Leaders sign off on document outlining BSIP scope

The Business System Improvement Project is a $50 million software enterprise.

City leaders signed off on a document outlining the full scope of the Business Systems Improvement Project (BSIP) – a total system replacement designed to help Tacoma work more efficiently and serve citizens better – during a Monday afternoon ceremony at the Tacoma Sheraton Hotel.

Signatories included Karen Larkin, BSIP director; Ballu Kahn, project executive; and Mahalakshmi Ravindran and Michele Anderson, project directors.

Also signing the 2,500-page “Blueprint” were BSIP Steering Committee members Gary Amfield, Phillip Knudsen, David Otto, Ralph Johns, Steven Marcotte, Catherine Mitchell, William Schatz and Paul Mielbrecht.
BSIP is a 19-month, $50 million software project that is to replace the city’s aging financial management, human resources, work management and customer information systems with an enterprise system from SAP, a German software company.

“We really are taking a huge step with these set of processes with the city’s business practices that we’ve never seen before,” Larkin said.

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 herculean task of documenting more than 600 city’s business processes – for example, how the city schedules work crews, pays its vendors, hires its employees, sends out its utility bills, etc.
Members consolidated this down to 350 processes, which they will configure in the new SAP software system during the next phase of the project.

City Manager Ray Corpuz compared this phase of the project to the reality television show “Survivor,” saying it was like “five months out in the wilderness.”

He continued: “Change is not easy, as we’ve said.”

The team will consolidate more than 100 existing systems into an integrated systems operating on a single database of information.

During the Blueprint phase, the team analyzed current business practices and compared them to SAP capabilities, recommending these additions to the final scope of the project: support for Tacoma Power’s proposed Gateway – or “smart meter” system that will allow citizens to closely track their energy usage and be ready if the utility begins peak use pricing; replacing in SAP three major software systems used for budgeting, permitting and tax and licensing, instead of building an interface to them as originally planned; and other enhancements.

These additions total $1.3 million and will be funded within the project’s $50 million budget, as part of its contingency fund, which was designed for possible enhancements identified during the Blueprint phase.

In addition to the $1.3 million, the city previously committed contingency funds to the purchase of hardware and SAP license fees, leaving $1 million still available.

The project remains on budget and on schedule with a “go-live” expected in fall 2003.

Contingency funds also paid for staff training, which Kahn praised.

It’s unprecedented how quickly those trained have been brought up to speed on the new system, he said.

“I think the city is in very good hands with the team of people they have,” he noted.

Tacoma Public Utilities Director/CEO Mark Crisson said he was impressed with the teamwork and sense of camaraderie the staff has shown, adding they would be ready for the big changes coming.

When completed, some of the enhancements included in the plan will include the following:
– Utilities customers will have 24-hour-a-day access to the utility, logging onto the Internet to pay bills, request services or cancel services.

– There will be more efficiency on large construction projects, as engineers track projects through planning, scheduling, procurement, billing and more.

– City purchasing agents will maintain tighter controls by tracking the entire purchasing cycle: from purchase order, to goods received, to invoice verification, to accounts payable.

– Field crews will gain efficiency by automating crew schedules and equipment.

– There will be faster responses to citizen inquiries, with complaints and compliments realized through a centralized customer tracking system.

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