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A new dawn for local government

Supporting HR through effective systems

In order for it to deliver the services that drive social and economic development in its region, the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality (EMM) currently employs over 14 500 staff, which makes for a sizable task in human resource management.

Yet until recently, the EMM had minimal IT systems in place to support its HR - made up largely of a payroll system that held the basis of its HR details, supported by an extensive jungle of paper-based processes.

Therefore, when EMM embarked on an update of its technological tools and business applications in 2004, the implementation of a cutting-edge Human Resources Management System (HRMS) was high on the organisational agenda. "The choice of HRMS was critical, not only because we are a big organisation, but also because the effective management of HR impacts directly on our ability to deliver services more effectively," explains Mamma Taukobong, Director of Human Resources Provision and Maintenance at EMM.

Choosing a partner of substance

A comprehensive tender process was drawn up to choose the correct implementation partner for the project, and a number of short-listed candidates were selected. However, with EMM having made the strategic decision to standardise on an Oracle-based platform for its databases and applications, thereby taking advantage of Oracle's legendary robustness, flexibility and open architecture, it was critical that the chosen candidate possessed sufficient expertise in the Oracle environment to take on the task.

As it turned out, one Oracle Certified Advantage Partner stood head-and-shoulders above the rest through its ability to take on such a large project - New Dawn Technologies.

"It's fair to say that we chose NDT primarily based upon the fact that it is South Africa's leading Oracle solutions provider, and therefore best placed to deliver on a project that touches every corner of an organisation the size of ours," explains Taukobong. "However, we were also particularly impressed by NDT's extensive track record at all levels within the public sector, and the fact that the company is a shining light of BEE success within the ICT sector fitted extremely well with our policy of empowering through procurement."

Adopting a phased approach

NDT began its work within EMM in early 2005, and immediately split the organisational requirements into two distinct phases. "The requirement from EMM was for an initial 'Big Bang' approach, rapidly delivering the functionality of the Oracle platform to the HR department, thereby driving efficiencies from the core out," explains Ernie Kotze, manager in Business Applications at NDT.

"Phase 1 would therefore implement the solution at an administrative level, with a rapid roll-out to the HR staff. Phase 2 would look to build upon this platform, extending the functionality to staff members across the organisation through its integration with intranet-based self-service channels."

A key feature of the implementation was to be the use of Oracle's AIM Advantage product, a toolkit of proven methodologies in the effective deployment of Oracle applications. "A distinct advantage of choosing the Oracle platform is that you know from the outset that you are working within an application environment that is proven within thousands of leading organisations worldwide," points out Kotze. "To back this up, Oracle provides critical toolkits like its AIM Advantage product, which embeds all this experience and business knowledge into a tested framework for rapid and effective deployment."

Working through the implementation steps

The first step of the project was an extensive operations analysis phase, which involved wide-ranging collaboration between NDT, the HR department, and the broader group of users. The purpose was to establish the specific organisational requirements that would act as input to the solution design. With EMM not having had an HRMS before, this stage was particularly crucial not only as an opportunity to showcase the functionality held within Oracle to the EMM staff members, but also to plan how this could be used to enable greater efficiencies within existing business processes.

The NDT team then took this input and began working on the solution design, making extensive use of 'conference room pilots' that allowed the EMM stakeholders to be included right at the very heart of the application development.

By May, the HRMS was already being built and tested, making use of Oracle Database 9i as well as a diverse range of Oracle's newest application modules in the HRMS arena. With Oracle's open architecture and seamless integration facilitating the most rapid of deployments, the NDT team was ready by July to undergo the extensive data conversion exercise that saw the core HR data being brought across from the old payroll system.

"While the transition phase kept our developers busy for a couple of months, we used the opportunity to conduct widespread training amongst the EMM user base," says Kotze. "This involved identifying the 'super-users' of the system, and taking them through a training and skills transfer routine. The result was that they became nearly as proficient in the Oracle solution as we are, and therefore capable of training and advising the end-users. As a company founded on the principles of empowerment, it is a matter of pride that we were able to empower these EMM employees with such high-end skills on an enterprise platform of the quality of Oracle."

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