What happens when a government agency has ever-increasing responsibilities but continually diminishing budget and staff?
The Lambeth Borough Council, a local authority in south London, England, was in this position. The Borough has 3,500 staff responsible for more than 800 types of essential services to local businesses and the wider community—including trash collection, recycling, parking, housing, social care, going-green initiatives, and education—and demand for all these services are increasing.
Prior to the 2008 financial crisis, a majority of funding for Lambeth came from UK central government. In the decade following the crisis, Lambeth saw their funding reduced by more than 50%—a loss of more than 250 million pounds—while the demand and complexity of their services continued to grow. The council also had significant staff reductions, leaving fewer people to do more work—trends that have continued in the wake of the recent COVID-19 crisis.
Hamant Bharadia, the assistant director of finance for the council, turned to innovation to solve the problem. “My priority is offering a better service to our residents,” he said. “Are we improving the lives and chances for our young people, creating those opportunities? Technology helps us make better decisions on the front line and that’s what we want to be able to focus on. It’s about doing things better, not just saving money.”
With this in mind, Bharadia and his team began rethinking their organizational processes and employee experience. One area they reviewed was the borough’s office accommodations. The council wanted to support a mobile workforce with more flexible ways of working.
Not only was office space one of their biggest costs, but the council had 6 legacy systems, resulting in fragmented, inconsistent data. “One of the challenges for us was, our HR system had a record of how many employees we should have; our finance system had a record of how many people we should be paying for; and there was a huge difference between the two,” Bharadia explained.
With their legacy contracts coming to an end, the council decided it was time to transform. They wanted to streamline systems and processes, reduce back office costs, and leverage more modern technology.
“The key tagline was simplify, standardize, and make it cheaper,” Bharadia said. “So that's the kind of ethos that we built in.”
The Lambeth Borough Council identified a number of key objectives. They wanted to:
“We looked at a number of alternatives,” Bharadia said. “There wasn't anything else. We know Oracle. We've worked with it for a long time, and when we saw the cloud applications and their roadmaps, we liked how they were structured. We were keen to move as quickly as possible.”
They set an ambitious twelve-month deadline and adopted a big bang approach. They decided to transition to Oracle Cloud—including financials, procurement, human capital management, payroll, planning and budgeting, and projects. The Lambeth Borough Council partnered with Evosys and Socitm and was able to beat their deadline.
“We were told it couldn’t be done, but we did it in ten months because we were fortunate to have the right people on board,” Bharadia said. “We were able to go live over a weekend.”
Since transitioning to Oracle Cloud, the council has continued to improve data accuracy, control, and productivity, and realized significant gains in three key areas:
Oracle Cloud has helped the council automate financial capabilities, allowing staff to spend more time on value-added tasks. Since moving to the cloud, automated transaction processing has gone up 20 percent, manual journal entry has decreased 45 percent, and manual invoice entry is down 23 percent.
The cloud has improved the quality of information and enhanced reporting. By consolidating duplicate entries, commercial supplier database records have decreased 18 percent, making it easier to manage suppliers.
Self-service has turned out to be a game-changer for HR. The appraisal completion rate has increased 25 percent, and fewer staff members are needed to handle HR queries.
Budget holders now have access to the data and information they need to make decisions and understand the financial implications through the deployment of Oracle Enterprise Planning and Management. Managers now have the right tools they need to run their departments.
“When we started on the cloud journey, we were very keen on self-service and giving managers access to and control of the information,” Bharadia said. “We wanted to deliver all of the budget monitoring and the forecasting to managers directly. Through self-service and new technologies like chatbots, we've delivered 20% more efficiency in all support functions across the organization.”
Since going live, the Council has implemented Oracle Cloud Risk Management and are reviewing the functionality of Oracle Analytics. The move to the cloud has been so successful, the council is looking to deploy additional capabilities from Oracle Cloud EPM within the next fiscal year.
Most importantly, the Lambeth Borough Council can keep providing crucial services to residents and businesses within the borough—especially those who most need assistance.