Scottish Fire and Rescue Service
Moving to SaaS has given Scottish Fire and Rescue Service new levels of efficiency and agility across its geographically dispersed workforce
Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) is a national organisation that delivers fire prevention and frontline emergency services to ensure the safety of the people of Scotland.
The organisation was formed in 2013, following the amalgamation of Scotland’s eight regional fire services. It is now the world’s fourth largest fire and rescue service, with 8,000 staff, 359 fire stations 450 fire engines and 170 other operational appliances.
Managing the regional fire services' various systems was going to be complex, costly and inefficient, so SFRS adopted TechnologyOne’s integrated Financials and Supply Chain Management solution on premise as national solution, to consolidate its financial management, procurement and reporting processes for the new organisation and to have financial control from day one of the Service.
In 2018, The Scottish Fire & Rescue Service then launched a new digital first strategy which was designed to place SFRS people at the heart of a digital community delivering a safer Scotland. The strategy focused on themes including digitisation, security and resilience.
While TechnologyOne’s on-premise solution was serving SFRS’s current needs, future legislative changes coming into effect, coupled with the SFRS’ long-term vision for a digital future, meant that the organisation needed to re-evaluate its operating environment.
“HMRC's Tax Digital legislation was coming into effect in May 2020, which meant we needed to submit tax records digitally,” said SFRS’s Financial Systems Manager, Lynne McGeough.
“This was going to be complex and require a lot of manual workaround in our on-premise operating environment, so we took TechnologyOne’s advice to move to Software as a Service (SaaS) to simplify the process and access their fully compliant SaaS solution.”
Any time, anywhere, any device accessibility was also important to SFRS, given its geographically dispersed workforce.
“Remote working was an important objective of our IT department, so it made sense for us to move to SaaS,” McGeough said.
When COVID-19 struck we were able to work from home and still operate the finance system at 100 per cent capacity.
As part of its digital-first plan, SFRS worked with TechnologyOne to transition to TechnologyOne SaaS over a two-month period at the start of 2020.
John Thomson, Head of Finance & Procurement added: “We felt SaaS would give us advantages, where we could incrementally improve our services and processes for our teams.”
“We have strong confidence in TechnologyOne for the SaaS solution, because we know we have a good system in place that meets our needs but this makes it even better.”
SFRS achieved digital tax compliance, saved on hosting costs and enabled more collaborative, mobile ways of working by moving to TechnologyOne SaaS.
SFRS’s Lynne McGeough said that with 8,000 staff spread across Scotland—most of which are uniformed officers in the field—connecting everyone through SaaS was a priority.
“We cover very remote areas in Scotland. So it will allow staff that are not always in a station to access and authorise things on their mobile devices and embrace remote working,” McGeough said.
“One of our biggest concerns was resistance to the change from our uniformed staff who used TechnologyOne’s solution quite a bit to do self-service requisitions—we didn’t want them to find it difficult to use the new interface and lose faith, but everything just moved over easily.”
The SaaS solution also quickly proved its worth for SFRS’s back-office support staff. The move was finalised just before the global coronavirus pandemic took hold, which coincided with SFRS’s financial year-end reporting.
“As part of SFRS’s digital transformation strategy we continue to invest and exploit new technologies to improve our service and to future-proof our resilience by moving all systems to the cloud. COVID-19 proved this was the right decision. Our transition to the cloud with TechnologyOne was trouble free and enabled us to seamlessly move to remote working,” Thomson said.
McGeough added: “When COVID-19 struck we were able to work from home and still operate the finance system at 100 per cent capacity. We didn't have to create workarounds or put different processes in place.”
“It made a massive difference that we could quite urgently just pick up the laptops, go home, and continue as normal. There wasn't a disruption, it was just seamless.”
The SaaS solution is available organisation-wide, with around 2,800 employees using the system regularly for tasks including procurement, accounts payable and requisitions.
It was a successful and seamless project, and it's really unusual to have a project like that.
In June 2012, the Scottish Parliament passed the Police and Fire Reform Scotland Act legislating for the amalgamation of the country’s eight fire services to form one national organisation.
With a legislated go-live deadline of 1 April 2013, SFRS needed to select a vendor and implement a single financial solution in just 11 months. As part of this implementation, the fire service also needed to consolidate data from the multiple existing disparate systems.
“Some of the services were heavily reliant on local authorities to provide their finance function, so getting buy-in into the concept of a single finance system by 1 April was extremely challenging,” McGeough said.
McGeough said TechnologyOne’s superior demonstrations and expert knowledge assured the fire service it could deliver what it needed within the short timeframe.
“As soon as TechnologyOne came in for the demonstration we knew that it was the start of a great relationship. We were confident that they knew what they were doing.”
This partnership approach gave SFRS the confidence to continue working with TechnologyOne and upgrade to its modern SaaS platform almost eight years later.
“My team is very knowledgeable about what our TechnologyOne solution can do and we're quite hands-on, but you definitely need the support of the vendor to do this,” McGeough said.
SFRS employed a project manager and worked closely with TechnologyOne to address concerns about data integrity and security through rigorous testing during the migration.
“It was a successful and seamless project, and it's really unusual to have a project like that.”
Lynne McGeough said SFRS was taking a staged approach to introducing improvements to capitalise on its new SaaS capabilities.
"This is a learning curve for us. We've achieved the objectives that we needed to for the Making Tax Digital legislation, and the next stage is ‘what can we do with this next?’”
“We're now looking at additional features and functionality that TechnologyOne’s SaaS solution can offer including, approval workflows for remote working, supplier self-service portals and commodity coding for improved reporting.”
McGeough added: “We do see the value of taking an integrated approach to our enterprise software, so we’re looking into TechnologyOne’s Human Resources & Payroll product as well.”
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“Through our partnership with AWS, we are delivering to Scottish Fire and Rescue Service an extremely high security and compliance posture, the ability to rapidly scale, and a level of service that you just cannot deliver in an on-premise environment," said Johnathan Williamson, UK SaaS Platform Director at TechnologyOne.
With a reliable and responsive operating environment, SFRS is now focused on ensuring employees make the most of the increased accessibility and flexibility.
“We want our people to see that it’s really quite easy, they can do tasks from their phones: they could even be sitting in the cab of a fire appliance (truck) and approve a workflow,” McGeough said.
“When everyone is using it, this will further improve our financial data quality, reporting and accuracy."
Now that the groundwork has been laid for Scottish Fire and Rescue, the SaaS Platform opens up a range of workforce mobility options for them which in a new world of remote working will make maintaining an extremely high level of service for their customers simpler over time.
“I don’t think anyone could have predicted what the world would be facing such a short time after SFRS made the move to TechnologyOne’s SaaS Platform. It’s an honour for us to be providing a stable and reliable platform for the UK’s largest fire brigade in such an unprecedented time,” Williamson said.
About Scottish Fire and Rescue Service
SFRS is the national organisation serving the people of Scotland by preventing and controlling fire emergencies and a wide range of other incidents. SFRS works in close partnership with local communities to deliver crucial fire prevention safety messages, and provides thousands of specialised staff equipped to respond to emergencies.
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