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Northwest England councils in £31m SaaS HR system tender

Procurement comes as Manchester City Council looks for SAP next steps

Greater Manchester Combined Authority has launched a £31m tender to find a single supplier to provide a software-as-a-service HR system for all its member and partner organizations.

In a procurement document launched earlier this month, the authority, which oversees strategic decision-making in the greater Manchester area, said it wanted to create a single supplier framework agreement accessible to its member authorities and associate partners.

The winner would be expected to offer the authorities signing up – Manchester, Bury, Oldham Rochdale and Salford among others – "a platform to enable our employees and customers to utilise a first-class HR and payroll solution that is at the forefront of our digital transformation that will be able to offer both on-premise and cloud-based services."

The selected tech firm should provide software maintenance and support, a "user-friendly experience," and a "fully digital approach that will quickly realise a return on investment," according to the notice.

While £31m represents the maximum value on the contracts over four years, there is no guarantee that amount will be spent.

Nonetheless, the nominal value has increased since an early market engagement last year.

"We are keen to explore the strengths, weaknesses, integration with other Council systems, risks, costs and implications around a range of solutions including, cloud-based hosting," it said.

Initially, the authority expected the contract to start in October 2021 and end in 2030.

The procurement may come at an opportune moment for Manchester City Council. With a budget of around £1.8bn, it is the largest council in the combined authority and a recent council document shows it might be in a hurry to find a new HR system and other enterprise applications.

A report to the Resources and Governance Scrutiny Committee in June 2021 said: "The Council's main ERP system, SAP that provides the finance, payroll, HR (and organizational development) and procurement functionality is at end of life and a new solution will need to be procured with work needing to start on this now.

"This is a major change programme but also an opportunity to modernise and automate how the Council works."

It followed a 2018 HR and Financial Management Improvement Programme, which promised a review of the existing SAP technology to "fully explore the options in deciding the future direction of the enterprise solution with a view to stabilise, replace or upgrade to improve efficient working."

An SAP shop

The council has been running on SAP for at least 17 years. In 2012, it launched a plan to upgrade its technical environment across a seven-system landscape.

The project, described in a presentation by Paul Muir of the council's technology team, aimed to upgrade the core ERP system from SAP ECC5 on a Sun Solaris 9 server using an Oracle database to ECC6 running on Red Hat Linux 6.2 Intel server using an IBM Db2 database. The tender was awarded to Capgemini.

Whether Manchester City Council will take the combined authority's offer to lead the procurement of a new SaaS HR system remains to be seen but it would be bizarre if they were not linked. The future of the finance system remains unclear. Both the city council and the authority have declined to answer The Register's questions. ®

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