Supervisor John Staelin (Millwood) repeated his opposition to a County and School-wide enterprise resource planning (ERP) software purchase recommended by a County consultant as a solution for unifying the County’s disaggregated and obsolete hardware/software infrastructure.
During the public comment period, Archibald read a statement asking the Supervisors to restore $650K of funding for the recommended ERP software. Archibald said that there is broad community support for the effort and cited benefits derived from a recent ERP implementation in another small municipality, Staunton, Virginia.
“Staunton’s IT director and a representative of Tyler Technologies out of Texas [authors of Staunton’s ERP software] can come to Berryville soon for a special work session about ERP with the Board of Supervisors and Clarke County’s account managers,” Archibald said.
ERP software facilitates the flow of information between business functions inside the boundaries of a business or organization as well as managing the connections to outside stakeholders – in Clarke’s case, the Commonwealth of Virginia and other state and federal agencies. ERP systems also integrate management information internally across an entire organization including finance/accounting, service delivery, customer relationship management, etc.
However, unlike off-the-shelf commercial software, ERP systems typically require significant amounts of customization unless the implementing entity is willing to adapt its existing processes and procedures to the match the pre-designed workflow management of the ERP software. As with any large software conversion project – ERP being no exception – unexpected software implementation challenges and cost over-runs are not uncommon.
Staelin reiterated his belief that the current ERP proposal contained too many unanswered questions to move forward at present.
“We don’t know how much the project will cost,” Staelin said in response to the proposed $650K ERP budget estimate. “The consultant said that the system could cost between $350K and $1.2M. That’s a huge spread.”
Staelin also said that the County doesn’t have a strong understanding of what the savings from an ERP system will be and that while an ERP system would reduce duplicative data entry functions between County departments, there are no projections that the system would eliminate any staffing costs.
Staelin said that the Supervisors have encouraged Joint Administrative Services (JAS) director Tom Judge to take another look at the problems and solutions in order to further refine the County’s cost-benefit expectations.
“Right now we’re uncertain about cost, uncertain about the savings and unsure about vendors,” Staelin said. “We don’t know which ERP vendors in the future will be winners and which will be losers.”
Staelin also said that because there aren’t many municipalities using ERP systems, an ERP vendor’s costs for maintaining its software would be higher because the costs are spread across a smaller installed user base.
“I think that ultimately we will do this,” Staelin said referring to the ERP question. “Timing is the issue.”