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Natural Resources Wales adopts Unit4 ERP in digital transformation drive

The Welsh government’s environmental protection body is using Unit4 enterprise resource planning, from Trustmarque, as part of a digital transformation programme

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) is responsible for protecting and promoting the nation’s natural environment. Founded in April 2013, it brought together the Countryside Council for Wales, the Environment Agency Wales and the Forestry Commission, and currently employs some 1,900 people with a budget of £180m a year.

So, three separate IT systems and estates had to be brought and simplified, all under the usual public sector banner of getting more for less, says Paul Subacchi, head of business support services at Natural Resources Wales, adding that the “the creation of NRW resulted in a complex and disparate IT estate”.

In order to simplify this, the Welsh-government funded organisation chose, in February 2014, an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system from the G-Cloud, delivered by reseller Trustmarque, and based on Unit4 Business World product.

“Our ERP system is absolutely critical to the organisation, enabling us to become more efficient and offer greater self-service functionality to our employees. Cloud is a significant part of our IT strategy, so we need a platform that is available, resilient, flexible and secure,” says Subacchi.

In March 2016, NRW decided to renew its contract with Trustmarque for another two years.

Benefits of consolidation

It had originally selected Trustmarque from the G-Cloud to implement Unit4, in a private cloud, to consolidate the ERP systems it was using for finance and human resources.

A further benefit of the consolidation, says Subacchi, has been an employee self-service portal, dubbed “MyNRW”, and made available in December 2014. This allows the organisation’s employees to carry out tasks such as updating personal details or accessing their digital payslips.

The ERP implementation is, though, part of bigger digital transformation programme at NRW, says Subacchi. “We are seeking to do things slickly and a big part of that is to exploit digital technology in its best format. That means such things as our use of [Micorosoft] Office365 and mobile computing, with our use of tablets”.

More broadly, Subbachi says the bringing together of the three pre-existing ERP platforms and the move to cloud has increased the quality of the management information available to NRW, enabling it to make better informed decisions and process improvements.

“One version of the truth might sound like a cliché but that is what we are trying to achieve here. We are getting there. Remember, our managers have come from three different places, and we are still learning about our new organisation”.

NRW’s managers include those involved in flood risk projects, forest operations, civil engineering works, and water quality projects. “It’s a broad church of staff, with different levels of specialism”.

Handling sensitive information

Even for those managing small teams, being able to see what leave has been booked helps to plan operations better, he adds.

Previously, two of the three constituents of NRW had been using eFinancials, with payroll delivered through Northgate, while Environment Agency Wales had been using Oracle’s 1B1S [One Business, One System].  

NRW deals with a large group of customers, with sensitive financial data, explains Subacchi, unlike many other public sector organisations. The commercial timber industry is, for example, a customer of the Forestry Commission component of NRW.

This made security an important selection criterion. The Trustmarque cloud is accredited to manage systems and data operating at the government’s “official-sensitive” level, so that counted in its favour.

As part of the contract, Trustmarque is also managing the software licensing of Unit4 for NRW, simplifying its infrastructure licensing requirements and taking the responsibility for ensuring compliance.

“It’s a new system and we are still bedding it in,” says Subacchi. “However, we have been moving at quite a pace over the past nine months.”

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