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Sunday 2 February 2014

Local Government Procurement and One Oracle

I have posted before around procurement issues, which despite sounding as exciting as watching paint dry, are crucially important to the Council's continuing operation.  In this context, I thought it would be interesting to look at a procurement, which whilst not a complete failure, has not been wholly successful. 

What is It?
The procurement was originally called Project Athena, and is now known as the One Oracle Project.  It is a joint project across six London Boroughs to better integrate various IT systems in the Council.  These systems cover back office things like payroll, human resources and so on.  This was needed partly to replace computer systems that were going out of date, and often did not work terribly well anyway, and to bring the organisation up to modern standards in real time information and so on.

What is Wrong with it?
Unfortunately, it has not yet acquired the necessary level of certification in terms of security (which is extremely important given that it is handling personal data).  This delay in going live demands contingency plans that have a cost, and the total cost limit of the original project has now been met, so that it is in danger of spending the extra contingency funding provided.

What Should have Happened?
I think the lessons I would draw would be threefold:

1) The project had two senior sponsors in the then Finance director and the then lead member for finance, but these appear not to have been able to give the scheme the attention it deserved as they had such a large range of responsibilities that it must have seemed a relatively small matter.
2) Cross borough procurements are inevitably more complicated.  Here there does not seem to have been adequate realisation that the multiplying of authorities would require higher security standards.
3) The most surprising thing about this project is that it did not have a savings target from the outset, which is quite contrary to Brent's usual policy with One Council projects.  Although it is common enough for the details to be unclear at the outset, there is usually an overall figure from the outset.  Had there been such a figure it might have helped concentrate minds.  Thus, the single biggest lesson I would draw is the importance of the early scoping stage, to design the whole thing as well as possible, along the lines that proved so successful in the Public Realm Contract

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