ERP has come of age. The time has come for the public sector to extend ERP beyond the back-office basics.
Over the last five years there has been a large increase in the number of public sector entities adopting ERP solutions for back-office functions. Many organisations have replaced legacy applications with an integrated solution for financial, procurement and human resources/payroll needs. However, there is clearly a range of views in the marketplace as to whether ERP has delivered solutions to the needs of the public sector.
So far, most ERP implementations within the public sector have been fairly basic, and many have been almost exclusively driven by the need for replacement financial systems. But it is possible for public sector entities to extend their implementations beyond the basics in an effort to extract greater overall value from the investment in ERP solutions.
There is a wide range of opportunities for many public sector entities to extend their integrated ERP platforms, A few of the options are considered below.
Extend Operational Processes
Today's ERP solutions include a broad range of components that can meet all or most of the service and operational needs in the public sector to optimise the initial ERP investment. Whether managing real estate, student administration, travel management, fleet management or asset maintenance, there are numerous solutions that are functionally rich and offer integration back to traditional ERP financial/HR solutions. Few public sector organisations have yet taken advantage of these additional ERP components for a number of reasons. These include the stabilisation of their initial ERP implementation, and other competing demands such as the introduction of the GST and Y2K.
Extend to the Citizen
Extending beyond the ERP basics in relation to the citizen involves two customer-centric areas.
First, the new-breed ERP solutions offer viable customer relationship management (CRM) solutions to enable more consistent, integrated and holistic service delivery.
Second, for public sector organisations with complex case management requirements, the implementation of a consistent ERP backbone provides the foundation on which to integrate best-of-breed CRM solutions.
Extend to the Employee
Employee portals enable self-service and enhanced knowledge sharing and communication throughout the organisation. This not only provides significant cost-reduction opportunities but also, more importantly, increases the overall value of the organisation by equipping employees with appropriate tools, enabling them with information and empowering them through transparency of operations.
Extend to the Supplier
The supplier is the obvious extension of the basic ERP. This has been tried and tested in many organisations both in the private and public sectors. This extension is being further exploited through supplier integration rather than electronic information exchange and the progression to e-markets.
Extend to Communities and Industry Groups With community and industry groups playing a greater role in the delivery of government services, enhanced ERP offerings provide the opportunity for seamless interaction among the various players, such as directly lodging grant applications and acquittals.
Extend to the Stakeholder
Traditionally in the public sector, the key stakeholder has been seen as the CFO. However, offering strategic and operational management information from a single source, as well as improved usability and accessibility, broadens stakeholder decision-making. This enhanced capability also promotes increased accountability and transparency.
Clearly there are numerous ways to extend the ERP backbone beyond the basic financial, procurement and HR functionality already in common use in the public sector. The opportunity now exists to leverage the ERP investment through enhancing service delivery and organisational capability.
As public sector organisations together with their private sector counterparts struggle to keep pace with the demands of their suppliers and, more importantly, the communities they service, we will see traditional ERP extended further across the divisional boundaries, extended well beyond the organisational boundaries and extended in terms of the range of stakeholders that are served by the ERP solution.
David Bostock is public sector leader for PricewaterhouseCoopers
Join the CIO Australia group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.