Applications > Business Applications

Clackmannanshire opts for a fresh approach

David Bicknell Published 13 December 2015

Smallest mainland council in Scotland picks TechnologyOne's OneCouncil finance system to eliminate paper-based processes and streamline supplier transactions


At the Government Computing conference in October a number of local council chief information officers called on suppliers to offer them something different.

Among a series of excellent comments, particularly around procurement, collaboration and disruption, it emerged they wanted innovative thinking from suppliers. One interesting theme that emerged, against a backdrop of ongoing austerity, was the idea that some councils were open to 'gainshare' relationships with vendors, with one speaker eager to work with those vendors offering a collaborative relationship from which it was easy to exit. No one these days wants to be tied in to a relationship they can't escape from.

This call for something new, some freshness has been highlighted by Clackmannanshire Council, the smallest council in mainland Scotland, located roughly between Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Earlier this year it began a project to introduce a new finance system with the potential to deliver major operational and customer service benefits. Its existing finance system, it had decided was unwieldy and out of date. The new system would provide an opportunity to take advantage of new technologies such as cloud computing and make a substantial step change in the quality and frequency of financial information.

The new system would improve budget management, e-transactions and streamline a number of heavy manual processes involving spreadsheets.

Audit reviews including budget management, general ledger, treasury management, debt recovery and creditors management, had highlighted a number of control weaknesses in the current finance system. Weaknesses identified include a reliance on paper based systems across the council, a high level of manual intervention required, limited reporting and limited systems integration. The new finance system would address all of these issues, the council hopes.

The successful implementation of the new finance system would be critical to council service management and the council being able to achieve its objectives in an efficient and sustainable manner.

In September it appointed TechnologyOne as its supplier for the new finance system, having kicked off the project late last year to identify and procure the system and re-engineer finance business processes to support its introduction in April 2016. The total contract length, including possible extensions, is nine years with a possible net value of approx £650,000.

The aim of the project is to introduce a new integrated business solution across all Clackmannanshire Council's sites that streamlines business processes and enables end users to operate more effectively.

The bottom line for the council, of course, is the same one affecting councils up and down the country: austerity. Over the next three years, the council will have to close a funding gap of around £22.7m which means that the council's current expenditure is substantially more than it will be able to afford.

Clamannanshire will use TechnologyOne's software as a service (SaaS) based OneCouncil solution to drive its three key change goals: to simplify systems and reduce duplication, to improve flexibility and availability for citizens and officers, and to use new technologies to improve council services.

The council believes that using OneCouncil will provide its finance team with a stable, modern architecture, which is intuitive to use, enabling integration with other council systems and removing the need for daily reconciliations, whilst increasing the ability of the finance team to collate data from multiple sources.

Perhaps surprisingly, for a council which has an urgent need to replace its finance team, the council's ICT manager John Munro admitted that it wasn't even aware of Technology One before it bid to become the council's finance system supplier.

"We didn't know anything about TechnologyOne. We'd never heard of them," he said. "When people came in to some presentations to us, it was evident that TechnologyOne was different. It was obvious early on that this was a modern system, not an old one with bits of bolt on.

The key word is "modern", a sentiment reiterated by Munro. "TechnologyOne stood out in that its solution had a modern feel, with an ability to do dynamic reporting in real time access. I don't want any third party applications."

He added, "We've chosen to work with TechnologyOne because we think they are best placed to help us be different, and keep things simple.

"To truly change the way we work at Clackmannanshire Council, we don't want bespoke system with endless customisations to fit our quirks. I wanted our team to re-design the way we function to fit a proven system, such as OneCouncil. With a go-live deadline of April 2016, we're at the scoping and change-management workshop stage with TechnologyOne currently, and so far, it's working fantastically."

Munro said in its procurement considerations included sharing systems with local councils, but ultimately decided it wanted a more up-to-date, crisp solution.

"After many years of ageing technology and, in some cases, 20-year-old systems, we chose TechnologyOne to begin again, to modernise entirely.

"We're particularly impressed by OneCouncil's focus on data integration and providing easy to use business intelligence and reporting, while giving us total compliance with data security requirements."

It is still early days in the relationship, and Clackmannanshire and TechnologyOne will still have to work together to re-engineer finance business processes to support its introduction next April. The proof of the pudding, however, will very much be in the eating.

But the council's choice and adoption of a solution from a company it had not previously even heard of, avoiding opting for the usual suspects, is one that others may follow with interest.

As those council CIOs told us in October, they're open to innovative suggestions.

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