Government Technology

ERP Systems Turn 10 Years Old for Local Governments

February 24, 2009 By

of their initial implementations. Perkins estimates that Phoenix spent about $16 million for its ERP. Connelly said that Sacramento County spent about $19.5 million, the bulk of which was for consulting services. The county spent about $4 million for the software piece and $2.5 million for the hardware piece, in his estimation.

"We probably underestimated the amount of work that would take. We ended up, part of our implementation cost was for SAP to actually bring people out of SAP Germany, which is where they're headquartered, and locate themselves in Phoenix to help us through the project," Perkins said. "And they had kind of a hotline to Germany so they could talk to the programmers and actually configure code differently for government."

At first, Phoenix had trouble budgeting for a project of the ERP system's size, and city personnel discovered it was a more robust animal than they first expected.

"To implement a system like this, you need technical expertise, people who know the SAP side of it, and we filled that in with consulting. Then you need, of course, people who know the business side of it, who work closely with the technical people to explain how we do our business in the county, so that that configuration can take place properly," Connelly said. Sacramento County had a team of more than 100 employees in addition to several SAP consultants to get things moving.

In a sense, Sacramento County and Phoenix paved the way for other jurisdictions to make ERP part of their government landscapes. Now areas like Ventura are experiencing some of the same growing pains their predecessors overcame.

"Most organizations change their systems once every seven to 10 years. We haven't changed it for 25 years," Emerson said. "And [when] you've got people working here for 25 years, it's very difficult to change because they're basically in their 50s and it's the only thing they've ever worked on. And it's a big shock."

If Emerson could go back and redo everything, he's not sure what could be done differently to make the transition smoother. "I don't know how much more we could have done with it because a mindset is a very hard thing to change at times," he said. "You just have to keep working at it."

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