back to article Oracle's examplar win over SAP for Birmingham City Council is 3 years late

Birmingham City Council's ERP overhaul to replace SAP with Oracle has required £20 million ($24.9 million) additional spending and is three years late, a meeting heard last week. Robert Alden, leader of the council's opposition Conservative Group, claimed overspending on the project – which started in 2018 – was equivalent to …

  1. ChoHag Silver badge

    > it is not unusual for the implementation of such systems to encounter difficulties.

    Especially when you outsource the implementing to the people who profit from the difficulties.

  2. s. pam Silver badge

    Just add Crapita and they'll be successful!

    "Ward confirmed PwC and KPMG had been appointed to help rectify problems with the system. The council had previously employed EY on the implementation"

    Throwing an infinite number of monkeys at a problem does not a solution make...

    1. Korev Silver badge

      Re: Just add Crapita and they'll be successful!

      But these are different monkeys...

      And they might have better typewriters

    2. Dante Alighieri

      Infinite Monkeys


      I thank you

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bostin' effort guys - not

    1. IGotOut Silver badge

      Black Country not Brummie.

      Try again.

  4. steamnut

    And what of the future?

    With comments like "heavily adapted with complex customisations which are failing, and proving hard to fix." you can already see that this will be a support nightmare. You can see why SAP wants it's users on a standard platform.

    The other comments like "Therefore, this comes with a single point of failure." and "process automation in SAP had been lost in Oracle" also do not bode well for future cost savings.

    This really is a dogs breakfast where the winners have been SAP and Oracle and the losers the local rate payers.

  5. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Where are the angry investors?

    Larry claimed a paltry extra £20M and £5.1M of that went to SAP instead.

  6. monty75

    Has there ever been an ERP deployment in a medium to large organisation that finished on time, within budget and delivered benefits over whatever it replaced?

    1. TVC

      I project managed an international sales to manufacturing SAP system. It went live in 4 countries over one weekend, on time and under budget. I did the other two countries over the next year.

      It can be done.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        Well you would say that wouldn't your self important self say... Citation needed.

      2. James Anderson

        Probably in a medium sized business which bought materials, made stuff, put it an a warehouse and sold it.

        Any deviation from this bog standard business model dumps you in a world of painful customisation, with "expert" consultants hacking together solutions for processes they do not understand.

        Worse when the next release comes along the whole customisation fiasco has to be repeated from scratch.

        Local government is about as far from standard as you can get. Half the staff are "officers" (some with extraordinary powers -- like removing your children, or knocking down your building), every penny spent must be traceable to the individual counsellors who voted for it, most of what they do is mandated by central government regulations etc. etc.

        Trying to get a standard business suite to operate for such an organisation is always going to end in tears.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. Roger Kynaston Silver badge

          complicated business

          Public sector bodies are always more complex than their private sector counterparts. A bank has to move money around. A local authority has to move money around, maintain houses, make sure children are cared for, make sure vulnurable adults are cared for, lend books out and keep said book repositories open and warm for those unable to get warm anywhere else, make sure the non-vulnerable children are able to read and do sums and allow a bunch of elected political types tell everyone to do this stuff.

          I work in a University now and that has its own set of complexities. Heaven forbid that I find my way to central government!

        3. Peter2 Silver badge

          Any deviation from this bog standard business model dumps you in a world of painful customisation, with "expert" consultants hacking together solutions for processes they do not understand.

          I have written quick bits of code to get a job done for "6 months", some of which are now over 20 years old which like weeds have survived persistent efforts to kill them off.

          In my view this is because my quick fixes were done by asking the person using them what they needed to do and then adding on some simple logging, obvious error prevention and backup copies for the benefit of the staff and their line management.

          The replacements meanwhile are designed and specced by committee based on what their managers managers managers manager thinks they are doing, which is evidently so far disconnected from the reality on the ground as to be unusable by the end users. As a result, every replacement project crashes and burns, and my temporary quick fixes live on for another "6 months".

          Large scale replacement projects failing like this is (IMO) an good indication that the management is so severely dysfunctional that they actually have no fucking idea what their staff are actually doing.

    2. The Basis of everything is...

      Yes. Many. But nobody cares as it doesn't make a good headline.

    3. tokai

      I think another question might be has there ever been a successful *Public sector" ERP deployment...

      The business cases and efficiencies always seem based on the relatively stable and process driven areas of manufacturing, logistics and industry, however they never seem to cross-over well to public health, councils, social housing etc.

      1. Lonpfrb

        SAP ECC 6

        In my experience of implementing SAP ECC 6 at Birmingham City Council, yes. That was on time and budget despite the complexity and historic issues that had to be solved. As a buyer of goods and services the council has lots in common with most businesses. However differences too as the care system doesn't work without the well meaning amateurs who will never be business people. Not a criticism just the reality that much of it doesn't make business sense so isn't run as a business.

        I'm not surprised that Oracle custom solutions are risky and expensive since the same can be true of SAP, especially if the implementation partners aren't experienced.

        Given that is not a description of the EY people that I have met, there's probably more to this than either party will say.

    4. theModge

      I guess it depends who gets to define sucess

      My employer, a large university, deployed oracle, late over budget and semi-functional.

      I have no doubt those behind the project are clapping themselves on the back as job well done. It is after all deployed.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      There’s is the Oracle roll out at University of Edinburgh that was on time… no wait… in budget… no wait…

      Still not complete and still way over budget too!

      Looks like Oracle isn’t really living up to its namesake and doesn’t know what’s going on

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Presume it's Oracle Fusion

    I presume they've gone to Fusion. Good luck to them, they'll need lots of it.

  8. MrRed


    The National Trust fed Oracle a similar sum over a slightly longer period about 10 years ago and got nothing of any use in return.

    Some individuals at The Trust my have benefitted personally, but I couldn't possibly comment on that.

    That's a few years ago now, so they might have spent some more and got something useful out of them.

    But not likely! ;D

  9. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    What are they doing that's unique to Birmingham? There are enough local councils that there should be an off-the-shelf package to service there needs. Maybe a combination of off-the-shelf packages that need some integration. Integration that, given the number of councils, should also be standard practice because it's been done elsewhere.

    1. IGotOut Silver badge

      For starters it's the largest in the country then add in hundreds of legacy systems.

      It's like saying Tesco's and Lidl are both supermarkets, so why don't they use the same systems?

      1. ChrisElvidge

        Tesco and Lidl may both be supermarkets but they have different pricing models. What was being said was that as councils (should) have the same goals, they could have a common software solution. (As should all NHS trusts.) However we all know that "we've always done it this way" rules.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          In practice it tends to be "We've always done it badly this way".

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          So, if one gets hacked they all do? Guessing you have no idea about security.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "It's like saying Tesco's and Lidl are both supermarkets, so why don't they use the same systems?"

        They're competitors. They're very likely to have different approaches to almost anything to give themselves competitive edge over the others.

        Birmingham isn't in competition with my local council. There's no reason why either of them should be looking to their systems to differentiate them from the other. It's true that with the variation of local hierarchies we have these days different councils might have a different mix of responsibilities so that somebody else's council might, in their area, have some of the responsibilities my parish council has here & some of those of my metropolitan council. Even so that situation could be dealt with by the relevant councils using the appropriate mix of modules from a common design.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        It’s interesting that you use Tesco in your analogy. Many years ago Council officers went on a jolly to (I think) Sweden to look at a specific model of revolving door. Tesco at the end of Broad Street already had one installed…

    2. Ozan

      AS far as I know, only netcad was able to standardize across local and central governments. But it's Turkey only solution and tailored for Turkey's laws. Netcad is for buildings, measuring, building codes and zoning.

      Anyone else knows anything similar around the world?

    3. The Basis of everything is...

      You would have thought so.

      But councils all seem to be fiercely independent, especially once the members get involved. I've previously worked with a Birmingham-based services company that claimed a "Template for Local Government" that had some some success with a few groupings of councils, but eventually all of them fell apart over political (office and party) differences rather than technology. Quite often even getting different parts of the same council to agree with each other to sign off a common spec was near impossible. It's amazing that local government is able to function at all.

      1. nijam Silver badge

        > It's amazing that local government is able to function at all.

        It would be amazing if ...

      2. hoola Silver badge

        Then there is the constant cycle that they are all encumbered with multiple "legacy" systems that don't fit the "make-everything-conform-to-the-same-template" mantra of modern <cloud> solutions.

        Decades of stuff just working with no budgets to actually replace takes it's toll. Them you have all the lunacy of the political or regulatory changes that have to be implemented by a specified date or they are not complying with "the law".

        Now add in the outsourced bits and pieces to the likes of Capita. They do not want to integrate with other systems that are from a competitor because there is the potential of the gravy train stopping.

        If you were starting from a blank piece of paper with a brand new authority then it may be possible to make something work. I doubt it because there are simple no "one size fits all" solutions. Everything needs a stack of mess between all the different systems to get it to function.

  10. Zippy´s Sausage Factory

    I'd question what exactly a council are using a full blown ERP for anyway. As far as I know there's a bunch of specialist software that's used in particular contexts - planning, environmental health, housing, revenues and benefits, etc - and those are well established in their niche and do the job they're required to do extremely well. (Or at least, they used to exist)

    Now a lightweight CRM dealing with calls and allowing tickets to be assigned to the people using the specialist systems, yes I can see the value in that. But I fail to see what a full blown ERP brings to the table that's an additional £20 million of usefulness.

    1. The Basis of everything is...

      Local authorities typically have:

      payroll & expenses

      hr - benefits, hiring, reviews, time, approvals, reporting

      stock, consumables and stuff they give out/distribute

      distribution & warehousing of stuff


      purchasing, goods receipt, accounts payable

      finance & management accounts

      reporting on anything and everything

      orders, fees, subscriptions, taxes, receipts


      CRM for handling "customer contact" e.g. green bins, pest control, pemits

      Think of anything that every type of business might do, somewhere in local authority somebody will be doing just that. At least until it all gets reorganised/split up/tendered/outsourced/merged/abolished.

      Maybe using the word enterprise in association with the stereotypical council is a bit hard to swallow, but it's still the same processes. Even if somewhat twisted and mangled into their own worldview.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Evosys / Mastek ....

    the original integrator was Evosys (now Mastek). Evosys have to shoulder the majority of the issues. very low skilled technically. The evosys sales people were all over BCC when the deal had to be done; and no where to be seen post deal signing. I understand from a local gov soruce, Evosys/Mastek has substantial delivery challenges in most of its projects. Its that bad, Mastek dont even mention local gov in their latest investor briefing pack !

  12. aerogems Silver badge

    Just going to take a WAG here... Oracle rolls in and has some of their best people in toe. The people who could essentially set up the entire system from scratch completely blindfolded in an afternoon. They elicit the necessary "oohs" and "ahhs" from the politicians, and then before the ink is even dry on the contract, those people are being sent off to the next sucker'spotential client's site and Oracle sends in the Z Team. You don't get the B Team, or even the C Team, you get the people who may literally have been hired yesterday and whose whole job is to be cheap labor and technically satisfy the terms of the contract. That fits with Oracle's general business model which is to make things so painful to switch to anything else that most companies simply give up.

    I've personally never used Oracle's ERP, except for Agile PLM, which they bought and have subsequently ruined, but from everything I've heard... as bad as SAP is, Oracle is somehow even worse. If SAP is like getting kicked in the teeth by an NFL place kicker wearing cleats, then Oracle is like getting kicked in the teeth by an NFL place kicker wearing steel toed cleats on Christmas.

    1. TheBruce


      Thats seems to be Oracle's standard ops. Over promise and under deliver. But all professional services do this.

  13. GroovyLama

    Is part of this caused by the attempt to refit a modern ERP to meet a 20-30 year old business process?

    Is any attempt being made to update the process to leverage the features of the new ERP?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    FTSE100 shareholders / lobbyists : Your organisation MUST get onto SAP4/HANA or you will lose out on our share of pension funds.

    SAP shareholders (happen to be the same people) : Make killing of the obligatory purchase and endless support.

    The US rollout of SAP in my outfit lead to complete failure of payroll for multiple months. On the UK side, every single middle manager (i.e. those with teams of 20 to 100 staff) has absolutely no visibility of the correct staff, costs and expenses linked to their area.

    On the Project spend front; nigh on every scheme plays shenanigans that can be obscured using SAP to assign whatever, to wherever. And most awkwardly of all, Capex / Opex expenditure can be similarly obfuscated; which has implications for company revenues due to the way it is linked to expenditure on given spaces.

    A/C for obvious, somewhat libellious reasons, and you can probably figure out which company I'm talking about.

    Though I have no doubt it's not the only one doing the same.

  15. Jim Whitaker

    Well that's a surprise.

    "complex customisations which are failing, and proving hard to fix" Well who would have thought that this would be a problem. Shakes head.

  16. RobLang

    Feel sorry for the BAU team

    The BAU team are going to get nailed: the council will at some point refuse to keep pouring money into the migration and BAU will be left with an unfinished system that is worse than what they had.

  17. ComicalEngineer

    From personal knowledge I believe that all large councils have multiple systems dating back at least 25 years if not more. I have seen one system which was still using a DOS type interface in 2018. It later had a Windows front end bolted on but it's still a 25+ year old legacy system that would cost a lot of money to replace including migration of 25 years data from the legacy system.

    As for all large systems, the integration of multiple types of data, many of which may need to be collated into a file relating to e.g. a single person or family is a major challenge. Add into this levels of security and access for different users, child protection constraints, vulnerable persons, family security, links to finances, council tax, benefits, Universal Credit etc and there is an almost infinite scope for a major fustercluck.

    On top of this, the system has to work "out of the box" but councils won't allow sufficient time for testing or parallel operation to iron out the bugs.

    I love local councils - not.

    1. keithpeter Silver badge


      Throw widespread use of remote desktops into the mix for extra fun.

  18. Coni

    ERP or not ERP..monkey..scope…client leadership

    Not so interesting debates in most of the comments just old comments/debates thrown, save a couple. Summary, monkey implementors, bad application, complex scope. Does anyone look at facts ie the BCC Leadership made the decision to move an old monlolithic SAP, heavily customised landscape to Oracle (psst,; anyone that has worked with both products knows…no can do easily) this decision should only have been taken, if Oracle product was fit for purpose and in alignment with BCC goals.

    BCC is the largest local authority in Europe so a lot of £££££ to provide services to its communities; but does BCC leadership have a vision, a Strategic map of digitising itself? Does it have process/product owners/decision makers to work with its partners?

    I would recommend to this post audience, dona deep dive look into BCC history with ERP implementation, look at why it made headlines when it implemented SAP 15+ years ago; and see if the leadership learnt anything. It’s very easy to blame monkeys but if Masters are orangoutangs…systems will be fit for their purpose (sorry I am insulting intelligent animals). Ps I respond in kind to earlier post.

    Recommendation msg to anyone interested: keep tight control of BCC stakeholders, change manage and Test test test, up skill the decision makers so they understand what they bought and why! And back to RACI for BCC leadership product/process owners ..where the buck stops…..incidental new SI will do no better ;)..

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like