Alliance for Corporate Excellence (ACE)
Ministry of Finance

The Problem

The statutory boards of the Singapore Government are organisations that are given autonomy to perform an operational function (for example, Singapore Tourism Board promotes the tourism industry; Economic Development Board promotes Singapore as a leading global hub for business and investment). These agencies have greater independence and flexibility in their operations, use of funds, human capital practices and finance procedures. This has led agencies to have different ERP (HR and Finance) systems with their own defined practices, processes and procedures which are separately handled in each agency. Over the years, many disparate systems have sprouted out, serving specific niche area. An agency could have a payroll system, a ranking & promotion system and a leave system which are stand-alone and not seamlessly integrated.

A window of opportunity arose when several agencies which were already using ERP systems, such as SAP or PeopleSoft, or have their own in-house systems, were planning to refresh their ERP systems due to obsolescence of technology and the need to cater to new, evolving business needs. At the same time, because of the need for agencies to exercise greater fiscal prudence, to do more with less through maximising the value from their ICT investments and be judicious and accountable with taxpayers’ monies, there was a call to agencies to explore greater adoption of shared systems. The significant capital investment and complexity to upgrade each of the agencies’ system separately, coupled with a strong desire among agencies to adopt a more integrated system and leading practices, prompted agencies to consider developing a shared ERP system.

A feasibility study led by MOF concluded that there would be significant cost efficiencies and business benefits if agencies band together to embark on a shared platform beyond the traditional consolidation of shared infrastructure (like data centre, network, email system) but to include the sharing of business applications; namely HR, Finance and Procurement work areas. This is the next level of maturity in the integration space among the statutory boards.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
This programme, Alliance for Corporate Excellence (ACE) is an initiative spearheaded by the Ministry of Finance (MOF) to explore and capitalise on inter-government agency synergies by consolidating the agencies’ business functions, creating a shared Human Resource, Finance and Procurement system using an ERP solution. Refer to question #3 for the list of 19 participating agencies.

The key business objectives of the programme are as follows:

a) Reduce total cost of ownership by leveraging on Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) software thus shortening the time to implement.

b) Reduce complexity by harmonising and standardising processes while recognising the unique missions and needs of each agency and allowing differentiations, where needed.

c) Optimise and reduce resources used in performing transactional administrative tasks by leveraging on automated IT solutions and employee self-services.

d) Adopt leading and best practices both in terms of IT solutions as well as HR, Finance and Procurement areas.


As a shared IT system, ACE consolidates all the individual HR, Finance and Procurement systems that were previously used by the agencies, resulting in cost saving on the whole-of-government level.

The main contributors of the cost savings are:

a) Implementation Services: Through the harmonisation of business processes and requirements, ACE programme achieve a high degree of common requirements across the agencies (over 85% sharing of detailed requirements. As a result, the cost of implementation services for these common requirements is shared by many agencies.

b) Hardware Cost: Cost saving achieved through economies of scale by sharing of common hardware and infrastructure platform for all agencies.

c) ERP Software License Cost: Favourable pricing from SAP by purchasing license in bulk for all agencies.

d) Maintenance Cost: Cost saving is achieved through sharing of maintenance and operation support resources, and future enhancement and changes due to cost sharing opportunities.

e) Technology Refresh: ACE contract caters for technology refresh during the lifespan of the programme that will last about 8 years. Since all agencies shared the same IT system platform, this present cost saving as compared to every agency performing a technology refresh on its own.

The agencies are expected to achieve up to 30% in cost savings as compared to if the agencies were to develop and maintain their own similar systems. In addition, the participating agencies also achieve a total of more than 240 business benefits, which broadly can be categorised into following areas:

a) Implementation of new and enhanced features not in existence in agencies’ legacy systems.

b) Automation of current manual processes.

c) Integration of HR, Finance and Procurement processes within a single system for seamless, real-time data access and ease of analysis.

d) Empowerment of employees by providing more self-service features through the Employee and Manager Self Service Portal.

With the economies of scale, the ACE programme is able to have a more favourable Service Level Agreement and additional services that otherwise would have been too costly for a single agency to undertake. This includes disaster recovery, technology refresh, up-to-date patch management and enhancement packs that are regularly applied to ensure smooth operations of the systems.

In addition, with the contract and programme/operation management being managed centrally, this frees up agencies’ internal resources to focus more on other strategic lines of business matters.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
Alliance for Corporate Excellence (ACE) programme is an initiative spearheaded by the Ministry of Finance. The programme is managed by Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore. The system implementation partner is Accenture.

The pioneering team who worked on the conceptualisation of ACE were:

Mr. Lim Hup Seng, former Deputy Secretary (Performance), MOF – former Chairman of PSC
Mrs. Phoon Chew Ping, former Director (Managing For Excellence), MOF
Ms. Soh Siew Luie, Senior Associate (Integrated Services), MOF

Ms. Tan Kar Joo, Senior Director, Government Cluster Group, IDA
Mr. Ong Hong Leng, Cluster Director, Government Administration Cluster, IDA
Ms. Tang Hwee Suan, Project Director, ACE Project Office, IDA

To manage, mobilise and align all 19 participating agencies to common shared objectives, priorities and schedule, a well-defined governance structure was established with clear terms of reference. At the highest level, the key stakeholders from the 19 participating government agencies, who form the Programme Steering Committee (PSC) members during the system implementation, are:

Ministry of Finance
Mr. Lim Hock Chuan, Deputy Secretary (Performance) – Chairman of PSC
Ms. Leonie Lee, Director (Managing For Excellence)
Ms. Low Yin Leng, Deputy Director (Managing For Excellence)
Ms. Josephine Tan, Head (Integrated Services)

Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore
Ms. Joyce Ng, AG Director (Corp Services)

Economic Development Board
Ms. Tan Yih Sze, Deputy CIO

Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore
Mr. Ronnie Tay, CEO
Mr. Lay Yin Cheng, Covering Group Director (Corp Development) / Director (HR)
Ms. Chau Chee Chiang, CIO

Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore
Mr. Ong Khiaw Hong, Deputy Commissioner

Institute of Technical Education
Mr. Chia Ti Yu, Divisional Director (Finance)
Mr. Lee Foo Wah, Divisional Director (IT)

Intellectual Property Office of Singapore
Mr. Viktor Cheng, Deputy Director General (Corp Services)

International Enterprise Singapore
Mr. Terence Seow, CIO

National Arts Council
Ms. Alice Koh (CFO)

National Environment Agency
Mr. Gloria Chin, Divisional Director (HR)
Mrs. Tan-Koh Yang Get, CIO

National Council of Social Service
Ms. Tina Hung, Deputy CEO
Ms. Fiona Chua, Director (Corp Services)

National Heritage Board
Dr. Tham Kar Poh, Director (Corp Services & Planning) / CIO

National Parks Board
Mr. Bin Hee Jum, Director (Finance)

People’s Association
Mr. Tan Kia Jin, Group Director (Administration)

Public Utilities Board
Ms. Chew Siow Nee, CFO

Science Centre Board
Ms. Cham Lee Fin, Director (Finance and Administrations)

Singapore Land Authority
Ms. Mabel Pek, Director (Corp Services)

Singapore Sport Council
Mr. Muhammad Rostam Bin Umar, Chief (Org Strategy & Development)

Singapore Tourism Board
Mr. Leong Yue Kheong, Assistant CEO (International Group and Corp Development Group)
Ms. Chiang Hai Yin, Executive Director (HR & Finance)

Urban Redevelopment Authority
Ms. Yap Siew Ling, Group Director (Corp Development)
Mr. Peter Quek, Director (Information Systems)

Project Management Office, from IDA are:
Ms. Foo Yeen Loo, Programme Director, ACE Programme Office
Mr. Ernest Chung, Deputy Programme Director, ACE Programme Office

System Implementation Partner, from Accenture are:
Mr. Vincent Wong, Client Partner
Mr. Tiong Shu, Lead Programme Manager
Mr. Mark Tham, Programme Manager

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
On the people front, MOF and IDA project management team embarked on many change management activities to drive behaviours and bring about the collaborative spirit. One of the strategies at the start of the programme is to define a set of core values that are important for the success of the initiative, and that they are articulated and agreed by the staff of the participating agencies. The core values the group defined are: Teamwork, Joint-Ownership, Outcome-Driven, Innovation and Think Win-Win. At every stage of the development, awards are given out to staff that exemplified the ACE core values through their contributions to the programme.

The other strategy is to create the various communication channels where officers from similar functional groups are able to come together, hear each other’s views and reach consensus. This is coupled with strong facilitation and coordination from the Programme Office to resolve conflicts and ensure the adherence to timelines despite the consensus-based framework.

On the process front, it is imperative that strong governance structures be in place to lead and drive actions at different level. Strong sponsorship and top management endorsement is critical in setting the desired outcome and compliance to agreed approaches of working together.

On the technology front, ACE implementation adopted the approach based on the Unity in Diversity model. This model allows for efficiency in system maintenance, and yet allows for flexibility in meeting specific agency needs. ACE shared system concept is unlike traditional system which is silo-based (i.e. each agency-owned and operated) or centrally dictated (i.e. a one-size fits all approach). ACE is a coming together of many statutory boards to define a common shared system which is united in approach yet flexible in meeting each agency’s own business requirements.

For example, while the payments processing is standardised across all agencies, each agency has the flexibility to choose different types of process workflow to route the invoices for verification and approval depending on each agency’s business policy and controls requirements.

The SAP client technology provides the ideal platform which allows multiple agencies to operate in a single SAP system instance. A client provides a logical system for each agency with the same functionality as agencies will have for a system of their own. Sharing hardware and software reduces administration and support costs. This multi-tenancy system allows the agencies to subscribe to a set of common business processes and still continue to have their unique requirements supported within their individual logical system.

Under this model, agencies share a common Application Architecture, Technical Architecture, System Operations and a single Business Model. However, each agency is managed as a separate business unit.

It is designed to meet the following objectives:

a) It is not a one-size-fits–all. An agency enjoys the benefits of common requirements, and yet is able to retain its specific requirements as “add on” to meet its unique business needs.

b) Meeting the need for confidentiality and data segregation. Despite being one common system, the confidentiality of each agency’s data is not compromised.

c) It is scalable. New agencies are able to come on board the shared system with minimal impact to the other existing agencies.

This model addresses agencies’ concerns and garnered collective buy-in on the idea of a shared system. Coupled with consensus-based decision making, this model helps to ensure views of all agencies are considered in every decision, ensuring that the system will bring benefits to each agency and meet its specific business needs.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
2005: Ministry of Finance conceived the initiative. A survey was conducted to gather feedback from statutory boards in their interest to participate in a shared system project. 7 agencies agreed to participate in the feasibility study to ascertain the viability of a shared ERP system implementation.

Oct 2006 – Feb 2007: Feasibility study was conducted. The study concluded a shared ERP system was viable with a significant cost savings when compared to each agency implementing or upgrading its current ERP/Corporate systems. In addition, agencies would stand to reap other benefits such as economies of scale, new capabilities, business process benefits, better management of technology investment, and better service levels.

Mar 2007 – Dec 2007: Called open tender for the private sector to bid for the project.

Dec 2007 – Apr 2010: Development and implementation for the first batch of 11 agencies.

June 2010 – Jan 2012: Development and implementation for the second batch of 4 agencies.

Feb 2012 – Apr 2013: Development and implementation for the third batch of 4 agencies.

As a testimony to the success and collaborative spirit of the ACE programme, 4 more agencies approach MOF to come on board in the third batch of implementation which is targeting for go-live by April 2013. With the addition of these 4 agencies next year, ACE will have participation from 19 agencies with over 19,000 staff.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
Initially there were reservations on the practicality and sustainability of a shared system. The participating agencies were apprehensive whether a shared system would provide real cost savings and were concerned over loss of control due to standardization of the business processes across the participating agencies. The ambitious vision and scale of ACE and a lack of precedence of similar collaboration among agencies resulted in the initiative facing several challenges right from the beginning.

Some of the key challenges & concerns were:

a) Uncertainty over the success of a shared IT system and how the final objective could be met and how the initiative would evolve.

b) Challenges in fostering collaboration mindset among all participants from multiple agencies of diverse business missions to work towards common objectives.

c) Balancing the need to harmonise disparate requirement to derive greater cost savings versus meeting each agencies distinctive/unique requirements.

d) Managing the negative perception whether there was fair & equitable charging model and whether smaller agencies would pay more as compared to their larger counterparts.

These challenges were overcome by having a strong sponsorship & top management support, well-defined governance structure and decision-making framework, robust programme management framework & processes, effective change management strategy, and adopting consensus-based decision making at all levels to ensure views of all agencies were considered in every decision.

Partnership Agreement and Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) were established upfront. The agreement and MOU document the business rationale, guiding principles, and agreements of the partnership between MOF and the participating agencies to collaborate to achieve a common outcome.

Common objectives & outcomes indicators were developed with inputs from the programme sponsor and top management of the participating agencies. These indicators help to align all stakeholders’ expectations and inspire greater ownership of the programme.

Well-defined governance structure was established. The programme governance comprised of 3 levels: Steering Committee (Executive level); Working Committee (Management level); and Programme Management Team (Delivery level). The ACE governance structure promotes the alignment between the working teams’ day-to-day project execution with management’s strategic directions. It also facilitates efficient execution of governance processes by having optimal management levels and participation from the right people.

Robust programme management framework was established. The Programme Management Plan provided an overview of all the essential programme management processes to plan, execute and control the entire programme implementation. In addition, a quality assurance programme and a comprehensive risk management framework were adopted by the programme.

Effective change management strategy & methodology was adopted. The ACE Change Management Plan embedded change management activities into all phases of the programme instead of a separate, loosely-related work stream. This approach allowed users to co-related change activities with programme activities, allowing the programme team to measure the effectiveness of change interventions throughout different phases, and to have targeted interventions at the right time (e.g. newsletters with specific messages to counter negative change impacts).

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
Feasibility study was conducted from Oct 2006 – Feb 2007 during the conceptual stage of the programme. An external consulting firm was engaged to conduct the feasibility study and to ascertain whether a shared ERP system was viable.

Following up on the positive outcomes from the feasibilities study, an open tender was called to invite interested parties to bid for the implementation & operation of the ACE shared system. A rigorous tender evaluation methodology and process was in place to evaluate the proposals which offer the greatest benefits and cost ratio. The tender evaluation team was comprises of staff in the respective agencies participating in the programme. Being part of the evaluation team deepened the sense of ownership and commitment among the participants.

The resources for the programme were from the existing manpower of the respective participating agencies. All participating personnel were mobilised through nomination by the respective agencies’ top management. They were assigned into the various governance bodies and working teams described below.

Programme Steering Committee (PSC) – chaired by the Deputy Secretary of MOF, and comprised agencies’ senior management representatives. It provided strategic direction and guidance for ACE and served as a point of escalation for key issues and risks. The Steering Committee monitored the overall progress, resolve strategic issues and champion a strong collaboration mindset amongst all the participants.

Programme Working Committee (PWC) – chaired by the ACE Programme Director, and comprised the HR, Finance, Procurement and IT Directors/ Managers/ Heads from the agencies. The Working Committee met fortnightly to review the progress of work plan; deliberate and resolve issues escalated from the working groups (e.g. Business Focus Group) such as resources constraint, process harmonisation and progress of deliverables; prioritise and approve changes to requirements.

Business Focus Group (BFG) – made up of business functions personnel from the participating agencies who were the designated process owner to drive and validate requirements. The BFGs were divided into HR, Finance and Procurement teams. They took ownership to ensure the requirements and the design of the shared system met their agencies’ need. These personnel were the same people that performed day-to-day HR, Finance and Procurement functions at their respective agencies which enabled them to bring practical value and relevant knowledge & experience in designing of the shared system. Harmonisation of requirements across agencies was achieved through workshop sessions with the BFGs teams.

IT Focus Group (IFG) – made up of IT personnel from the participating agencies that were responsible for the IT systems and infrastructure for their respective agencies.

Change Agents – made up of individuals from the participating agencies that were the designated as change management owner to actively support the change management activities at their respective agencies; analyze change impacts and identify change interventions; communicate programme messages to target audiences within their respective agencies; promote bottom-up communication and interaction between end-users and programme sponsors; accelerate change by transmitting formalized information to and encouraging informal discussions with target audiences.

Project Management Office – a dedicated team of IT staff from IDA provided central oversight of the various aspects of the programme; from forward planning, to managing enhancements requested by agencies, to coordinating with other agencies on cost and timeline, getting alignment, to managing the contractors, and ensuring the system operated smoothly.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
When the ACE programme was initially mooted, 7 agencies agreed to participate in the feasibilities study. Subsequently, 4 more agencies decided joined the programme for the shared system, resulting in a total of 11 agencies with more than 10,600 staff in the first batch of implementation from Dec 2007 to Apr 2010.

Since then, another group of 4 agencies had come onboard to the ACE programme as second batch of implementation from June 2010 to Jan 2012, resulting in a total of 15 agencies to-date with more than 17,000 staff.

As a testimony to the success and collaborative spirit of the ACE programme, 4 more agencies came on board in the third batch of implementation, targeting for system go-live by April 2013. This third batch of agencies are benefiting from the earlier two rounds of implementation, where processes had already been streamlined, public service requirements had already been incorporated and rigorous testing had already been done.

Since the foundational pieces of the system are already in place, running and proven, this shortens the time for the agencies to agree and align their requirements. Their efforts are then focused on defining their agency’s unique requirements and building them into the system. With the addition of these 4 agencies next year, ACE will have participation from 19 agencies with over 19,000 staff.

ACE-like initiatives can also be replicated elsewhere. The critical success factors to pull through such a massive initiative are the constantly reinforcement to adopt a collaborative spirit, get absolute buy-in to common goals & objectives, endorsement from top management and a strong sense of co-ownership.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
Harnessing synergies across multiple government agencies and working across boundaries have always been a challenging task for any government in the world. The ACE programme has demonstrated that it is possible to bring multiple diverse agencies to work & collaborate together to implement a shared system successfully.

The ACE shared system offers modules that support over 100 business processes across HR, Finance and Procurement functions. As a shared IT system, ACE consolidates all the individual HR, Finance and Procurement systems from the participating agencies into one shared system. In total, ACE has replaced over 30 different and disparate IT systems that were previously used in the participating agencies. The ACE programme consolidated not only multiple IT systems into one ACE system, but also the operation support and management of these multiple systems into one central team that oversee the operation and performance of the ACE system.

The success of ACE is an unprecedented effort by the Singapore government to harness economies of scale through a shared ERP system initiative realizing significant cost savings for whole-of-government, and to introduce best practices in terms of HR, Finance and Procurement practices, as well as IT system solution.

As a testimony to the success of ACE, here are some of the quotes from stakeholders that were impacted, have benefited and are advocates of this shared service.

“We have benefitted much in terms of sharing of our practices with other agencies as well as learning from each other. ACE provided a good platform for benchmarking and adopting the best practices from each agency.”
– Valerie Lee, Section Head (HR Management), National Parks Board

“This is a once a life time project experience; you don't get to work in a project which involved 11 agencies and such a huge scale. It's a good experience and I've learned a lot from this project in term of how SAP works, how processes other agencies are adopting.”
– Henry Wong, Manager (Human Resources), Singapore Land Authority

“The fact that 11 agencies all got together, we have this network of people that we can always tap on and I think that will probably stay with us for many, many years to come.”
– Goh Wan Yee, Head (Human Resources), Economic Development Board

“We made very good friends and shared a lot of experiences and internal practices, and realised whether these practices were common amongst the agencies and that helped us to harmonise.”
– Sigit Gunawan, DFC (Budgets and Procurement), Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority

“It's great to be part of ACE; it's like being part of a big HR family. All of us have a common goal, and that is to build an effective HR system for respective organisation. We shared best practices with one another. We also learn to avoid things that we shouldn’t be doing through our learning point session. It's a good way to build friendship and network in ACE.”
– Patricia Tan, Director (Human Capital), Singapore Sport Council

“It is meaningful when we are able to collaborate and leverage on the advantage of economy of scale and best practice.”
– Peggy Ong, Head (Human Resources), National Council of Social Service

“ACE is a very good concept in that all stat-boards inevitably will have commonalities in the way they manage human resources, so it makes a lot of sense to leverage on one system. And at the same time stat-board can learn from each other in term of best practices”
– Gloria Chin, Divisional Director (Human Resources Division), National Environment Agency

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Ministry of Finance
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Eddy Setiawan
Title:   Lead Project Manager  
Telephone/ Fax:  
Institution's / Project's Website:
Address:   100 High Street, #06-03, The Treasury
Postal Code:   179434
Country:   Singapore

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