Wednesday, April 16, 2014

CAO’s expensive software plan


Isn’t it strange that when the county has been having budget problems and only had a surplus of $5 million a year ago, it magically finds $5.6 million to spend on new financial software? The county in this alleged time of financial distress also seems to create lavishly compensated positions for its top bureaucrats, for which several have little qualifications or experience, and attempts to give them raises, ie., Kim Kerr. The CAO lately seems to spend taxpayer money like water.

At the March 26 Board of Supervisors meeting, CAO Terri Daly stated that this new ERP software would save the county money by eliminating finance staff, yet at that same meeting she hired another six-figure assistant director of finance. Joe Harn spoke up that the newly created financial position would create parity problems with other top financial employees. It seems as if Daly speaks out of both sides of her mouth as her fiefdom grows daily with new six-figure bureaucrats who have limited accountability and even more limited and/or questionable credentials and experience.

Anyone who has had experience with an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system implementation and change over from older computers systems knows that you typically end up spending three-to-four times as much money in the end to get everything working properly, if it ever works at all. The failure rate for these systems is sky high and they are quietly swept under the rug. The salespeople for these corporations are masters at getting the nozzle in the tank by selling the dream to bureaucrats by promising them effortless “dashboard” financial systems that any third grader can understand. Once they’ve got you locked into their system (nozzle in the tank), then the real expense kicks in. So where is the additional $15 million going to come from? Is this more of the short-range planning that we can expect from our CAO? Did she know that Tyler has been sued by other California counties such as Ventura for its financial ERP software that didn’t work? Marin County’s ERP system implementation started in 2004 never worked and the $30 million spent was wasted. I would hazard to say that our CAO and her staff have never had any real experience with such an ERP system implementation, since they came from little Amador County and are winging it by placing their trust in a single source vendor.

The crudely drawn white board documents on the wall at the Board of Supervisors meeting to justify this huge expenditure looked like a blown-up, hand-drawn cocktail napkin note. Typically you would do a lot more studies before making such a huge expenditure and one has to wonder if this was the proper time for this expenditure at all in light of the recent county budget problems. Missing from the CAO’s presentation was the decision matrix on how the CAO selected the vendors or other companies responding to the county’s Request for Proposals (RFP) and their associated bids. Where’s the transparency? It just seems like in light of all the county’s budgetary problems, layoffs, cutbacks and downsizing this was not the proper time for this massive expenditure. Back in the recession of the 1990’s, the Surveyor’s Office received several bids for a new spatial Geographical Information System (GIS) and instead chose to invest a little over $100,000 on a computer and software and built up over time what today is a multi-million dollar system by using its own staff, as the map digitization layering and database development was the true labor intensive cost factor. This also took a lot of risk out of that new system, because the system was developed over time and the county didn’t outsource the work. The surveyor did not go out and blow millions on a “turnkey” system full of promises that potentially would backfire. The current CAO seems to want to blow the county’s financial wad as if she’s going for broke.


Letters to the Editor


Discussion | 13 comments

  • SparkyApril 10, 2013 - 6:41 am

    The county has ridden their current and 25yr old software solution as far as it can go. No choice, but to move on as support in any form will soon end. The mule has already been flogged. The key to success is to implement the core, the fundamentals and then add-in the secondary items with a blend of procedural changes and software customization. The key monitoring point is changing of project managers either on the county side, the vendor side or both. Changes likely means problems. Tyler is a publicly trade company with a track record of success. Just because Mr Blum was not included in the qualifying process does not mean that this was a pick the name our of the phone book process. However, he is correct about the justification of high priced personnel.

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  • EvelynApril 10, 2013 - 7:50 am

    Sparky: County people I speak to agree with you: the existing computer system is antiquated and the new one will be a godsend. Though we all hope the new system will live up to expectations, the fact that Tyler is a publicly traded company is not in and of itself adequate reassurance. Google: TYLER TECHNOLOGIES LAWSUITS. What is your level of certainty about the new system's capacity to deal with the needs of (for example) the following: • Accountants • Property: taxed & county • Pensions • Law Enforcement • County Programs • Human Resources • Legislative Component • Planning / Building • Internal / External attack prevention • Billing • Reimbursements • Health Care • Grants • Social Services • Cash: receipts & payments • Compliance: Regulatory & Code • Security / ID theft prevention

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  • EvelynApril 10, 2013 - 10:10 am

    For all the "players" who have bought into the global-warming-cooling-CarbonDioxide-SustainableTechnology-NextEconomy mantra, THIS: MOBILE CLOUD SUCKS POWER GRID HARDER THAN DATA CENTERS - Wireless networking infrastructure worldwide accounts for 10 times more power consumption than data centers worldwide. In total, it is responsible for 90 percent of the power usage by cloud infrastructure.

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  • cookie65April 19, 2013 - 6:25 am

    How about a contract that includes the bureaucrats who chose the new system paying 20% of any cost overruns? Someone needs to be taking notes on the promises made so they can be compared to the product that gets delivered. Spending other peoples money has become a privilege without consequence. Everyone hopes for the best with this new system but anyone who pays attention knows how few people in government have any respect for what it takes to earn the money they spend.

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  • cookie65April 19, 2013 - 7:57 am

    This is for anyone under the delusion that the union run school system is about education.

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  • cookie65April 19, 2013 - 8:19 am

    Here is a quote from Tom McClintock's facebook page, "The Left would plunder our children of their prosperity tomorrow to pay for the unprecedented expansion of government today. We insist on a government that does what families do every day: work hard, waste not and live within our means." Just another example of being incapable of communicating the problem in this country. It isn't that the left "would" plunder our children of their prosperity, THEY ALREADY HAVE. Tell the truth and quit worrying about being called a hater by the leftist media and all their braindead following.

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  • Jim RiordanApril 19, 2013 - 2:32 pm

    Software and "new" computer systems are only as good as the operators . . . How much will it cost in time and money to teach them to be proficient? If indeed they have the capacity to learn new technology. Do these quoted prices include guaranteed training and not just costly "support" from the vendor? Having run a software based company I can tell you those costs can far exceed the equipment cost in very little time.

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  • francescaduchamp@att.netApril 19, 2013 - 9:32 pm

    The BOS seems to have lots of money...yet I was told by several people that they could not pay for the carpet in Pollock. "Important" Library people (and i ll leave out their names for now)said the the FOL in Pollock did the right thing--by spending $5000.00 on carpet for a county building--because the county didnt have any money. They just gave $350,000 to the economic developmental group (CEDAC) from the general fund--who are a group of un elected people. $100,000 of that to do a web portal (web site) which our high school students could do (oh wait there is no money for schools.) The other part was divided by different economical development groups (CEDAPP being one of them) Where they can just use it how they see fit($5000.00 each.) And the rest...the Bos gave it to them as "seed" money for grants. No money? okay I agree with Evelyn--this company that was chosen--knows how to "market" to any one. The cloud is new--every one in the tech world knows--new has its bugs. And teaching people the "new" is expensive ...which is more money. Oh wait--there is no money. Buy comps--have kids set it up--if the adults dont know how. Remember a "desk top" is just that--what use to be stacked on your desk--is now magically inside of your comp. Lets say one lucks out--and the comp system lasts longer than the five year known period of time--what is the cost of the updates? This is how other cities are going bankrupt--spending money they dont have. Investigate more options--or just buy individual comps and have the School tech--come help set them up in a network for you. There is either money or not...someone start telling the truth and save this county. Read

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  • James E.April 19, 2013 - 9:45 pm

    Frances, stay with me now, as this is complex and why we pay big tax dollars for our local politicians to manage the public's affairs -- there is no money for a children's library rug, but lots of money for everything else. So simple, if you know politicians. Key to understanding: There are no possible kickbacks (money or sweetheart deals) from little children.

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  • francescaduchamp@att.netApril 19, 2013 - 9:55 pm

    James E. I know--but one can hope...lolololol And I know our Economic development group wants their $80,00 dancing bear on highway 50--so that tourists will come into our town and do "something"...lololol James make it stop. I have a friend (county worker)that hasnt had a raise in several years (her program is paid out of the general funds)--and Im afraid if the bear goes up before she gets one...well it could get ugly. I received a kindle for my birthday--I no longer "believe in libraries. (shhhhh and im hording paper books--my friends are worried--but hey I read all the articles on using whole books as installation in walls and on floors--I can go "green" and build a house out of mud and books.) And if I sit by the library--I can connect to the world for free.

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  • Sue TaylorApril 20, 2013 - 12:27 am

    If a system has worked for over 25 years doing a particular task why is it suddenly obsolete? Has the task changed? Do we suddenly have too many county employees making 6 figures and it's crashing the system? As far as I can tell those making the decision to overhaul have no experience in Information Technology (IT). I’ve talked to some of the guys in IT; there is NOT a PROBLEM that they can’t deal with... I agree with cookie - those that have made this decision should take financial responsibility when the project goes south, if on the other hand it works, I’ll be truly surprised.

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  • SparkyApril 20, 2013 - 7:51 am

    The underlying computer system is virtually unsupported by the vendor. County staff has wrapped newer, desk top solutions around the older technology, but there are limits. In turn, they are acquiring a proven solution. Name a business, person or agency is using 1988 computer technology as the foundation for their operations. It is not surprising that some staff are happy with the status quo as it represents job security. Change is never easy for those always looking at the world through their rear view mirror...

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  • Walking TallApril 21, 2013 - 5:05 am

    Easy to spend money that isn't your own and that isn't accountable, we are seeing IT at it's best and oh who gets extra dollars to "oversee" this? Why it's our DA, really doesn't he have a full plate?, oh wait he doesn't appear in court unless it could benefit his bid for the AG's job yet to be attempted. Easy as well to spend money on a yet to be investigated system with a questionable past and present record. So let's throw money at IT and see if a new system will fix all our problems w/o creating another six figure job person to tell us how IT will help us. Let all tose other programs and needed monies be damned we will have a new system and who cares how much IT costs because it really isn't our money we are spending and "keeping up w/the times" is all that really counts anyway...

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