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IT management in the public sector: The States of Jersey example

IT management in the public sector is as hot as tech topics come heading into 2014. With that in mind, we sat down with Paul Raimbault, enterprise systems manager for information services in the States of Jersey, to find out more about how government can successfully provision technology and some of the potential roadblocks on the way to effective implementation.

What is the States of Jersey?

The Government of Jersey is a [UK] crown dependency and therefore self-regulated and financed. There are 10 different government departments covering all functions of the Island's public sector. The largest departments are Health and Social Services, Education Sport & Culture, Transport and Technical Services and Home Affairs.

Prior to adopting procurement software, what systems/processes did the States have in place?

We will be undergoing a phased rollout of our new procurement system to all areas during 2014/15. We have a range of different processes for managing procurement. We use the procurement module of our JD Edwards ERP solution, which has been in place for over 10 years for order entry integrated with a bespoke share-point process for scanning and approval of invoices, though this is not fully deployed and some key areas still largely paper-based.

What internal challenges did the States face that led to the decision to roll out a new purchasing system?

The view is that the existing process does not make best use of available technology, and we needed a solution that is much easier to use. Also the procurement team wants to be able to understand the spend profile and classify spend more effectively, so a solution that could manage information better was needed. Encouraging staff to make use of supplier contracts for standard items is also a challenge, the cataloguing capability provided by Wax Digital web3 will help with this as users will be able to match pictures with item descriptions. Overall, we felt that our existing ERP solution couldn't meet all our requirements to modernise the procure-to-pay process.

What was the selection criteria for choosing the new system?

We went through a very lengthy and detailed tendering phase. The solution needed to meet a long list of key criteria, foremost on the list was usability, plus we also needed to be certain that the solution could integrate with our ERP solution which will remain our source of financial information.

The new system is cloud-based. What benefits will hosting the system in the cloud bring to your team?

We decided on a hybrid approach so Wax Digital's servers are hosted in SOJ data centres. However, Wax Digital is still responsible for monitoring and supporting the servers and providing the software and platform as a service. We felt this arrangement would achieve better response times with the servers in our own data centre operating in a DMZ as an extension of our network.

However, we also have the advantage that support is managed by a third party supplier rather than drawing on internal resource, though we still know exactly what is happening with the hardware and there are no potential data ownership issues; so some possible pitfalls of full cloud deployment are avoided.

What other existing IT-based systems will it integrate with and why is this integration important?

We will integrate web3 extensively with our JD Edwards finance solution - in all there are 13 different integration channels covering all inbound and outbound data. This is important as JDE remains the source of financial information for the States of Jersey and much of our reporting, though with enhanced levels of management information in future, will still be derived from reporting over JDE as opposed to web3.

We are also scanning a large proportion of invoices using KOFAX, which will then pass invoice data to web3. In the future we may develop other integrations, for example with our Health Catering system or Transports fleet management system.

With up to 2,000 users, how important is the system's usability?

Usability is very important to us and was a primary requirement when we chose the e-procure approach as our strategy and then during the tendering phase to determine our preferred supplier. We need the system to be straightforward, for infrequent users especially, and to minimise training overheads as we deploy – one of the key reasons for selecting Wax Digital web3

The new system will help with supplier management - how? Also, how will you on-board suppliers to the system?

The new web3 solution provides us with more functionality to classify spend, set up catalogues and track spend against supplier contracts. All this information makes it easier for us to understand exactly what our supplier base is providing to us by way of goods and services and therefore improves our ability to proactively manage suppliers.

How did you ensure that the procurement teams' needs were met while at the same meeting IT governance best practice and and security policies?

The procurement team and other departments - including Treasury, Health and Education - have led on business requirements for the solution and been fully involved with the project from the outset. IT governance has been followed throughout in line with our IS project office standards - the project has passed through a series of end stage assessment control gates. The eventual system design was signed off by our infrastructure architecture group prior to deployment of servers into our data centres.

Finally, from an IT perspective, what key benefits to you think the new system will bring to the States of Jersey?

Having one standardised platform for all departments to cover the entire procure to pay process should provide a number of benefits. Firstly, the user base should be more satisfied as operational staff will have access to richer functionality via an easier to use system. Also, management information will be produced in a more consistent way across departments - at the moment different purchasing processes makes this a challenge. Finally, training and support overheads are expected to be more manageable, as the Wax Digital web3 system will be easier for people to use so there are likely to be fewer queries.