Thursday, August 30, 2001
Big Changes in Store if County Adopts New Software, Official Says
By KIMBERLY EDDS, Staff Writer
A proposed new countywide software system could revolutionize the way Los Angeles County does business, the county’s chief information officer said yesterday.
“This is not a technology project, it’s a business project,” Jon Fullinwider said. “It will ask the departments to take a look at how they basically do business.”
The Board of Supervisors Tuesday voted to use $1.4 million to hire Government Financial Officers Association to evaluate what each county department needs the Enterprise Resource Planning software system (ERP) to do.
The vote does not commit the county to purchasing an ERP. It only approves a study of what the county needs the system to do and determine if an ERP is a practical solution.
The system will help the county streamline its business functions and put the county’s 38 departments on the same financial page, Fullinwider said.
“This will allow the county to make better business decisions as a single organization,” he said.
The software program would address the county’s financial issues, including budgeting and accounting matters. It will not include human resources or payroll issues at the beginning, but those features can be added if the county decides to do so later on, Fullinwider said.
The vote also approved spending over $3 million out of department funds to determine the specialized needs of the individual departments. The board’s decision puts a $4.56 million total price tag on the evaluation, without committing the county to buying into an ERP software program.
Evaluation results will presented to the board in a year and the supervisors will then make the decision to continue with the project.
Fullinwider said the system is something the county, which has had a long history of problems communicating between departments, desperately needs. “This is clearly long overdue,” Fullinwider he said. “It would be a very critical change in the way the county does business.”
Under the program, the county’s 38 departments would use the same financial software and keep financial records the same way instead of using their own systems like they do now.
The change would allow the county easier access to departmental financial information and the information would be recorded in the same throughout the county.
While the county would be under a single software program, individual department needs would also be accommodated. “It is clearly an advantage of standardization of information, access to information, and consistency,” Fullinwider said.
Supervisor Gloria Molina expressed concern at Monday’s meeting that the board didn’t know exactly how much money was going to be on the program, which would come out of the county’s own pocket, saying counties with much smaller budgets have spent upwards of $50 million on their own ERPs.
In developing their ERP, Molina said, Riverside County with a $1.4 billion budget and 900,000 employees spent $52 million. The supervisor said she worried how much it would cost a county with a $16 billion budget and over 80,000 employees to create acquire an ERP of its own.
“My concern is at what point in time are we going to know what the total caboose is going to cost here?” Molina said. “I mean the whole thing.”
Fullinwider said other counties included human resources and payroll in their systems, something Los Angeles will not do for now, and that Riverside’s costs also included hardware upgrades. An estimate of total program costs would not be available until after the departments gave their requirements, Fullinwider said.
County Chief Administrative Officer David Janssen also urged the supervisors to approve the evaluation expenditure.
“You need to know what your requirements are against what the software out there can produce,” Janssen said. “We cannot give you a good answer without spending the million-four, and it is critical that we do that first.”
The board approved an amendment introduced by Molina which requires monthly reports on the progress of ERP to be submitted to the board.
“We know that the county needs to move in this direction in order to be efficient and effective,” Molina wrote in her amendment. “A county with 38 departments and an annual budget of $16 million deserves a system that seamlessly integrates its budgeting and accounting systems.”
In order to keep the board informed about the project, the reports are required to outline cost factors associated with implementation, updates on progress and timelines for completion at each phase of the project.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company