"It’s one of the most significant investments Kew has made in terms of capital," said David Ivell, CIO at RBG Kew.

"We had a fairly fragmented architecture estate here and we will begin to replace over time all of our legacy systems, moving to a consolidated, virtualised system."

Work on the first stage of the contract, improving RBG Kew’s website and web content managemnt system using Oracle Universal Content Management (UCM), began last May. Running on Linux, the new website went live in October 2009.

According to Ivell, traffic to the RBG Kew website has increased "immensely" in the past year.

While he admits that this coincides with the high levels of publicity around the organisation’s 250th anniversary, Ivell said customer feedback has shown that they can navigate around the website more easily and that a function in the system has enabled RBG Kew to track where on the website people go and how long they stay on the site.

"It has enabled us to provide more content. We can put up more information and make it live very, very quickly," Ivell added.

The next stages of the Oracle contract involve overhauling RBG Kew’s digital asset management system, implementing a HR system and renewing its financial IT systems.

Ivell said that Oracle UCM will enable the organisation to consolidate its digital assets,which are currently in different formats. These range from scanned documents from 250 years ago, pictures of plants and seeds and pictures painted in the grounds, to a picture library for the media, videos and letters from Charles Darwin.

This consolidation work is due to finish early next year.

Meanwhile, RBG Kew does not currently have an HR system in place, so Oracle E-Business Suite will be used to implement a HR IT system by October, with the same technology being used to replace the existing financial system by mid-2011. The organisation currently uses QL Financials.

In addition, the new financial system will be able to support RBG Kew’s e-commerce activities, as well as manage the fundraising activities of the organisation’s partners, Kew Friends and Kew Foundation.

"By putting in an HR system, with systems such as payroll and recruitment, it will help to reduce costs in HR," said Ivell.

"[In terms of the financial system] we are looking forward to the reporting functions, enabling us to see where we are and plan what we do. We are anticipating higher productivity in this department."

RBG Kew’s work with Oracle is due to finish in 2012.

While RBG Kew is retaining its financial system in-house, companies such as drugs giant AstraZeneca have outsourced their finance and accounting systems and processes. In December, the drugs giant signed a multi-million dollar, five-year deal with Indian outsourcer Genpact to manage its accountancy processes.