The project, which took just 12 months to implement and has strong support from the force’s senior management, has resulted in both an increase in user satisfaction and a reduction in costs.
I got the chance to speak to Dean Sweet, assistant director of shared services at West Midlands Police, about the project at Oracle’s Modern Business Experience event in London this week, where he shared his insights and offered advice for other organisations.
Interestingly, Sweet said that public sector organisations, including police forces, ‘are not unique’ and that they should take on best practice from businesses elsewhere, which drove his desire to largely use functionality out of the box.
Prior to this project, West Midlands had been using Oracle E-Business Suite for over ten years, which was heavily customised. Sweet said that people weren’t using it and it had become a system of record for which people the force employed.
“People had developed spreadsheets, we were using stuff outside of the system. I don't think people fully understood the capabilities of it. 2013 came and we, the West Midlands was split into ten segments with a command over each segment. And they, each had their own systems, their own teams.
“So, we centralized those teams, things like rostering, the purchasing teams, some of the HR transactional activity.”
From moving from this fragmented approach to a centralised model, West Midlands Police was able to reduce its full time employees from 850 to 350 - without making any investment in technology. This was stage one.
Sweet then started to develop the force’s shared services strategy, where his team did a lot of work around rebranding the service, setting out what the digital future of that service would look like. During this period Sweet put together a detailed business case for the whole of the back office. He said:
This was the game changer, so that business case, in itself, will generate one hundred million pounds worth of savings for the force over the next ten years, which we're on track to deliver. The Oracle piece of that is about £36 million in savings.
It took six months to put the business case together and then took 12 months to implement - and the organisation is now live with Taleo, HCM, finance, procurement, learning, well-being and service cloud.
Sweet did consider other vendors, but was drawn to Oracle’s commitment to sharing its roadmap and the investment that is going into the technology. It used Accenture as its implementation partner. Standardisation was important from the outset. Sweet said:
The implementation wasn't straightforward, but we made the decision, immediately, to start with standard processes.
So, we said to people, "Do you want to sit here working out, this is how we pay an invoice, and re-engineer it? Or do we want to take out the box, which other organizations are successfully doing?" We did that. So, probably 95 percent of everything we do is out of the box.
The old E-Business Suite system is in ‘semi-retirement’ now, with no money being put into it, and only a couple of people using it with read-only access.
The results of the shared services strategy have been tangible for the force, according to Sweet. He said:
It's the service the officers now get, so they've got a single place that they can go to to raise a request, or self serve. So, we've created like a single front door into the service, whereas previously there was probably 200 different ways of contacting us.
Now there is a single place for shared services. There is, one phone number, one website that you can web chat on, and you can track your request,. I know it's all the basic stuff, but actually it's stuff that wasn't there.
So, we've gone from officers waiting anywhere between five days and four weeks for us to get back to them, to 80 percent of everything we now do being resolved in 24 hours.
Sweet is constantly receiving feedback from users, 300-400 pieces of feedback a day, and he said that 92% of officers and staff are “more than satisfied”. Previously this figure was 35-40%.
Key to the project’s success has been support from the force’s leadership. Sweet said:
We got real support from the top. When we presented the final business case I did a presentation [to the leadership] and there was complete silence in the room. The chief constable was there, the deputy commissioner's team were there, there was about 20 people, and there were just no questions.
Because we'd engaged with people, and it was compelling, there's a £100 million here. Yeah, they need to make an investment, but it's a £100 million worth of net savings.