Police are interested in linking into the whole-of-government e-procurement system from their own, if only to share information with other departments.
Police procurement manager Stan Pope says while the department will not be using the core capabilities of the chosen whole-of-government e-procurement software — part of a project currently under construction — it could well set up a link with that system so that other departments can share information.
“This will give a high-level visibility, so [other agencies] have some feeling for what procurement is going on. We’re quite happy to cooperate in that”, he says. But at the moment there is not enough information on how the system will work for Police to start planning links to it, he says.
The whole-of-government e-procurement facility, initially run as a four-month pilot, is being constructed by Oracle and Cap Gemini Ernst & Young. The base technology is Oracle’s procurement intelligence services suite.
Police have a SAP-based system of their own well advanced in practical use. It was first implemented in October 1999, and now has 1300 users, putting through 130,000 purchase orders a year, says Pope. “SSC carried out a gap analysis [between that and the functionality of the whole-of-government system] and concluded it wasn’t worth our coming in.”
But Police do have an interest in work going on in the whole-of-government project’s automatic evaluation of tenders and may avail itself of that, Pope says.
The department has also carried out a proof-of-concept pilot for SAP’s Enterprise Buyer Professional, which would have allowed it to communicate with, or, in the jargon, “punch out to” suppliers’ own catalogues, rather than maintaining copies of its leading suppliers’ catalogues on its own intranet as it does at present. But it has decided not to adopt EBP either. “We learned that the gap in functionality wasn’t enough to warrant using it at this stage.”
Pope has little doubt EBP will be taken on at some time in the future. “We believe it will mature to the point where it enables us to ditch our own purpose-built front-end and use standard SAP software throughout.” At present, Police’s own user interface is easier to operate than SAP’s, especially for staff who don’t do much procurement and have little chance to get used to the application.
What has proved useful out of the trial is SAP’s Business Connector, which through XML allows order documents to be placed directly on the supplier’s website, translate the content automatically and feed it into the supplier’s financial system. Business Connector also generates a goods receipt automatically, a step the staff receiving ordered goods at a small police station could forget to do, setting in chain a search for the missing document. Having the receipt sent automatically rather than by someone who has actually seen the goods arrive is a step only taken with major suppliers, which can generally be trusted. At present, some very small suppliers do not have enough automation to allow this degree of electronic processing, nor does it offer great economies. They are still dealt with manually, though a digital record of the services they provide is kept.
SAP and Intelligroup are implementing Business Connector at Police, a process that should be finished “within three weeks”, Pope said last week.