With the Oct. 1 Go Live date approaching, Tacomas $50 million computer upgrade designed to help the city work more efficiently and serve citizens better is set to launch on time and within budget, the City Council and Public Utility Board learned during Tuesdays joint study session.
City Council and Public Utility Board members were updated on the Business Systems Improvement Project (BSIP) on what Mayor Bill Baarsma pointed out was the one-year anniversary of the project that is set to replace the citys aging financial management, human resources, work management and customer information systems.
We are in the Go Live prep phase now, said Karen Larkin, project director. Today is your first time to see the system actually working.
The two-hour presentation included an explanation of project risks and mitigation strategies, how training is progressing for the more than 2,000 city employees on the updated software systems and how officials will communicate with citizens about customer service changes, how staff will manage the system after activation, as well as Internet Self Service and workflow demonstrations.
Though new total project estimates exceed original estimates of the total cost, Larkin said she believes the system built will alleviate any funding worries.
Weve got just under a million dollars left over in the contingency fund, she said.
The original contingency fund estimate was $5 million.
Larkin said she expects the project to be successfully implemented with the remaining contingency funds.
Four different quality assurance reviews showed strong general support for BSIP, with the biggest concerns being data migration from the old system to the new one.
Obviously, were not going to shut down the city for a month, Larkin said, referring to customer service and how it will be affected by the systems change.
The switch to such a centralized system would affect virtually every aspect of city business, from billing and customer service to work crew scheduling to tracking purchase orders.
We really are a complex organization, Larkin pointed out.
She continued: Every project has risks. The best way to deal with them is to identity and mitigate them.
Training city employees to use the new system has proved to be an arduous task, with 34 full- and part-time trainers on the job.
Training began two weeks ago on June 30, and since then weve experienced our share of challenges, reported Lydia Stevenson, transition manager.
Some of those challenges include the crash of an online training program, keeping the training fresh as well as the sheer numbers of people to train.
Nevertheless, Stevenson reported overall class evaluations have been positive.
Mark (Crisson, Public Utilities director, who was in attendance) passed his initial training, so its not that difficult, Stevenson joked.
Getting the word out to the public about BSIP is also a major goal.
Its going to be quite a challenge, said Karen Jones, communications manager, noting the public will be kept informed via information included with bills, newsletters and TV Tacoma.
In August, several countdown clocks marking the time until BSIP goes live will be placed in public areas, Jones said, cajoling Mayor Baarsma into helping with that.
Sure, deadpanned Baarsma, no stranger to ribbon-cuttings, grand openings and the like.
BSIP officials concluded their presentation with two demonstration of how the project will function, including a simulated online login by fictional Tacoma Public Utilities customer Jane Doe, where she reviewed her account, paid a bill, signed up for the automatic pay feature and changed her e-mail address.
The second demonstration involved the life cycle of a work order based on a fictional scenario where workers damaged a sewer pipe, requiring parts to be ordered and a work crew to be dispatched.
Oct.1 is the Go Live date for the mySAP (SAP is a German software company) portion of BSIP, which deals with the citys human resources, finances and workflow.
Nov. 3 is the Go Live date for the customer service portion of BSIP.
Officials were confident the new system would change for the better the way the city does business, although they cautioned the cutover to BSIP could be difficult.
The service will not be perfect when we turn it on, Larkin cautioned.
Still, she remained optimistic about the future.
There will be some bumps and things to work out, she said, adding a year from now she hopes to have some really cool tools to use and looks forward to wondering how the city ever got along without BSIP.