Digitising Walsall MBC’s core business systems

By Deborah Hindson | 02 December 2020

Over the past few years, Walsall MBC has been working toward one of the most significant transformations of our core business systems in a long time. In late 2017 a need was identified to overhaul the way we carry out many of our HR, payroll, finance and procurement activities, to modernise and centralise these critical work processes and ensure efficient and sustainable business delivery.

The undertaking was part of the council’s wider transformation programme to ensure we become digital by design, move away from paper-based systems and make better use of our information, insight and available technologies. The aim was twofold: to enhance service efficiency and performance for our customers, and improve employee satisfaction and engagement by providing the right tools and skills to do their jobs.

In July this year, thanks to people power and partnership working, we implemented the first phase of our new state-of-the-art, single cloud-based Oracle Fusion solution: One Source. This is an enterprise resource planning system that brings together a number of previously standalone and manual business processes as well as much of our core data into one system and ‘one source’ of truth for the council.

To help us deliver the programme, the council brought in leading technology and advisory companies Evosys as systems integrator, Socitm Advisory as business integrator and Egress as data extraction partner. The close working and collaboration between implementation partners and council colleagues proved to be one of the most important components in achieving successful programme delivery.

From the start, we knew it would be a major piece of work. Not only did we set out to build a robust and secure single integrated system and migrate huge amounts of records and data across from multiple applications, we had to win the hearts and minds of our workforce and bring them on board with us. Getting this right was as essential to the successful implementation of One Source as the development of the technology itself.

Perhaps most remarkable is the fact that the key phases of user acceptance testing, the final data migration proving phase, implementation and cutover to the new system were all completed during COVID-19, with all staff operating remotely.

The creativity of the programme team in finding alternative methods of delivery, the rapid adoption of virtual engagement platforms, the sponsorship and support of the senior leadership team and, crucially, collaboration both internally and with programme suppliers, proved to be the most important components in achieving this success.

With the vast majority of our core finance, procurement, payroll and HR processes earmarked for transition to One Source, programme implementation would impact not just officers working in these areas but all staff across a 3500-strong workforce, as well as 70 schools and more than 7000 council suppliers. In addition, more than 650 staff were identified as ‘hard to reach’, by virtue of their employment in catering, grounds-keeping, maintenance and similar roles and not previously having or being required to use any of the council’s IT systems. Communication, training and support would be key.

For almost three weeks from mid-June, 90-minute virtual One Source system demonstration and Q&A drop in sessions were held twice daily for staff to be able to familiarise themselves with the new system ahead of system go-live. Key user training was delivered to more than 550 officers designated as core users in HR, finance, payroll, procurement and administration roles. To support this, a library of training materials, self-help guides and how-to videos were developed and made available to staff, covering many aspects of the system and its various modules.

Since One Source went live we have seen continued system support delivered across the council as the organisation makes this transition together. There is still work to do, with further roll out of business activities taking place over the coming months. However, I believe with continued hard work, creativity and resilience we are on track to achieve successful delivery, and fulfil our objectives to digitally enable our work place and ensure council services continue to meet the needs of the borough well into the future, no matter what challenges arise.

Deborah Hindson is interim executive director resources and transformation at Walsall MBC

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