Successfully Accelerating ERP-Cloud Adoption in the Public Sector

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The demand for cloud-based ERP systems is gaining pace throughout the public sector. However, with support deadlines for existing on-premise solutions looming and widespread budget challenges, the pressure is on to find and implement the right solution as quickly as possible.

A new mindset is key. How cloud-ready and ready for digital transformation is the organisation? The benefits of deploying standard cloud-based products are closely aligned with the adoption of best practice processes and the shift away from custom development. Whilst many local authorities instinctively recognise the value of this approach, transitioning that sensibility into a cloud-product procurement process can be challenging. Rather than going to the market with an extensive list of user-led requirements, the emphasis changes to ensuring effective organisational change management to support best practice adoption and fast-track full utilisation of any purchased software.

So how can a local authority ensure it has not only the right cloud-based ERP technology but also the right implementation partner? Don Valentine explains…

Digital Transformation Deadline

Local authorities throughout the UK are facing growing pressures to accelerate their digital transformation programmes. Budgetary demands are making it imperative to explore the power of technology to automate processes, improve efficiency, and enable effective service delivery at a time of endemic skills shortages. Local authorities also require far more insight into both the value of budgetary spending and their progress towards net zero targets. In addition, many organisations must upgrade or change their existing on-premise ERP solutions before the software falls out of support.

Cloud-based ERP solutions will automate and streamline processes, enabling local authorities to be more effective with the same or fewer staff – a key requirement given prevailing difficulties in recruiting skilled workers. A single source of accurate and up-to-date information, combined with intuitive analytics will mean that the public sector organisation can model changes in business rates, council tax rates, headcount, or inflation into budget planning and forecasting. Trusted information will support confident projections for the next one, three, or even five years, enabling a local authority to demonstrate a longer-term outlook to the government and its local citizens.

The benefits are compelling, but any digital investment faces enormous public scrutiny. Local authorities need to both demonstrate value for money and, critically, achieve a seamless, effective implementation that delivers immediate benefits.

Different Implementation Approach

Over the past year, early adopters of cloud-based ERP solutions have led the way – and in the process created growing awareness not only about the tangible benefits that can be achieved, but the need to adopt the right approach to avoid expensive and high- profile mistakes. There is, as a result, a fast-growing understanding of the value of the ‘adopt not adapt’ model. Avoiding the cost, risk, and delay associated with custom development and adopting best practices processes built into cloud ERP is now recognised as a key factor in achieving a successful implementation.

To maximise the value of the public cloud, including the twice-yearly updates that provide immediate access to continuous innovation while eradicating the burden of scheduling and managing upgrades, local authorities need to opt for a clean build and best practice processes. This approach, however, is a change from traditional public sector procurement practices which has seen the creation of very detailed tenders with long lists of expected features and functions. Despite buying into the sensibility of “adopt not adapt”, some local authorities are still prone to issuing tenders based on extensive lists of user requirements, which aren’t always in sympathy and indeed are sometimes at odds with each other. This approach is unlikely to lead the authority to either the right technology or implementation partner fit.

Rather than creating an exhaustive list of often irrelevant requirements, local authorities should be assessing the best practice models offered by ERP vendors. They should consider the implementation models and tools that have been developed to ease the process and support organisational change management. Tools such as a Cloud Mindset Assessment or a Readiness Assessment should be deployed in support of the procurement process. A Cloud Mindset Assessment highlights the diverse levels of digital maturity between individual departments and functions, a vital insight in supporting the necessary operational Change Management required to make the implementation a success. The Readiness Assessment highlights the differences between current processes and best practices. Additionally, the procurement process needs to focus on looking for an implementation partner with the experience and understanding to support a successful migration to the cloud, and very importantly will be a cultural fit with the organisation implementing the ERP.

Embracing Self-Enablement

Local authorities also should recognise that the day-to-day implementation process is now inherently different. There is no waiting for months while a partner creates specifications, defines processes and builds custom developments. In the new world, a local authority is inherently involved in the process, working side by side with an implementation partner from the outset and using tools such as SAP’s Activate project methodology which provides clear deliverables and instructions for both end-user organisations and partners throughout the six-phase project.

The shift to self-enablement is one of the most significant changes associated with cloud projects compared to on-premise. For example, with cloud-based deployments, there is an expectation that the user base will log into and play around with a ‘starter system’ very early in the project. Users can run processes, look at the potential home screen, and navigate the best practice models within a safe-place starter system.

As a result, when they join Fit to Standard workshops with an implementation partner, they already have a feel for the system and can contribute to the discussion meaningfully based on experience of using the system. These workshops will highlight any significant process change between current and future models, which can be addressed within the organisation’s change management strategy, further accelerating the successful migration process.

Conclusion

The benefits of digital transformation are clear. Not only are the cloud-based ERP systems incredibly functionally rich and intuitive, but the supporting tools are designed to ensure a local authority can get the best out of the system from day one – if the mindset and implementation model are correct. The shift in attitude needs to start even before the procurement process is initiated. Taking the time to get a feel for the new cloud-based ERP technologies and the new deployment models, including self-enablement, will help to clarify the requirements for a successful implementation. This understanding will also inform the skills needed internally to support the process and highlight any additional resources that will be required from a partner.

Gaining this level of understanding about best practices, cloud mindset, and any additional skills that will be required, such as data migration, will transform the relevance of the tender document and the quality of the procurement process. It will also provide vital clarity regarding the budget required. Local authorities that understand the cloud technology concept first, before looking at operational requirements, can be far more focused and insight-driven about what can be achieved with digital transformation, before even considering a specific technology or partner. And that is a vital step in achieving a successful cloud-based ERP deployment.