Desperately seeking SaaS: English council to replace Oracle R12

Big Red product to become more unstable, unreliable, and less secure after 20 years' use

Hull City Council has launched procurement for a £6m SaaS-based ERP system after deciding to ditch an Oracle E-Business Suite it has relied on for 20 years.

The council has issued a tender for a cloud-based pay-as-you-go ERP system after extending support for Oracle R12 using a third party. Although the deal, signed in 2016, saved the council around £300,000 a year, it meant that significant Oracle upgrades ended.

In a tender document, the council said it was seeking to replace its ERP system which links with other 40 internal and external systems including software for benefits payments, foster carer payments, and housing rent.

"In addition to the system implementation and ongoing support, it will be necessary for the supplier to help the authority review, change and embed new working practices and processes that take full advantage of the new opportunities that a new modern system will provide," the tender notice said.

Automated workflows, mobile access, and chat bots were examples of new working practices it might want to adopt, the document added. The contract will be worth up to £6m and is set to last 10 years, with options to extend for another four.

According to a report presented to the council's cabinet in December 2021, Oracle EBS has been used by the authority since 2002 and has needed "several key upgrades during this period to ensure it remains compliant which is costly and resource heavy for the authority."

"Oracle EBS is currently supported by a third-party provider, whom the authority moved to in 2016 following an open tender procurement," the documents said. "This expires in June 2024 beyond which the authority will have no support for its key line business system without further procurement."

When the council moved to third-party support, it was no longer able to upgrade Oracle EBS from the current version, R12. "As time goes on there is an increased risk regarding security and compatibility issues," the document said.

The IT department mitigated some of the security risks by implementing "technical measures such as a virtual patching solution however this does not address all issues such as compatibility and unsupported operating systems," the documents said.

"Oracle EBS is currently supported by a third-party provider, this expires in June 2024, to meet the timescales of a replacement before this date it is necessary to act now."

Going to market for a new SaaS system would help the authority "leverage newer technologies to improve efficiencies and working practices," the document said.

Hull joins a slew of UK local authorities looking to switch vital ERP systems as they come to the end of support or face technical difficulties associated with running ageing technology. Norfolk County Council, Surrey County Council, East Sussex County Council, and West Sussex County Council are all running ERP replacement projects, some of which are already facing delays. ®

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