Ownership and Control In the beginning, when NEP designed its own systems, it turned to Oracle.
“At that time, Oracle, in our view, was best of breed,” Mackey says. “There were very few competitors who could match the quality of the Oracle product, and that’s probably still the case.”
NEP installed a single instance of Oracle Financials and offered the system to other providers, who could effectively turn off their in-house systems and plug into the NEP system. It was run from a central location but felt to users like it was part of their own infrastructure. Ledger, payables, receivables, expense payments, procurement—providers have all of it accessible on their computers without the resource drain of managing it themselves. NEP’s ability to offer a smooth transaction from old to new technology was a big attraction to potential clients.
NEP is funded by the NHS but is technically autonomous from the Department of Health. Instead, it is a consortium accountable to its member organizations. NEP agreed not to compete outright with NHS but rather to simply be available as an alternative. Providers are still encouraged to use the national system, but 49 organizations saw value in NEP’s model because it increased local control.
“They wanted more control locally, to be involved in decision-making and really feel ownership,” Mackey says. “So we structured it as a consortium where all of the partners have an equal say in its direction and management. It’s a very collaborative model, and that’s really stood the test of time.”
A few years later, NEP now serves more than 60 regional organizations and has 2,510 registered finance users and thousands more frontline-staff users. Because NEP doesn’t actively solicit new clients, its growth has been organic and based almost entirely on word of mouth. Organizations aren’t required to outsource finance or procurement functions to a national system —or anyone else, for that matter—so when their systems approach end of life, most organizations start to consider their options. That has naturally led clients to NEP’s door.
“The philosophy is that rather than people feeling forced or compelled to do something when they haven’t had much choice, you offer something that’s so obvious and so compelling that people are very keen to join it,” Mackey says.
In the U.K., NEP’s model is innovative because it fills a need between the two previously available options: deal with the costly burden of doing it all yourself, or give it all away and lose control over processes. NEP helps healthcare organizations achieve a happy medium while avoiding the expensive mistake of attempting to replace their own legacy systems and getting it wrong—a mistake that healthcare organizations around the world too often make, says Chequeta Allen, industry marketing director of healthcare, public sector, and higher education at Oracle.
“Frankly, due to organizational complexities and nuances, this task can be daunting. An error in judgment can literally bring core mission activities to a grinding halt if proper planning and execution has not taken place,” Allen says. “The notion that NEP recognized the opportunity not only to replace systems wisely but also to create a new infrastructure paradigm to support work processes across more than 60 disparate entities is a true mark of industry leadership and innovation. The new model is much less risky and more sustainable for the long term, and the savings from operational efficiency can be directly translated into service benefits to citizens.”
Lowering Operational Costs By developing a single set of best practices and standardizing on one suite of applications, NEP has helped clients cut systems support resources by nearly 70 percent. Whereas smaller member organizations once required several weeks to close the books at the end of a period, they now do it in two days. In the past, budget holders had access only to top-line figures updated weekly or monthly. Now, Oracle’s business intelligence tools allow budget holders to drill down into detailed, real-time transactional data so they can make quicker business decisions. Oracle Discoverer enabled NEP to create more than 60 standardized reports ranging from year-end statements to compliance with public sector pay policies. Budget holders create these reports right from their computers.