Plants to spend £26million on West Sussex County Council Computer System

West Sussex County Council - County Hall

West Sussex County Council plans to spend £26million updating its ‘obsolete and clunky’ business management system.

The current system – provided by SAP – caters to many of the council’s core activities such as paying staff and suppliers, debt recovery, income collection, accounting, HR administration and the procurement of goods and services.

The system has been modified almost continuously for the last 20 years and the aim is to replace it with the more intuitive Oracle Fusion.
The project has been in the pipeline since November 2019, when a budget of £2.6m was approved.

That was revised to £7m in August 2021 and to £14m in September 2022.

The situation was discussed during a meeting of the performance & finance scrutiny committee where members asked for regular updates as the project progressed.

Nigel Jupp (Con, Southwater & Nuthurst) said: “The completion of this programme has been set back time after time. 
“I think we need to be assured by officers that we’re not going to be in this same place in another year’s time with this situation.”
Mr Jupp also asked for assurances that there would be no more ‘drastic revisions’ of the budget or the timetable.

Taryn Eves, the council’s director of finance & support services, said a detailed ‘lessons learned’ exercise had been carried out to make sure such a project could be delivered.

She added that the council was more clear now than it had been in 2019 about what was needed from the experts who would be brought in to install the system and manage the changes.

Ms Eves said: “The governance and steering group that’s in place is much stronger so we are very much keeping a close eye and scrutinising the programme.

“We will receive updates both on time and money each month and if there is any deviation then obviously we will discuss those at steering groups and put the necessary actions in place.

“I think the combination of what we’ve learned from others and what we’ve learned ourselves and the improvements that we’ve put in place – I’m not going to say it’s going to be an easy programme, it absolutely is still quite challenging. And that’s what we’ve heard from others as well. But we believe we are in the best place to deliver both on budget and on time.”

Steve Waight, cabinet member for support services & economic development, said: “There’s no getting away from the reality that when the project was started in 2019, the complexity and the work was under-estimated. 

“Having got off on that wrong foot, so to speak, it’s been a while longer than we would have liked to actually get to where we are now.”

Mr Waight added that other local authorities had had difficulties updating their systems, with the programme for East Sussex missing both its £13.1m budget and its ‘go live’ date of April 2023.

He told the meeting that the cost of new systems at other councils had ranged from £4m to more than £100m.

Questions were asked about the money already spent on the project and whether it would be saved.

The meeting was told that between 30% and 40% of the work would have had to be done anyway.

As for the other £4.6m/£4.7m spent on work with former delivery partner DXC, the council won’t know ‘for quite some time’ how much will be saved.

The SAP system will reach the end of its life in 2027, with the company withdrawing its technical support and security updates.

If approved by Mr Waight, the £26m will be spread between 2024/25 and 2027/28 and will include a contingency of £4m.

It will be made up of £5m of reserves with the rest coming from capital receipts.

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