City Hall in line for software update
Investing in new software may compute to better financial reporting at the City of Penticton.
Last week, Penticton’s city controller Colin Fisher outlined for council the benefits to the proposed enterprise resource financial productivity planning system (ERP) and highlights of the process involved in transition process, scheduled to go ahead in October.
Fisher explained that the city’s core services review in 2010 highlighted how the city was failing in the realm of financial productivity systems — meaning financial reports for any given department or project couldn’t be readily generated. That meant departments could not track their budgetary progress, because up-to-date information wasn’t at their fingertips.
Change does not come without a price, however. Council already approved a $750,000 budget for the ERP changeover, which would include the software purchase, conversion services, transition support, project management and training.
Fisher said staff’s first task in determining what kind of ERP City Hall would need required talking to the various departments.
“The process to date has been an all-inclusive process, driven firstly by the needs of internal users — the primary stakeholders,” he said.
Fisher explained that decisions on software were primarily in line with the needs of the finance department, but is only one of many departments looking for timely financial information. They met and interviewed the various department heads to determine needs.
“That told us specifically what they’re looking for,” he said.
Senior managers and designated staff visited other municipalities to determine what systems they used and how they function in a real application. Fisher said that process short-listed three systems for further analysis: J.D. Edwards, Great Plains and Agresso.
Staff were able to partake in vendor demonstrations, where the candidate systems were evaluated by Penticton staff based on the identified needs of the department and given scores for functionality out of six. Staff also visited Kelowna and Kamloops to see the systems in action.
“We were anxious to make sure the system we chose was the best for the City of Penticton,” he said.
The J.D. Edwards system scored 5.22 for functionality, and would cost $663,408 for the software before implementation costs are factored in.
The Great Plains system, priced at $455,605, scored only 3.76 for functionality.
Fisher said staff were recommending Penticton invest in Agresso, which earned the highest score for functionality at 5.83, with a price of $460,000.
“The most significant (feature) is access to information,” he said, adding the program can handle the full range of city functions including accounting, human resources, payroll, public works, work orders, fleet management and more.
While the $750,000 budget is more than the initial outlay, Fisher explained that the transition process will require a business analyst and other temporary staff devoted to moving data and files over to the new system.
Mayor Dan Ashton recognized the need for the investment.
“This is a substantial purchase for the City of Penticton, but probably long overdue,” he said, asking whether the Agresso system had the capacity to be built upon to handle the city’s future needs.
“The Agresso system was designed from the floor up to be modifiable,” Fisher said, adding that it was also “user friendly” that would allow staff to do very basic query searches of the entire city database.
“It’s sort of a big number, but when you deal with over $100 million a year in the budget … you need the software to do that,” Coun. Andrew Jakubeit said, asking about how much annual maintenance fees would be with the new system.
Fisher said Agresso’s system would cost the city $46,000 each year after it was implemented, representing a “$16,000 reduction in annual maintenance costs from what we pay right now.”
Coun. Helena Konanz said she would “feel a little bit better” about the investment if staff would spend a bit more time talking to municipalities who use the Agresso system, including both the Langley township and city, Powell River, Port Moody, Squamish Regional District, Surrey, Kelowna, St. Albert, Alta., and the B.C. Pension Corp.
“Surrey, one of the fastest growing municipalities, is working off this system. That right there, in my mind, brings a lot of confidence,” Jakubeit said.
Council unanimously approved the Agresso choice, and authorized staff to negotiate agreements for all required licences, support and maintenance.