Foreign Office gets green light for £94m Oracle upgrade

Written by Sam Trendall on 1 April 2020 in News
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Spend control data shows business case approved for Atlas programme

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The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has gained approval to spend £93.8m on a major project to upgrade its enterprise software and install Oracle Cloud technology across the organisation.

The Atlas programme, which is part of government’s major projects portfolio, will see the FCO upgrade its existing Prism IT system for human resources, management, and finance.

Until now, an overall financial value had not been attached to the programme. But newly published spend control data reveals that the department saw a “revised business case” – based on spending of £93.8m – approved by the Cabinet Office on 2 December.

Both the outgoing system and its replacement will be based on technology from Oracle. This is in line with the government’s shared-service strategy published in 2018, which mandates that departments standardise on one of three enterprise resource planning vendors: Oracle; SAP; and Workday.


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The government shared services team within the Cabinet Office has also said that its “preferred approach for departments is a single core ERP system, rather than separate ones for HR and finance”.

According to the most recently published programme update from the Infrastructure and Projects Authority: “Atlas is replacing Prism with a new modern and intuitive ERP system called Oracle Cloud. The investment in Oracle Cloud will provide a world-class platform which aligns to the Government Shared Services Strategy and the Cabinet Office's global design processes, and provides the ONE HMG platform for the government operating internationally.”

Prism has been in operation for almost two decades, with Capgemini having won the contract to deliver and support the system back in 2002. 

An upgrade programme has been in the works for several years and implementation of the new platform – supported by consultancy giant Accenture – finally got underway in September 2018. At the time of the last IPA review, a “whole-life cost” for the programme had yet to be calculated, but initial one-off costs were pegged at £21.8m.

“Following the appointment of the Accenture in September 2018, spend has been lower than expected due to some delays in Accenture staff reaching the full profile of anticipated staff due to security clearance issues,” the IPA said. “The FCO has had similar delays hiring planned internal contractors with appropriate security clearances.”

It added: “[Accenture] is experiencing delay in developing the tool required to complete the data migration between the existing system and the new system. This delay impacts testing after the tool is available.”

As of the last publicly available IPA review – which was published in July 2019 – the ultimate end date of the project had been pushed back from June to August 2020. It may go back further still.

“Risks remain around these dates including budgetary pressures requiring a different delivery model,” the IPA said. “In addition, it has been recognised that further strengthening is required on programme management, which is being actively reviewed.”

 

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Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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