Birmingham City Council – SAP
Company: SAPCustomer: Birmingham City CouncilSubmitted by: HarvardIn September 1997 the finance users in Birmingham City Council (BCC), had reached the limit of their capabilities with the existing general ledger. The system was inflexible and could not be adapted to meet the government’s new requirement for ‘Best Value’; an initiative to promote both improved service and reduce costs. The Finance Department therefore went out to tender for a new general ledger system, which would be the first strategic step towards a modern financial solution for the authority.
This culminated in BCC purchasing SAP’s integrated R/3 solution.Birmingham City Council is the largest Local Authority in Europe, with 54,000 employees, servicing a population of just over 1 million people. Being the largest authority, and therefore highly visible, BCC’s IT procedures and implementations are watched with interest by other authorities and advisory bodies, and in this case, as an example of how to address the Best Value initiative.The new system requirements for BCC were actually quite narrow, but very detailed, in order to support such a large authority and its users’ requirements. The new financial system had to cope with 30 million transactions per year including over 1.5 million supplier invoices.
The initial core requirement was to replace forty-four ledgers used across the Council into a single comprehensive chart of accounts in one general ledger. To achieve this, the General Ledger and Management Information System project, (GLAMIS), was established and managed by the Finance Department’s project manager, Steve Wise. GLAMIS was greeted enthusiastically by finance users – that is everyone in the council with budget responsibility. The resulting SAP solution provides both a financial and an information solution, which is user friendly and accessible to non-accountancy professionals.;GLAMIS has significantly changed the role of the finance function – from being focused on ‘number crunching’ to now being the authority’s expert financial advisers to their customers, enabling them to carry out their job efficiently and quickly.
They are adding real value to the council through their financial advice and this change has also created greater job satisfaction. Lesley Brockington, one of the Council’s designated finance officers, said: “The biggest potential for the new system is the way that we can support departments in their efforts to provide Best Value.” GLAMIS has also empowered departmental users to manage their budgets and expenditure. The reports are user friendly and do not require accounting skills, so users can interpret the output themselves. There is now only a single general ledger with access for budget holders across the whole authority.
Departments can also readily access the detail relating to any financial transactions. Faster reporting has empowered them to provide a better service to their customers, through more efficient management of budgets and expenditure. The system is also very flexible: searching for financial inaccuracies is much simpler, with a facility to drill down through reports to find errors and exceptions. Batch processes interfacing to other systems are now carried out on a daily not weekly basis, so that the financial information held on the general ledger is up-to-date. In summary therefore, investment in the SAP system is leading to large savings for the council because their finances can be managed more efficiently.Sarah Wood, BCC Director of Finance and Performance, added: “SAP is performing well and doing what we expected.
We are very happy with the implementation and are impressed with the solidity of the solution. The system has been installed smoothly and we have achieved our aim: the user population is extending and the benefits to the council are substantial and growing.”The Council’s SAP Financial Development team is now putting together a business case, which is expected to be completed in April 2000, for the next phase of the project. Birmingham City Council’s long term vision is for the employees and the citizens of Birmingham to have access to financial and non-financial information when they want it and to provide excellent customer service, on a par with the very best organisations in the UK. Part of this vision will require the full integration of the PARIS system and the development and implementation of other elements of the SAP R/3 product.
GLAMIS is the first step in taking the vision forward to achieve a fully integrated information organisation.