claimed.

Councillor Tom FitzPatrick, the cabinet member for innovation, transformation and performance, said that while the project was "progressing well," it had not been "fully tested yet."

As well as the deals for Oracle software and Insight Direct, Oracle Consultancy Services has been added to the suppliers working on the project. In December 2020 it won a £750,000 deal to work on "HR and finance systems transformation business change delivery," according to a tender notice.

The original business case for the project, from April 2019, talked about the promise "of integrated AI, chatbots and machine learning within ERP and the positive impact these would have on improved business process and therefore productivity."

Meanwhile, "ERP will support end-to-end processes," it said, and wrote of the evidence the council has seen of "automated escalation and prioritisation to enable a focus on key KPIs."

In May 2019 the Council Cabinet heard that the cost savings resulting from moving to the new Oracle cloud-based system were estimated at between £20m and £31m over a decade. ®

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