Background

The HLCM Vice-Chair opened the agenda item on the feasibility of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system interoperability by noting that a study conducted by an external consulting company had been concluded and the final report, with an executive summary, had been circulated to the Committee. She recalled that member states were interested in the feasibility of linking institutional ERP systems as part of broader approach to improving efficiency and effectiveness at the country level and noted that the funding for the study was provided through the HLCM Harmonization of Business Practices (HBP) trust fund.

Discussion

As the study was led by the Chair of the ICT Network, the HLCM Vice-Chair called upon the representative from ITU to introduce the report.

ITU noted that the use of technology within organizations everywhere, not only in the UN, is driving efficiency, and even a high degree of savings, through a model of shared services suggested in the report. ITU recognized that many obstacles would need to be overcome to implement a more robust shared-administrative service model, whether it was through delegation of functions to lead agencies or some other approach. ITU pointed out that some changes might require the acceptance of member states and external auditors. ITU suggested that, from a practical viewpoint, larger agencies, such as UN Secretariat or UNDP, could assume the mantle of service provider. In concluding, ITU noted that the study steering committee, led by the ITU Secretary-General, and consisting of senior officials at the UN Secretariat, UNDP and FAO, strongly supported the conclusions and recommendations presented in the report.

The representative of UNDP, speaking at the invitation of the HLCM Vice-Chair and as a member of the steering committee, emphasized a point contained in the report that technology is an enabler and not a goal, and that simply interconnecting information systems adds more costs than benefits unless coupled with a transformation of business processes. UNDP stressed that the report contains many details and suggested the establishment of a multi-functional task force to conduct the detailed analysis required to fully internalize its recommendations.

HLCM members agreed that this thought-provoking report contributed significantly to current discussions surrounding the simplification and harmonization of business processes, and there was general agreement that an examination of ERP systems alone would not prove beneficial, and that the focus should be on improving business operations. Many organizations agreed that shared services offered opportunities for driving efficiencies.

Some organizations described current and past efforts to achieve internal harmonization, which was a requirement for their own ERP implementation, and noted that while such efforts proved challenging, they realized benefits and their experience might prove useful to any system-wide efforts. For example, the UN Secretariat, which participated in the Study Steering Committee, indicated that its current ERP implementation process required the integration of UN secretariat entities with a diversity of mandates, and had created a global service delivery model to support them. Other agencies suggested that the new common system compensation package coming before the General Assembly would require every organization to modify their ERP systems, and that this might offer an opportunity to explore a common approach to this particular business process.

HLCM representatives also noted that the report provided a direction for further analysis, and agreed that a cross-functional task force would be a useful approach to undertake it. Organizations noted that the report covered several administrative functions that merited further exploration and agreed that more detailed business cases needed be developed.

In closing remarks, ITU clarified that the report did not recommend implementation of a single ERP, and noted that the consultants based many of their recommendations on information obtained from interviews and workshops with UN agency representatives, and on their experience in public and private sector business transformation activities. ITU confirmed that the terms of reference for the study was for an analysis of the potential for ERP interoperability with a more detailed analysis of the business case to come later.

The HLCM Vice-Chair concluded the discussion by noting that the report of the Consultant did not necessarily represent the views of the Committee, and that the Committee was required to contribute a formal response to the UN Secretary-General’s report of the status of implementation of the QCPR regarding the ERP Interoperability Feasibility Study.

Action

The Committee:
Thanked the chair and members of the ERP Interoperability Feasibility Steering Committee for their commitment to the study, and to all organizations for making staff available for the consultants.

Requested organizations to undertake an internal review of the Study, and to submit their views and analysis to CEB Secretariat.

Noting the valuable recommendations of the study for business transformation overall, decided to establish a cross-functional task force, with dedicated capacity from member organizations, to conduct an in-depth review and assessment of recommendations contained in the Study, and to report back to the HLCM at its spring 2016 session on any appropriate follow-up actions.