End of the beginning: BSIP coming to a close

With the Business System Improvement Project (BSIP) coming to a close at the end of the year, director Karen Larkin delivered a project summary to the Tacoma City Council and the Tacoma Public Utilities Board during Tuesday’s joint study session.

BSIP is the implementation of a $50 million software project designed to help the city work more efficiently and serve citizens better by replacing aging systems. The human resources, finances and workflow portion of the new system went on line in early October, while the customer service portion went into effect in early November.

While recognizing the inevitable glitches that occur during the implementation of such a massive project, Larkin said the new system would allow the city to operate in a more organized manner and save money in the long term.

Putting some of the problems faced by Tacoma in switching over to the new system in perspective, Larkin said between 30 percent and 40 percent of such implementations fail.

“Let me just say this is not the Tacoma story,” she said. “Post go-live there are always bugs to fix.”

In the human resources part of the new system, some of those bugs include problems with payroll, mobile dispatch work crew interface stabilization and permit process simplification.

“These are things we’re still working on,” Larkin said, noting these should be fixed by the end of the year.

On the technical side of things, work is still being done on stabilization of interfaces, utility graphs on invoices and authorization revisions are being continued.

Customer service glitches include data cleansing, invoice printing errors (including information not printing) and bugs in the functionality of the Tax & License Department.

Despite these difficulties, Larkin provided some statistics that show the new system is functioning:
– Over 10,000 vendors have been paid $121 million.

– Over 1,300 permits have been processed.

– $6.7 million in non-utility rate revenue has been collected.

-100 work crews have been dispatched via wireless devices, at a rate of about 100 a day.

– Over 34,000 work orders have been created, with nearly 14,000 completed at a cost of $17.9 million.

– Over 57,000 notifications have been created.

– Over 22,000 payroll checks have been issued.

“So these are pretty impressive numbers of things that are working,” Larkin said, offering more statistics on the technical portion of the new system:

– Over 416,000 dialog steps are taken during the average work day.

– The average weekday response time is 0.573 seconds.

– Over 1,500 users have logged in.

Perhaps the most impressive statistics come from the customer service area:

– 131,000 utility bills have been mailed.

– Over 15,000 notifications have been created, with nearly 11,000 completed.

– Over 2,600 citizens have enrolled in tacomaservices.org.

– 938 utility customers paid bills online, totalling over $133,000.

– Citizens have made 247 online requests, with 156 having been completed and 91 in the process of being completed.

Larkin said she was particularly pleased with those last three figures, as it shows citizens are starting to use the new system, which has not been widely advertised. With more aggressive advertising, those numbers should increase, she said.

With $50 million approved for the project’s budget, Larkin reported the city spent $49.9 million, including all of a $5 million contingency fund. While software costs were less than anticipated, hardware costs were higher than expected, as were consulting costs, mostly due to the scope changes of the project, Larking said. The city actually spent $50.4 million dollars, but got $478,000 back via furniture and equipment sold back to various departments and project interest earnings.

Larkin highlighted the immediate benefits of the new system, including having one clean data base, less printing and more streamlined order processing. The new system also improves the city’s ability to pay bills and collect money. “This just means we get our money sooner,” Larkin said.

Mayor Bill Baarsma said he would like to see periodic reports on savings due to BSIP. “We should be able to point out to citizens the project is a good investment,” he said.