City Council, Utility Board updated on BSIP

Members of the city’s Business Systems Improvement Project (BSIP) team on Tuesday provided an overview of the project to the Tacoma City Council and Public Utility Board.

BSIP is a total computer system replacement designed to help Tacoma work more efficiently and serve citizens better.

The 19-month, $50 million software project is set to replace the city’s aging financial management, human resources, work management and customer information systems with a system from SAP, a German software company.

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.

Team members included a timeline and budget status, stressing the project is on time and on budget.

“We’re in the ‘Realization’ phase,” said Karen Larkin, BSIP director.

The “Realization” phase includes configuration of the new system, testing the new system, security issues, the cutover from the old system to the new system and training.

This phase of the project was preceded by the “Blueprint” phase, which concluded last month with city and project leaders signing off on a 2,500-page document outlining the full scope of the project.

The Blueprint sign-off was the culmination of a five-month long phase of the project where 77 city employees joined with TUI Consulting to outline how the city does business.

BSIP team members took on the daunting task of documenting more than 600 of the city’s business processes.

Members then consolidated this down to 350 processes, which they will configure in the new SAP software system.

“It’s a remarkable document,” Larkin commented. “It’s the first time all of the city’s processes have been mapped out.”

The “Realization” phase will run through June of this year, followed by a “Go-Live Prep” phase through September.

A “Support” phase will begin in early October and run through December, which marks the completion of the switch.

Councilmember Kevin Phelps raised concerns about the security of a centralized system, notably threats from hackers.

TUI president and CEO Ballu Khan described the security systems that will be in place – including passwords for entry into the system and access limited to appropriate areas – as highly comprehensive and “almost foolproof.”

Larkin added that redundancies will be built into the system, so as to decrease the odds of a catastrophic failure in the event of natural disaster.

A big part of the project involves training city employees to use the new system.

Between 1,800 and 2,500 city employees will need some level of training, Larkin said.

“This is going to be a really interesting exercise,” Tacoma Public Utilities Director Mark Crisson said of the mass trainings, cautioning city customers to be on the lookout for a dip in productivity as city employees become familiar with the new system.

As for the project’s $50 million budget, the bulk of the financing – $45 million – remains on track, with $1 million remaining of a $5 million contingency fund.
“I think we’ll be able to complete the project under its current budget,” Larkin said.

City Manger Ray Corpuz, Larkin and Crisson will be flown by TUI Consulting to Australia and New Zealand to visit utilities using the new software to get a better understanding of what Tacoma can expect.

“We want this project to be successful,” Corpuz said.