Kirklees Metropolitan Council
Company: interBiz Financial GroupCustomer: Kirklees Metropolitan CouncilSubmitted by: Spreckley Partners LtdThe Kirklees district in the north of England stands at the heart of the Trans-Pennine corridor, one of the fastest-growing regions in the country. Centred on the major towns of Huddersfield, Dewsbury and Batley, the area has a population of nearly 400,000. It also encompasses a number of smaller communities, including the town of Holmfirth, which borders the Peak National Park and was featured on the BBC’s award-winning comedy series, “Last of the Summer Wine.” The Kirklees district is proud of its stunning scenery, as found in both its impressive Victorian and modern architecture and beautiful natural settings.
Overseeing the interests of Kirklees district residents is the local authority, the Kirklees Metropolitan Council (‘Kirklees’). Kirklees has earned a reputation as a forward-thinking authority for its successful, proactive handling of education, housing, social services, highways and leisure issues.To best address such issues and improve responsiveness to customers, Kirklees devolved the management of its services into a number of separate ‘mini-businesses’. Each of these units, in turn, became responsible for processing its own financial transactions.
Kirklees knew that to continue to successfully service the interests of its local communities, it had to review its corporate IT strategy. The local authority understood that a careful review of their accounting and financial systems was key to achieving their objectives of streamlining their business operations and improving on customer response.
Sourcing A System That Fits The Business
Finding an IT system to fit the council’s needs presented many technological challenges. Foremost among these were replacing the legacy mainframe with client/server open platforms, implementing a new relational database strategy to provide better access to information, and installing a new network infrastructure to provide performance and accessibility throughout the authority.In essence, Kirklees needed a system that would serve its 1,000 users by allowing streamlined business operations in a focused environment while maintaining communication between units.
Additionally, it desperately needed to revise its accounting and financial systems.Charged with leading Kirklees’ transition, Gordon Gething, the council’s corporate IT manager, also resolved to ensure that the new integrated financial management system would be Y2K compliant, very much a concern for organisations in the build up to the new century. “When reviewing the IT strategy, besides looking for solutions that would be the most cost-effective, I very much had the technological issues associated with the millennium on my mind,” said Gething.Beginning the project, Gething immediately recognised that the mainframe was not in keeping with his IT strategy. Not only did it contain inherent inflexibilities and cost relatively more to run, but also many of its compatible software applications were not Y2K-compliant.
He decided to adopt a UNIX strategy, as the proven, scalable platform offers a greater choice of hardware as well as software applications and provides the best value on future costs of hardware replacement.Gething continued to choose hardware and software suppliers that strategically fit well together. These included Sun Microsystems’ multi-processor UltraEnterprise 4000 system hardware for the accounting and financial systems project; Ingres, a robust and cost-effective database from Computer Associates; and TCP/IP as the main network protocol, which would bring the benefits of encompassing a greater number of users and running a corporate intranet.”We saw the intranet first as a means of embracing the latest and most adaptable, extensible means of connecting computer users,” said Gething. “Additionally, it allows us to centrally control the distribution of PC client software, thereby dramatically reducing the amount of time we have to spend on loading and support. Ultimately, this should allow our IT service operation to use its staff time more productively.
Choosing An Integrated Financial Management System
Finally, to replace the dated, legacy accounting systems the council had been using for several years, Gething undertook a competitive review of the financial/accounting software market, looking for a package that would address the integrated creditors (accounts payable) and purchasing system as well as a new general ledger system.Dick Hewitson, chief financial officer, Kirklees council, commented on the councils financial system needs: “Our creditors system was in urgent need of replacement and we required a system that could support devolved processing”. Hewitson understood that there would be integration benefits in procuring the creditors and general ledger systems from the same supplier, but was concerned about choosing best-of-breed products for each application.
One Package Stood Out
Gething presented a number of possible solutions, and one package stood out as capable of meeting all of the requirements set forth – the suite of Masterpiece/Net applications from interBiz Financial Group, a business unit of CA’s interBiz Solutions division.”We were looking for an open systems solution which would run on a wide range of platforms and databases and give us the option of revising our platform strategies in the future,” recalled Gething. “Of the products that were shortlisted, Masterpiece/Net was the only one that gave us the same version of software on a broad range of hardware and operating systems, and also a choice of databases on those platforms.”The Masterpiece/Net accounts payable and purchasing system provided Kirklees with a fully integrated creditors system that the council could roll out to all of its services for them to use online. This system provided much more in the way of functionality and flexibility than Kirklees had ever had before.
Kirklees has also licensed the Masterpiece/Net inventory control, job costing and time recording (labour distribution) modules for initial implementation in the IT services operation.Hewitson expressed his pleasure with interBiz Financial Group’s solution, especially Masterpiece/Net’s General Ledger. “The General Ledger gave us online hierarchies – we didn’t need to update files and then run a report to see our financial information summarised in whichever way we wanted,” he said. “The summarised information was there for us to view on screen whenever it was needed.”Choosing Masterpiece/Net to complement the Ingres database meant that Kirklees could look to Computer Associates as a single source of supply for both application software and database, a welcome simplification of processes. With Masterpiece/Net, Kirklees can still reserve the flexibility to choose another suppliers database in the future, if necessary.
As a truly open system, the application also readily accepts feeder files from other applications.
Delivering The Latest Technology
Masterpiece/Net will be the first large-scale deployment of intranet-enabled business systems at Kirklees. Masterpiece/Net is the first enterprise financial management system with ‘100% Pure Java’ certification from Sun Microsystems. interBiz Financial Group has a strategic partnership agreement with Sun Microsystems and works closely with it on both development and marketing initiatives. Masterpiece/Net is licensed for 800 users at Kirklees and is running on a multi-processor Sun UltraEnterprise 4000 System with an Ingres database.
West Yorkshire Fire And Civil Defence Authority
The Kirklees solution will also support the West Yorkshire Fire and Civil Defence Authority (‘West Yorkshire Fire Authority’), which provides fire and rescue services to more than 2 million people in Kirklees and the four nearby local authority areas of Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield, and Calderdale. Because the West Yorkshire Fire Authority’s headquarters lies on the border between Kirklees and Bradford, Kirklees undertakes its financial management, and Hewitson serves as its treasurer.”Masterpiece/Net has the flexibility to cope with the diverse and complex structure of Kirklees Metropolitan Council,” remarked Hewitson. “Yet it can also readily accommodate the considerably different structure at the West Yorkshire Fire Authority.”Masterpiece/Net’s Web-enabling feature gives the West Yorkshire Fire Authority the ability to use Web-browser technology to access purchasing, accounts payable or general ledger facilities using Kirklees’ wide-area intranet or dial-up lines over the intranet.
This ability enables the West Yorkshire Fire Authority to extend functions such as purchasing out to fire stations in even the most remote outlying areas.Kirklees rolled out the Masterpiece/Net general ledger, licensed for 800 users, during the 1998-99 financial year. Speaking of the transition, Gething concluded, “Not only have we achieved some very significant efficiency benefits, we’ve also maintained the Kirklees tradition of innovation.”