A decade long train-wreck

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King County, Washington decided in 1994 that it needed a unified computer system for bookkeeping and payroll. 12 years later and $39 Million in the dumpster, they do not have this and are planning to spend another $70 Million to do it right this time... From The Seattle Times:
Sims wants $70 million to repair computer fiasco
After King County blew $39 million on a botched attempt to modernize its accounting, payroll and human-resources computer systems, County Executive Ron Sims is ready to try again.

But getting the job done this time will require even more money � $70 million, according to a consultant's preliminary estimate.

And that doesn't include an estimated $34.5 million more needed to run the new systems over the next 10 years.

The goal is to give the county unified accounting and payroll systems � something it hasn't had since 1994, when the former transit and sewage agency, Metro, merged with King County government.

Of the four finance systems now in use, two are using mainframes from the 1970s.

After studying the debacle, which came to a head in 2000, and then figuring out how to do the job right this time, Sims says, his staff is prepared to put together a detailed plan. But until that plan is completed next year, the full cost won't be known.
And of course, the money for this boondoggle came from the county taxpayers. Yet another reason we bailed for another county. It will be interesting to see what the final butchers bill will be and if any of the people involved in the first go-round have been removed from office. The Times article has a bit about the managerial incompetence involved in the first attempt:
The first attempt to modernize the county's finance systems was in 1997, when the County Council appropriated $39 million for a project that was to be completed in 2000. Instead, the project was shut down in 2000 after inexperienced project managers spent the entire budget on just one part of the job.

When Sims suspended the project, the new payroll system had been installed for departments employing only one-third of county employees. The accounting system wasn't installed at all.

The council gave Sims $4 million more to "stabilize" the payroll system and figure out how to restart the project.

A post-mortem study said the aborted project suffered from a lack of teamwork, failure of the steering committee to verify optimistic reports from program managers, and customizing the newly purchased software rather than changing procedures.

Most astonishingly, consultants Dye Management Group and IBM found, "virtually no one within the county had any significant experience in implementing large, complex software application systems." And the Finance Department, which was in charge, didn't hire outside experts to manage the payroll part of the job.
Emphases mine -- yikes: they didn't have a clue how to do this and they didn't bother to get anyone in for the transition. I would prefer SAP over PeopleSoft but both are good applications. Better luck this time taxpayers...

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This page contains a single entry by DaveH published on June 18, 2006 8:56 PM.

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