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Dorset County Council computer problems continue
9:27am Tuesday 9th November 2010 in Local News
A multi-million-pound computer system intended to revolutionise Dorset County Council is still not working, according to staff.
At a time when the authority is facing a financial crisis and has to save almost £50million, concerns remain about the new £16 million IT system that was introduced to save the council time and money.
A staff survey reveals satisfaction rates have improved only slightly a few months down the line.
Chief executive David Jenkins admitted there was ‘much to be done.’ The Dorset Enterprise System (DES), the local name for Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), was heralded as a major new investment when it came online last year.
Introduced as part of the Fit for the Future restructuring programme, it changes the way the council organises things like payroll, procurement, HR and finance.
But there have been regular problems with the system, with some staff getting so stressed they have been forced to take time off sick.
Some workers claimed a job which previously only took a minute was now taking an hour.
The system still has to shut down a few days each month to allow data to be processed.
A staff survey conducted in March revealed 65 per cent of employees felt ‘negative or very negative’ about DES and many agreed it was a ‘waste of time’.
A similar survey was conducted in the summer to see if things had got any better, and these results were presented to the audit and scrutiny committee. Surveys were sent to 1,000 DES users but only 53 per cent responded. Of these, almost half said they thought DES had not improved and nine per cent thought it had got worse.
There has been an improvement in the support provided but there is more to do to make finding information easier.
The survey also shows an improvement in the views of those using DES for procurement but 55 per cent still feel negative. A separate survey was compiled for those using DES in schools. A total of 200 were sent out but only 68 were returned. The overall feedback is that 58 per cent feel negative with concerns about training, usability and support.
Mr Jenkins says in a report: “A period of disruption was anticipated following the introduction of the new system. There has, however, been no system failure and certain aspects of the implementation have been commented upon positively by our external auditors.
“There is no doubt that the position has improved since the last survey but there remains much to be done.”
Vice-chairman of the audit and scrutiny committee David Harris said: “We have suggested the next report to the committee articulates the benefits the system has produced.
“Clearly the system isn’t liked yet but if you look at how it’s been received in other counties that’s a common element to its introduction.”
Secretary of the Dorset branch of Unison Pam Jeffries said: “The feedback I’m getting is that people are no longer reporting faults because they’ve given up due to the length of time it takes for people to get back to them.
“We’ve heard it’s going to get an upgrade and that may be good and well but the other places where it’s operating, I’ve heard they’re still having huge problems.”