A plan to deliver the council’s vision for an optimised IT system that improves internal functions is due for approval next Tuesday (June 27).
The council’s Cabinet will consider a report to address issues experienced with the recent roll out of the Oracle system – the first major change of its kind for the council since 1999. In the report it is noted the council had planned to adopt the system, changing its existing business processes and upskilling staff to support its implementation.
This approach was approved by elected members through Cabinet papers in July 2019 and March 2021. However, officers evolved the approach towards adapting the system – meaning the platform was instead customised to meet the council’s existing business processes.
Whilst there have been some successes, for example the council has made payments to over half a million suppliers since April 2022 with a value of £2.5 billion using the new system, the Cabinet report notes a shift in emphasis (from adoption to adaptation) has severely impacted upon the council’s ability to properly implement Oracle. The full extent of the issues was only uncovered by senior officers and councillors in April of this year and means some critical elements of the system are not functioning adequately and this has impacted primarily upon the day-to-day operations of Finance and HR.
Amongst the challenges is the issue that a significant number of transactions (payments to and from the organisation) are having to be manually allocated to accounts rather than automatically via the system, which is creating a backlog. This is impacting upon the council’s ability to formally ‘close’ its accounts for the year 2022/23.
The council is working closely with its external auditors, with the goal to close its accounts by the end of August. From the HR side, there have been issues identified related to recruitment, data management and monitoring processes to update renewals of DBS checks.
Manual processes are in place to work towards resolving these issues, with a priority on people working with children and vulnerable adults. An independent management review will explore why the issues took so long to emerge, and the report notes the council is working at pace and has developed a plan through to March 2024 which focusses initially upon stabilising the situation and then optimising the implementation of Oracle.
It is estimated the final cost will be in the region of £100million to fully implement Oracle, with the report requesting £46.53million this year to fund the required work. The funding requested will come from a combination of existing service budgets, reserves and potentially capital receipts.
Councillor Brigid Jones, Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources at Birmingham City Council, said: “It is never easy when implementing a new IT system for an organisation of our size and scale – but there are lessons to be learned from what has happened and I am determined that the council will learn from this.
“Most important of all right now is the need to work at pace to resolve the issues we are facing and to be open and transparent about what they are. The focus of the council leadership on this will be relentless in the weeks and months ahead.
“Through this report, we detail what needs to be done and the plan for how to fund this, giving us a way forward to ensure effective and efficient systems and processes are in place as soon as possible.”