ERP platforms can drive public sector digital modernisation

24 March 2020 3 min. read

Despite the potential to cut costs and improve service provided by ERP systems, funding concerns and a perceived shortage of technical skills means the public sector remains slow to adopt the technology. Mark Gibbison, Public Sector Direct at Unit4, has argued that ERP is in fact within the reach of most public bodies.

Many businesses purchase enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems to manage various business processes within the organisation – including accounting, human resources and purchasing – in one integrated system. If implemented well, such systems have various analytical features, such as performance evaluation, reporting and decision making, which allow for business flexibility and efficiency gains. The benefits of ERPs need not be limited to private companies, however.

According to Mark Gibbison, consultancy Unit4’s Global Director for Public Sector, many organisations are missing a trick by failing to leverage the potential of ERP in the public sphere. In an article for Unit4’s company blog, Gibbison argued that if the digital capabilities of public sector organisations are to yield the same possibilities as those of the private sector, a long-term strategic change will be needed.

Mark Gibbison, Public Sector Direct at Unit4

Gibbison stated, “By holding back from digital transformation and failing to embrace agile business applications, government organisations cannot implement the sophisticated, seamless working processes and people-centred systems that their corporate counterparts are already benefitting from. But it’s not too late for change.”

That change may be easier than many public sector leaders think, too. Gibbison contends that while many government bodies cite “lack of overall strategy, challenges with organisational agility and a shortage of technical skills” as inhibiting their ability to adopt new operational technologies, ERP tools could actually help organisations improve in these areas.

“Up to 95% of government organisations want to increase their efficiency, and ERP technology can deliver immediate gains in this area,” he explained. “Choosing a platform with a simple user interface will enable non-tech-savvy users to make changes, while clear reporting features enable quicker, more informed decision-making.”

Matter of urgency

Despite the potential benefits of ERP, and the fact they seem to fit exactly what public sector institutions already recognise as problems, there remains a lack of urgency in calls for change. Gibbison admits that perhaps the most significant hurdle preventing adoption is cost.

The public sector has endured over a decade of austerity, and any area where processes can be made more efficient will essentially help organisations do more with less. ERP could help automate everyday tasks and provide an agile, adaptable framework for collaboration that drastically reduces the time people spend on admin, so staff can focus on more valuable tasks and services. At the same time, as many as 85% of organisations want to process valuable data insights, helping to streamline and improve various systems and services in accordance with demand – something else ERP could help with.

In this regard, a continuation of an austerity mind-set in the public sector could well be counterintuitive for governments in the long-run. Insufficient funding and competing priorities mean many organisations put technology investment on the backburner – despite the cost-saving potential that it could yield should they be freed up to invest in its long-term potential.

Gibbison concluded, “Good ERP technology isn’t beyond the reach of most bodies, and the return on investment far outweighs the initial expenditure. The secret to success is partnering with the right tech partner to ensure any new platform delivers effective digital transformation.”