The chapter introduces the essence of ERP in government as a tool for integration of government functions which provides the basis for citizen services. It discusses the challenges faced in modernization of government “businesses” and discusses strategies for implementation. The basis of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions is integration of functions which capture basic data through transactions to support critical administrative functions such as budgeting and financial management, revenue management, supply chain management and human resources management. Today, Enterprise solutions (ES) go beyond ERP to automate citizen-facing processes. The integration of data sources with each contact point is essential to ensure a consistent level of service. The author expects that researchers, governments and solution providers will be able to appreciate the underlying constraints and issues in implementation of ERP and hopes that the learning from industry would be useful to plan implementation of ES in government using emerging technologies.
ERP provides an enterprise-wide view of an organization and integrates various silos of activity. Such an integrated approach has a tremendous payback if implemented properly. Most ERP systems were designed to be used by manufacturing companies to track men, machines and material so as to improve productivity and reduce inventory. Viewing it from a business perspective, ERP systems are now known as Enterprise Solutions (ES) which takes a customer order and provides a software road map for automating the different steps along the path to fulfilling the order. The major reasons why companies look at ES can be summarized as:
Integrate financial information
Integrate customer order information
Standardize and speed up operational processes
Standardize HR information
Governments worldwide have been making efforts to use information and communications technologies (ICT) as an instrument of change to provide better services to citizens, facilitate work flow, and provide better governance and transparency. Popularly known as E-Government, the focus has initially been on information dissemination which has now moved on to transactions. What is required is a transformation of the public administration which takes a citizen service request and provides a software road map for automating the different steps along the path to fulfilling the request. This cuts across various departments and it is therefore critical to lay down suitable policies, guidelines and specifications and also redefine processes to facilitate faster proliferation of ICT applications.
E-government does not happen with more computers or a website. While online service delivery can be more efficient and less costly than other channels, cost savings and service improvements are not automatic. E-government has therefore to focus on planning, sustained allocation of budgets, dedication of manpower resources and above all, the political will. The e-government field, like most young fields, lacks a strong body of well-developed theory. One strategy for coping with theoretical immaturity is to import and adapt theories from other, more mature fields. (Flak, Rose, 2005)
Literature survey on implementations of e-governance has brought out the following observations which would help us in redefining the use of Information & Communication Technology (ICT) in the right perspective.
Most governments have not changed their processes in any way, and instead have automated flawed processes.
Government budgets and administration tends to be in departmental silos, but e-governance cuts across departments.
Too much attention to “citizen portals” has taken attention away from internal government functioning. There is a big gap between a web site and integrated service delivery.
Governments often underestimate the security, infrastructure, and scalability requirements of their applications which impact the quality of service. (Khalil, Lanvin, Chaudhry, 2002)
Learning from the experiences of the corporates, governments today understand the need for a consistent and flexible information infrastructure that can support organizational change, cost-effective service delivery and regulatory compliance. ERP is therefore needed to meet organizational objectives and outcomes by better allocating resources - its people, finances, capital, materials, and facilities. Modernization programs however involve a broad range of activities and require a wide array of skills and experiences, as these programs affect everything from computers to culture. The objective is to reduce administrative overhead and improve core product/service delivery.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Inter-Operability: Various departments organize work in silos and tend to work independently. Data forms the basis of a transaction processing system like ERP which integrates these departments so that basic data entered once can be used by many. More efficient exchanging and processing of data is required to provide a seamless execution of a service. Inter-operability therefore means the capability of different departments working together to provide a service.
Service-Oriented Architecture: Service-oriented architecture (SOA) is the emerging trend in enterprise computing because it holds promise of IT becoming more agile in responding to changing business needs. Implementing a service-oriented architecture can involve developing applications that use services, making applications available as services. A service-oriented architecture is an information technology approach or strategy in which applications make use of services available in a network such as the World Wide Web.
Enterprise Architecture: An organisation has assigned roles and responsibilities, and established plans for developing products and services. The scope of Enterprise Architecture can be defined as encompassing the whole enterprise with confirmed institutional commitment to deliver products and services, both current and planned with clear transition plans. This in fact would define the organisation structure, functions and the relationships that would facilitate the organisation to meet its desired goals. This is extremely essential for enterprise modernisation. Development of the enterprise architecture will typically involve, analysing the current architecture which will be a process of description, documenting the architecture “as-is” or “baseline” architecture, moving on to a definition of the architecture as it is planned to develop in the future - the architecture as it should be or “target” architecture which would align with the vision of the organisation.
E-Government: Government’s foremost job is to focus on safeguarding the nation / state and providing services to society as custodian of the nation’s / state’s assets. E-Government can therefore be defined as a technology-mediated process of reform in the way Governments work, share information, engage citizens and deliver services to external and internal clients for the benefit of both government and the clients that they serve.
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP): It is an integrated information system that integrates all departments within an enterprise. Evolving out of the manufacturing industry, ERP implies the use of packaged software rather than proprietary software. ERP modules may be able to interface with an organization’s own software with varying degrees of effort, and, depending on the software, ERP modules may be alterable via the vendor’s proprietary tools as well as proprietary or standard programming languages. An ERP system can include software for manufacturing, order entry, accounts receivable and payable, general ledger, purchasing, warehousing, transportation and human resources. The major ERP vendors are SAP and Oracle specialising in transaction processing that integrates various departments. Information infrastructure, it is the technology infrastructure required to manage information in an organisation. It consists of the computers, software, data structures and communication lines underlying critical services that society has come to depend on. It consists of information systems which cover critical aspects such as financial networks, the power grid, transportation, emergency services and government services. This is required to implement an ERP system.
Clean Data: For an organization to function effectively, data needs to be easily accessible both to customer sand internal users. Data is dispersed as governments like business organizations work in silos. To make this data accessible to others data conversion is a necessity as multiple sources and input formats, inconsistent styles and complexity of data structures. For any new system to get started it is necessary to convert the existing data from legacy systems or manual records to fit into the new data structures. This is a critical factor in ERP implementation projects. By clean data it is meant that there are no duplicates definitions of data which cause inconsistency.
Public administration: Every facet of our daily lives is impacted in some way by the actions of the federal, state, or local bureaucracies that manage and organize the public life of the country and its citizens. Public administration is the study of public entities and their relationships with each other and with the larger world. It addresses issues such as how public sector organizations are organized and managed, how public policy structures the design of government programs that we rely upon, how our states, cities, and towns work with the federal government to realize their goals and plan for their futures, how our national government creates and changes public policy programs to respond to the needs and interests of our nation.
Customization: In an attempt to deal with the potential problems presented by existing information systems, there is a shift towards the implementation of ERP packages. Generally it is felt that ERP packages are most successfully implemented when the standard model is adopted. Yet, despite this, customisation activity still occurs reportedly due to misalignment of the functionality of the package and the requirements of those in the implementing organisation. In such a situation the first thought that comes to a layman’s mind is to modify the software to provide the necessary report or layout. Most ERP products are generic. Hence, some customisation is needed to suit the company’s needs. But optimal customisation in most cases is subjective with no definite rules as end-users are not always technically equipped to understand the far-reaching implications of the changes that they are demanding. There is always a risk of destabilising the core application. Customisation can make or break the implementation of an ERP. It is therefore necessary to strike the right balance.