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Councils on the Cloud

Councils on the Cloud

Local Government ERP by David Collyer

In a whitepaper I wrote 18 months ago, I forecast that Australian local authorities would soon confront substantial pressure when modernising or replacing their existing ERP solutions. This strain would come from several directions, primarily from the escalating necessity for digital transformation to meet public demand for around-the-clock online services. Further, multiple vendors have been urging or even ‘forcing’ Councils to adopy their SaaS platforms. This persuasion often takes the form of discontinuing support for on-site versions or accentuating the purported benefits (like cost, integration, speed, and security) of IaaS and SaaS platforms.

The past 18 months have confirmed this forecast, with the local government sector witnessing one of the highest rates of ERP deployments and upgrades in a long time.

Simultaneously, we’ve seen a contraction in the number of vendors serving the Local Government market due to several acquisitions. One could argue that reduced competition may not be beneficial for Councils in the long run, potentially leading to less innovation and increased costs.

The ERP crunch, or an abrupt rise in the number of ongoing ERP projects, is now upon us, affecting both ERP vendors and Councils. In many instances this is attributed to the scarcity of skilled staff resources and customers not budgeting for business preparedness works.

ERP vendors need experienced staff for their deployment teams, while Councils require abroad array of skills. These include Business & Data Analysts, Project & Change Managers, and key resources to assume responsibilities (such as rates officers) for tasks like configuration, testing, project management, training, and data migration during the project.

Council Landscape

Many Councils have been operating their ERP systems for 10, 15, or even more than 20 years. A considerable amount has changed since these systems were last installed, not just in terms of technology, but also the transformation of the organisations themselves.

Councils should recognise their limitations when it comes to performing extensive digital business transformation. It’s not a core business skill, and it needn’t be. There is assistance out there.

Currently, it seems that Councils are falling into either category:

  • those that want or need to transform, and have the required resources, OR
  • those that want or need to transform, but lack access to required resources.

For budget-restricted organisations, it’s crucial to slow down before committing to a product. Note that I didn’t suggest halting completely. Before signing any contract, Councils can undertake several essential preparatory tasks like business process mapping, data cleansing, defining their enterprise architecture, as well as foundational planning to update their Asset Management and ICT Strategic Plans. This period can also be utilised to refine IT governance, change management, and project management maturity.