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Harrassed Somerset County Council staff are to benefit from "support sessions" designed to help them face the trauma of a SAP implementation which has so far seen the software not quite providing local government operatives with "the visibility to pinpoint inefficiencies", the "capabilities to transform them into competitive advantage", the "foresight to identify new opportunities, "the agility to respond, the functionality to optimize your operations", or indeed "the resources to extend best practices to your entire value chain".

According to ComputerWeekly, since the council "went live with the delayed first stage of a SAP implementation" on, ominously, 1 April, operatives have "struggled to pay invoices on time", while cash has allegedly "been paid to the wrong suppliers and that some companies have been paid twice for the same service".

The council claims these are are "teething problems", while admitting that "a higher-than-usual number of emergency payments to the authority's suppliers are being made through the same-day bank-to-bank Chaps network".

IBM will reportedly stump the extra cost of Chaps transactions, although it's unclear who will foot the bill for workshops offered to "staff who have been adversely affected by the SAP implementation".

Over the next few weeks, Somerset footsoldiers can avail themselves of anti-SAP-stress sessions including "Managing excessive pressure within your team", "Coping strategies for abnormally high workloads" and "Dealing with difficult situations/conversations".

ComputerWeekly notes that the SAP deployment forms part of a "transformation programme" under the umbrella of SouthWest One - "a joint venture company which comprises IBM as the majority shareholder, Somerset County Council, Taunton Deane Borough Council and Avon and Somerset Police".

The troubled (=shambolic) and controversial programme may have cost the Liberal Democrats their control of Somerset after 16 years at the helm, and the newly-elected Tories are now taking a close look at SouthWest One.

Prior to the election, Conservative group leader Ken Maddock declared: "What needs to happen now is we should firstly stop all payments to the supplier of the new system.

"Secondly, we should revert to the previous reliable method of paying our bills promptly. And thirdly, we should issue an abject and public apology to anyone who has suffered as a consequence of this shambles."

He promised that, if the Tories secured the council, they would "review the whole set-up from square one, and put it on a sound business footing".

Quite how much of a shoeing the Tories give SouthWest One and SAP remains to be seen, but a spokesman for Somerset County Council insisted to the paper: "As many large corporations and central government departments have found, the bedding in of new and substantial IT systems takes time but we are confident that the ultimate benefits and savings that SAP and our relationship with SouthWest One bring will more than compensate for the teething problems in the early stages." ®

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