Tacoma turns switch to launch first phase of BSIP

As the countdown clock at City Hall ticked down to zero Monday morning at 8 a.m., the City of Tacoma began a whole new way of doing business.
After 16 months of preparation, city employees launched the new mySAP software suite to run its finance, human resources and works management systems.

Powered by SAP, an international software company, the new system will enable city employees to pay vendors faster, manage its budget and finances with more up-to-date information, enter employees’ time worked online and schedule work crews using remote wireless connections.
The mySAP suite becomes the electronic backbone of the City.

“Tacoma once again is on the leading edge,” said City Manager James Walton. “A system this sophisticated will help us improve the quality of our service to citizens and customers for years to come.”

Today’s launch is part of the city’s $50 million Business Systems Improvement Project (BSIP), which began after a two-plus year vendor selection process.
The city selected TUI Consulting to guide the project implementation.

Approximately 150 City and TUI employees have worked side-by-side in a building near City Hall since July 2002 to configure the system to the city’s specifications.

Monday’s “go-live” is part of a phased approach, with the launch of the new Customer Care and Services (CCS) system to follow on Nov. 3.

A Business Warehouse/Strategic Enterprise Management System (BW/SEM) will complete the system implementation when it powers up on Nov. 17.

Tacoma Public Utilities Director Mark Crisson said customers may notice an impact on services as city employees learn the complex system for the next few months.

Crisson said other utilities with similar systems have experienced an initial increase in customer waiting times.

“At first, lines may be longer or phone calls may take more time to resolve,” he said. “But the end result is customers will have faster and better ways to do business with us.”

Once the entire system is activated, BSIP Director Karen Larkin said it will become the most diverse SAP system in any city in the world.

“Other cities and utilities have implemented larger systems in terms of customer base or population,” she said, “but Tacoma’s is by far the most diverse, serving a wide range of government services including police, fire, public works, finance and utilities.”

As more employees use the system in the coming weeks, Larkin expects they will uncover some glitches. Should employees need assistance, the team has established an around-the-clock command center to document and repair any issues. The team has also placed project employees in high-use business areas to assist employees on the spot.

The city’s contract with TUI consulting continues through Dec. 31, when daily system maintenance and operation will transfer to the city’s Business Information Systems department.