Alabama county weighs SAP

Jefferson County may scrap ERP system

After spending $12 million on installing an SAP enterprise resource planning system, Jefferson County, Ala., is debating whether to scrap it and move on, according to a report in Computerworld.

The news comes after a spate of similar announcements by other government entities. Marin County, Calif., is dumping its SAP system and is engaged in a lawsuit that it filed in May with the integrator, Deloitte Consulting.

Divisions within the Agriculture Department and the Marine Corps have also recently ditched SAP in favor of other vendors.

Jefferson County’s SAP system went live a few years ago and still isn’t working as desired, said Chief Financial Officer Jeff Hager in the Computerworld article. Specifically, the county isn’t able to format reports the way it wants and is finding report generation difficult, he said. Hager said he'll spend the next four to six months deciding what to do.

Hagar, who was hired two months ago, told the Birmingham News that the county spends more than $2.5 million annually -- a staggering amount, in his opinion --  to maintain the system.

"I would expect a county this size to spend around $500,000 to $750,000 annually on its information system," he said. Hager told the newspaper that he's not second-guessing the decision to purchase the system, "but I believe it would have been difficult to convince me that SAP was the right solution for the county."

"It's not user-friendly," County Commissioner George Bowman said in the Birmingham News article. "There are systems out there that could better support the operations that we have here within the county and help with our accounting process."

Mark Testoni, president of SAP public services, told Computerworld that the company is aware of the situation and is eager to help Jefferson County resolve any problems. Company and county officials are scheduled to meet and discuss the situation next week.

Like Marin County, Jefferson used a third-party integrator. SAP only recently learned that the county was not satisfied, Testoni said in the Computerworld article.

"They were operating successfully to our knowledge," he said in that report. "We were somewhat surprised that they were looking to change direction. We want to go down there and be as supportive as we can." SAP can provide new tools and practices that Testoni believes will resolve the concerns, he said.

Altimeter Group analyst Ray Wang, also quoted in Computerworld, believes Jefferson County, with its population of 665,000, should not have chosen SAP in the first place -- not because the software is bad, but because it is geared to larger populations.

"Public-sector agencies below 1 million in citizen counts may be overkill for an on-premise implementation of SAP," he said. "The staffing required and support and maintenance become quite costly."

About the Author

Kathleen Hickey is a freelance writer for GCN.

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