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Erie County Approves $6.8M to Fix ECC's Workplace Software

The county legislature that oversees SUNY Erie Community College gave the go-ahead to maintain the current, inefficient ERP system for three more years to protect student data while migrating to a new system, Ellucian Banner.

ERP Concept
(TNS) — The costs keep rising for SUNY Erie Community College to put into place a workplace software system that does what college officials want it to do.

The existing system, which ECC officials want to replace, has cost the college $12.5 million since 2017, even though it's never worked properly.

The school plans to spend another $6.8 million over the next five years to replace it with a different system and keep the existing system in place until the change is completed.

The Erie County Legislature committee in charge of overseeing ECC on Thursday gave its approval Thursday for the college to spend $6.8 million over the next five years to replace its failed resource planning software.

The Legislature's Community Engagement Committee agreed to include $1.76 million to maintain the "inefficient" Workday Enterprise Resource Planning system for three more years to protect student data while migrating to a new system, Ellucian Banner, which is used at 48 of the 64 SUNY campuses.

The committee also approved ECC spending $2.3 million on a five-year contract with Banner and $2.8 million for a five-year contract with Strata Information Group, the IT firm that will implement the new system and transfer ECC's data from Workday to Banner.

ECC is asking the county for $3 million toward the fix and expects the state to kick in $3 million in capital project matching funds. The full Legislature is slated to vote on the resolutions Sept. 22.

Legislators expressed reluctance to allocate more money to correct what amounts to a bad call by former ECC leaders who recommended the Workday "solution" in 2017. ECC was the only college in the SUNY system to go with Workday, which Balkin said has never fully functioned to meet the college's needs.

Balkin took over as ECC president in February with 20 years of experience in the industry and a success story of turning around an Indiana community college that was in similar financial straits to ECC. He soon learned that ECC's Workday ERP system was considered to be ineffective and has been working with state and SUNY experts to address the problem.

Balkin estimated it will take a total of $9 million from the county, $9 million from the state and three years "to get fully migrated to Banner."

"So we are talking $32 million for software over the past five and the next five years," Legislature Minority Leader Joseph Lorigo told Balkin. "I understand you are in a difficult position and came in after years and years of failed leadership at the college, and I want to help however I can. I'm just trying to wrap my head around this."

Balkin said part of the problem was that Workday never allocated enough support to ECC because it was Workday's only customer in New York State, so ECC has been paying IT firm Huron Consulting $180 an hour for tech support to implement Workday on its computer network.

"We were effectively paying Huron to do development to benefit Workday," Balkin said.

In contrast, Strata is an existing SUNY vendor that already supports the Banner system used by four dozen SUNY schools.

"I think it's critical that we depend on experts, and I'm tapping every expert in the SUNY system," Balkin said.

Legislator Lisa Chimera, D-Tonawanda, told Balkin her primary concern is that all involved strive to ensure that student data will be protected and intact throughout the migration to the new system.

"It is so crucial that the migration works seamlessly because students rely on their transcripts for applying to other colleges, to master's programs and to jobs," she said.

Committee Chair John Gilmour, D- Hamburg, asked Balkin to plan to report back to the committee every couple of months throughout the process to keep them updated on how it's going.

Legislator Howard Johnson, D- Buffalo, also asked Balkin how ECC was faring in general since providing early retirement incentives to 60 staff members and laying off 90 others this year.

Balkin said ECC is in a far better financial position than it was a year ago, when it had only $1.8 million in cash reserves, enough to operate the college for one month, and faced a $9 million deficit for 2022-23.

Cost-cutting measures and county contributions including a $2.5 million retirement incentive staved off the deficit, and ECC will have $12.5 million in cash reserves by the end of the year, Balkin said.

©2022 The Buffalo News (Buffalo, N.Y.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.