Section 4.2 finance, hr and payroll services in the cloud


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Section 4.2 finance, hr and payroll services in the cloud

  1. 1. The Progression of Cloud Computing in Further Education Colleges Section 4.2 Finance, HR and Payroll Services in the Cloud
  2. 2. Detailed outcomes from Individual Projects 4.2 Finance, HR and Payroll Services in the Cloud Needs and Opportunities The main need for the delivery of efficient finance, HR and payroll services in an FE College is to provide the highest level of service combined with maximum business efficiency. This involves accurate and timely recording and reporting services to the College management, governors and other stakeholders including staff. Delivery of services requires a high level of systems functionality which, increasingly, includes self-service facilities for staff. Cloud computing has the potential to support the maximisation of business efficiency by enabling users to access the latest software. Users, of course, are drawn from support and curriculum services. If a shared service approach is also adopted, further efficiency gains can be achieved through single software purchases for a group of Colleges, adoption of a common set of business processes and shared use of IT and expertise. The Projects SISSC Ltd (Shared Services in Sussex and Surrey Colleges) comprises eight Colleges (three in Surrey and five in Sussex). It is allied to FE Sussex, a consortium of 12 post-16 Colleges in Sussex (six general FE, five sixth form and one land-based). The FE Sussex project, which is led by Northbrook College and delivered by FE Sussex and SISSC Ltd, involves the development and delivery of shared financial, HR, payroll and e-recruitment services across the Surrey and Sussex Colleges. At the time of writing, payroll services are going live in one College, with a progressive roll-out planned. The system has been tested extensively through parallel runs with historical data. A training programme is in place. Further updates on the success and impact of this project will be reported in updates of this report. The Isle of Wight College Project is a single-College project based on running Symmetry, a finance system, in the cloud. This system went live in August/September 2013 with a roll-out to 35 staff members across College campuses. Evaluation of the use of the system will be reported in updates of this report. Outcomes Similarities Both projects, Isle of Wight and FE Sussex aim for service improvements which include self-service access in departments. Both projects anticipate significant savings. FE Sussex £75000 and Isle of Wight £18000 1
  3. 3. Differences Item Scale Training and Culture change FE Sussex 8 Colleges 7000 users The most significant element of the project. Agreement and conformance to common business processes and standards. Isle of Wight 1 College 20 users Users are adapting well to the new system. Technical Proceeding smoothly in a staged manner. Initial challenges with getting Symmetry to work fully in the Cloud and with JANET band with provision. Replicability Can be used by any college within the partnership. Can be used by other Symmetry users. Delivery Models FE Sussex: The delivery model for FE Sussex, as a shared services project, is cloud hosting of finance, HR and payroll applications software and databases, supported by the SISSC Ltd team. There is a single database for each application serving all Colleges, all of which are required to implement a common set of business processes. Isle of Wight College: The delivery model for the Isle of Wight College is cloud hosting of Symmetry software and the College finance database. Supplier Relationships FE Sussex: An OJEC tendering process was used for procurement. ULCC was selected as the hosting service, through a JISC-supported process. Risks in software procurement were minimised by using a system that has been proven in the University of Sussex and Northern Ireland Colleges. Isle of Wight: Having selected Symmetry cloud, the two main supplier challenges encountered concerned the timing of the upgrade of the JANET connection and the need for further support from Symmetry to enable functionality of specific College-based reports. Project and Change Management FE Sussex: “Change management has been the biggest challenge of all!” The human element is seen as more difficult to solve than any technical problem. Systematic recording of faults and changes to specification is essential. A training programme has been put in place across the group of Colleges for 7000 users. This training has been around the new system and moving away from paper to an online system. This in turn, it is felt, will lead to a change in culture over time through changes to working practices. 2
  4. 4. The software has been set up and the main complexities were around configuration, ensuring that all was set up correctly, documenting all the information in a configuration log and ensuring continuity with staff over any issues and making sure these were logged. Isle of Wight College: “One of our most significant issues was the conflict between the need to run our existing services whilst trying to deploy a new system at the same time. All change management meetings were successful up until the testing phase. At this point, time pressures and frustrations with delays possibly caused us to pay less attention to the details than we should have done. Some reports were missed and silly things, such as the wrong logo being ported over on the reports, were not identified in a timely manner. This has led to issues being carried over into the final version that should have been resolved prior to the live version being deployed.” During testing it was found that several critical reports did not work correctly and this required a significant amount of reprogramming by the Symmetry consultants. “Once this work was completed, it was found that the reports were still not running correctly and as we were heading towards the end of the College financial year, we delayed the final handover until we could be sure that the system would work from day one. The Symmetry team provided a series of test versions until we agreed that they were working fine. The rollout of the new system was carried out overnight and we closed down the old server the same day to prevent any data crossover. Unlike FE Sussex, the human element has not been a significant problem. Most staff are using the system with little requirement for long training sessions and have been up and running fairly quickly. There are some areas where staff are having issues. These are being completed via individual trainings sessions and lessons learnt are being disseminated to other staff.” SLAs FE Sussex: This project involves extensive SLAs between specific Colleges and SISSC Ltd and between SISSC Ltd and ULCC, the software provider and JANET. “Ensuring watertight agreements and a collaborative atmosphere mitigated the barriers.” Binding Solution Design Documents underpin the transition to the cloud for each application. Isle of Wight: The main SLA for this project is between the College and Symmetry, now Blueqube. 3
  5. 5. Impact FE Sussex: Impact is continuously evaluated as Colleges become live on the system. Isle of Wight College: Many staff have found the system easier to use and it is significantly faster to complete a lot of the finance processes than with the previous system. The ability to customise your own reports and to export to Excel has made budget monitoring much easier and quicker. Savings FE Sussex: “We will reduce in-College servers by ten at the end of this project. Each server costs approximately £13,000 per annum to run and service. Hosting environment fees are less than half this. This will result in a £75,000 saving.” Isle of Wight: The following savings have been identified: £2,000 software upgrade costs will no longer be required in 2013/14. £11,000 from modifications to our existing dashboard software installation that will no longer be needed 2013/14. £2,000 annual consultancy costs. £3,000 hardware replacement costs. Total projected savings £18,000. Staff time will be saved in the following areas: Report writing can be completed by local managers without recourse to the finance team. Requirement for specialist technical skills to support server-based issues will be reduced. Sustainability and Expected Longer Term Impact FE Sussex: Sustainability for the project is an integrated part of the business plan and SISSC will increase its reach as further Colleges and applications come on board. Isle of Wight College: “The Isle of Wight College is expecting the project to provide an improved financial system that will enable local managers to produce timely, relevant reports directly without the need to refer to finance staff. This will enable staff time to be used more efficiently whilst improving the quality of data to facilitate better decision making.” Replicablity for the Wider FE Sector FE Sussex: The ability to replicate the project in other Colleges in the group is in-built. There has been a high level of interest in the project from other Colleges who are keen to benefit from the savings the shared service can produce. 4
  6. 6. Isle of Wight College: The approach used here should be replicable for other single Colleges using Symmetry and general experience is of value to any College considering moving to a cloud-based solution for its financial system. The College journey will support replicability for any College moving a financial system to the cloud. Once completed, feedback will be given via the Finance Directors’ Network over issues we have experienced and how the implementation has benefitted our organisation. A case study will be completed. We anticipate inviting other interested Colleges within our sector to a presentation day to share good practice and to discuss our experiences. 5
  7. 7. With thanks to all project partners who contributed to the development of this report and consultant Chris West The Association of Colleges 2013 2-5 Stedham Place, London, WC1A 1HU Tel: 020 7034 9900 Fax: 020 7034 9955 Email: website: