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Loudoun County’s multi-million dollar ERP problems continue

Supervisor Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles) has dealt with the ERP issue for years. Times-Mirror File Photo
The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors' finance committee on Tuesday walked back a $533,200 expenditure for a single person to lead the county’s latest implementation of its problematic enterprise resource planning (ERP) project.

The course reversal came a week after the committee approved the expenditure.

Last week the finance committee struggled to understand why county staff recommended supervisors approve the hefty salary for a sole project executive to oversee phase two implementation of the county’s management system that keeps track of everything from taxes, assessments and human resources for Loudoun County government and public schools.

Several supervisors had asked why county staff did not consider hiring a team rather than one person for a year’s worth of work.

While some wondered why staff only looked at one company during the hiring process and not more, others asked why they were being rushed into awarding the contract.

To date, over the course of nearly five years, the county has spent nearly $40 million on the ERP project.

Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) last week said she felt “backed in a corner” by staff to award the contract. She said she found it “hard to believe” the person was “the only game in town.”

“It’s very rare that... they’re the only one that can do this,” Randall said.

The project executive would have provided “executive oversight” for county department heads and contractors working on the project during the first part of the phase two implementation. During the second phase, the project executive would have focused on “managing and monitoring ongoing business operations” and provided guidance on the overall implementation of the ERP business strategy.

For years the county has struggled with rolling out phases one, two and three of the integrated software system that officials say will support the business needs of Loudoun for the next 20 years.

Phase two, which implements the county government’s and LCPS’ human resources and payroll into the system, started in January 2014 but was put on hold less than a year later. County staff now predicts that, with the latest restart of phase two, LCPS will “go live” on July 5 and the county government on July 25.

“I’m just having trouble with trying to understand how one single individual is going to make half a million dollars worth of improvements to our process,” Supervisor Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles), the finance committee chair, asked staff last week.

Wendy Wickens, Loudoun’s director of the Department of Information Technology, said even though it seemed like a lot of money the candidate had “a tremendous amount of experience as an implementer of transformational types of activities.”

She also argued that the county would save money in the long run by hiring the candidate.

“I think you could have three people of marginal capability or you could have one person who’s got a demonstrated track record of proven capability,” Wickens said last week. “I think it all comes down to the person themself and their ability to deliver.”

County staff noted a decision on the contract needed to be made quickly because the candidate was in the midst of leaving another “engagement” and would need to quickly begin the work in Loudoun.

Although supervisors would have awarded the contract to Yahya Technologies, LLC (Y-Tech), the project executive would have been a subcontractor of the company.

When asked who the candidate for the $533,200 position was and what their specific qualifications were, a county spokesman declined to say, noting that the contract had not been finalized.

Tens of millions spent

In 2011, a previous Board of Supervisors voted to authorize the negotiation of a contract not to exceed $21 million to implement ORACLE eBusiness Suite as the ERP system for Loudoun County government and public schools.

Since that time, the county has spent millions more to smooth out implementation hiccups.

All together, the county has appropriated around $40 million to the ERP for project management, personnel, consulting and “other technical support.”

Supervisors have also coughed up millions in expenditures on new technology positions to run the system and other costs related to ERP’s implementation.

The board in 2013 appropriated an additional $9.1 million to the capital project budget to complete “outstanding items” for phase one and provide “additional resources” to complete phase two. Two years later, the board appropriated $1.5 million from fiscal 2015 fund balance to complete phase two.

Last year the board sent $4.7 million more from the general fund balance for the project.

Letourneau this week said the finance committee had decided to walk back its latest contract award after having “further discussion” with County Administrator Tim Hemstreet.

“We have found other ways to handle that particular issue with ERP, and we no longer think it’s necessary to proceed,” Letourneau said.

The committee voted unanimously with Randall absent for the vote to table last week’s $533,200 contract award.

Comments


$533,200 for one person?  With requests like this I can see why this project is ten million dollars over budget.  As a tax payer, I am sick.  In an area with so much IT talent, it looks like Loudoun County staff is lacking.  I think a long hard look is needed at this obviously mismanaged project and it should start with Wickens!


“Not sure why they didn’t ask for volunteers before.”

Because ERP touches everything in an organization.  Can’t have citizens knowing all the County’s secrets.


Callme, these things are not so easy.  I heard through the grapevine that SAP declined to even bid their software for this project because they knew the client would be so difficult and it would result in a cluster.

I have previously recommended that LCPS or Loudoun County itself ask for a working group of volunteer tech advisors to assist.  We have tons of folks that work in this area in Loudoun and I think many would volunteer.  At the very least, they could review the plans/strategy of the contractor and give honest, even brutal feedback to the LoCo gov’t.  Note that many times problems arise because of vague requirements by the client or an unwillingness to follow standard business practices (they want custom everything).

Letourneau and Buona know all this though.  Not sure why they didn’t ask for volunteers before.


your government hard at work….typical, who will be held accountable? The taxpayers….


BlueBirdy2020, hiring Oracle has never ever been cheaper and more efficient. Dealing with Oracle Consulting is a hell I wouldn’t wish upon my worse enemy.

ERP projects are notoriously difficult and prone to failure in both the public and private sectors. In fact failure to meet project goals is more the norm than success is. Failed ERP rollouts have destroyed many companies and come close to destroying many others. Ask Hershey or Avon among others.

Although the complexity of implementing interfaces and customization provides many technical pitfalls the real issues faced are usually around organizational change management and business process re-engineering. Wickens description of the individual as having “a tremendous amount of experience as an implementer of transformational types of activities.” makes me believe the hiring was meant to address these areas rather than technical implementation details.


Give it to Metro.  They can fix anything.


It would have been much cheaper and more efficient to hire Oracle direct. Why hire a small contracting firm that most likely will outsource the work.


It would have been much cheaper and more efficient to hire Oracle direct. Why hire a small contracting firm that most likely will outsource the work.


Hey SGP - here is an issue that you can attack with my support.  For a country in the heart of IT consulting land, this is a disgrace.  How about some help here???

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