East Sussex County Council (ESCC) provides local services to approximately 500,000 people. It directly employs 15,500 and works with a further 5,000 external customers and organisations. Like all local authorities, the council is under constant pressure to deliver excellent value for money and eliminate waste from its processes and operations.
Having already outsourced technology support, exchequer services, payroll and pensions administration in 1997, the council took the renewal of this contract in 2004 as an opportunity to replace its separate HR, payroll and pensions IT systems with a single SAP product. This would also incorporate finance and procurement processes, introducing a single e-business solution across the council.
Following an extensive tendering process, the contract for both IT support and SAP implementation was awarded to Serco. Starting in January 2004, the council successfully implemented SAP in just 12 months, including migrating about 750,000 payroll data items and delivering training to every user.
"We needed to make sure everyone appreciated the cultural change that was involved in this," says Leatham Green, assistant director of ESCC's personnel and change department. "The main difference would be seen in the payroll process, but the whole project meant increased accountability across the organisation."
A total of 35 employees were assigned roles dedicated to managing the change process. This included five people responsible for transferring technical aspects of the HR function and five dedicated trainers - one already employed by the organisation, and four recruited externally. These HR and training streams reported to Green who sat on the steering group for the project, where he had direct influence over progress. "From an HR point of view, this level of involvement was critical," he says. "It showed HR was integral to the whole process."
To ensure employees and affected external customers were aware of the forthcoming changes and knew why and how they would happen, Green and his colleagues carried out an extensive awareness campaign, running roadshows, demonstrations and poster campaigns, sending out more than 50 different newsletters and numerous e-mail messages.
With senior management involvement from the start and inspiring leadership from Richard Hemsley, ESCC's deputy director o