ERP Software

ERP Software<@VM>Keep track of finances and personnel with one of 12 ERP packages

These all-in-one applications can help put e-government in motion

By David Essex

Special to GCN

Enterprise resource planning software, long used mostly by manufacturers and retailers to manage supply chains and business processes, is becoming a staple in the public sector.

Freed from the constraints of the year 2000 repair efforts, agencies are setting their sights on electronic government. But to offer electronic self-service to constituents, they must first put their internal processes in order. With so many legacy applications to deal with, officials are finding the one-database, one-application model of ERP holds ample promise as the best integration solution.

The process of choosing an ERP package is complicated by the large number of applications and integration issues with outside software, and by ERP's intimate relationship with the efficiency of existing policies and procedures. It requires long, hard analysis'often performed by a consultant'and a willingness to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars, even several million dollars, on a far-reaching system that is likely to remain in place for many years.

ERP packages consist of modules, each handling a different business process, that are all linked and have a common look and feel. In the government sector, popular modules are human resources, financials and supply-chain management. More recently, customer relationship management modules have been put to use for automated constituent services.

The guts

Within each module are applications for handling the nuts and bolts of daily work, such as general ledgers, purchase orders and tax calculators.

Documents are linked with workflow tools that direct them to the right people in the chain of command. In addition to meeting several federal standards, many companies offer other products that conform to Statement 34 of the Governmental Accounting Standards Board, which establishes financial reporting guidelines for state and local governments.

This guide does not list prices for ERP products because so many factors affect the ultimate expense for an ERP deployment. The price will vary widely depending on the size of the installation, the modules chosen and any volume discounts.

Vendors and industry analysts say two trends influence ERP design. The biggest, not surprisingly, is the Internet. Long-time ERP vendors, particularly PeopleSoft Inc. and SAP America Inc., have been racing during the past two years to Web-enable their older client-server architectures.

Easy-to-use browsers and fast, inexpensive deployment are democratizing ERP, making applications available to more people in government and, ultimately, to their constituents.

ERP packages are beginning to tie into virtual marketplaces where agencies can purchase supplies more cheaply. And the rise of application service providers has affected ERP, giving organizations the option of avoiding installation and hardware costs by outsourcing the applications.

'You're really changing the way that work happens with the new Web architecture,' said Tom Ferrando, vice president of PeopleSoft integrator Acuent Inc. of Parsippany, N.J.

Self-service is the other wave influencing ERP design. It lets agency employees and constituents get information and make requests'for example, an employee changing a beneficiary designation.

Oracle Corp. has saved $1 billion by moving to the company's self-service applications internally, said Steve Perkins, senior vice president and general manager of Oracle Federal.

Web portals also have come to ERP, with vendors marketing them as affordable gateways to public access. Besides improving constituent service, portals can save on labor and infrastructure costs that would otherwise go to servicing inquiries.

Wireless future

The newest trend in ERP is wireless access, which lets constituents access self-service features from cellular and Web phones.

Perkins said wireless access could potentially speed up logistics operations and reporting by government workers.

The major companies in the public sector are Oracle, PeopleSoft and SAP, with J.D. Edwards World Solutions Co. and Computer Associates International Inc. strong second-tier players. Numerous other companies offer a smattering of modules, but only the big three sell most of the components needed to run a government agency.

J.D. Edwards offers only state and municipal products but plans to enter the federal market soon.

Oracle, PeopleSoft, and SAP already have extensive lists of public-sector customers.

The Florida Department of Revenue, for example, uses an ERP package from SAP. The city of Victorville, Calif., installed PeopleSoft's Human Resources Management and Financial Management for Education and Government modules in 1998 in an effort to provide easier access to government services and information. And several Oracle products, including Designer, Developer, Financials and Education are used by the city of Boulder, Colo., to give municipal workers faster access to job-related data.

Tips for buyers

' Focus on functions, not checklist items: An enterprise resource planning package must handle your key business processes above all else.

' Analyze your current process to make sure you understand how ERP might affect it.

' Consider outsourcing ERP to an application service provider if your agency is small or midsize and you have minimal customization needs.

' Watch out for Web pretenders: Some products are minimally Web-enabled, with Hypertext Markup Language screens slapped onto older client-server back ends. Your Web strategy may require a truly Web-based ERP package that consists of object-oriented software components and follows open standards.

' Ask about integration with legacy applications and best-of-breed software that isn't part of the ERP package.

The product list includes companies that have comprehensive ERP offerings tailored for government.

Noticeably missing is Baan USA Inc. of Herndon, Va. Once an ERP leader, the Netherlands-based Baan Co. faced financial difficulties and underwent a reorganization before being acquired in August by Invensys PLC of London. Industry experts say Baan has no significant presence in the government market, and a former representative said the company is reining in its marketing efforts.

Forget OS, hardware

Even with the field somewhat narrowed, how do you begin to decide? The only checklist items that count are a product's functions and whether they perform the mission-critical operations you need.

Operating systems and hardware platforms are no longer concerns, company officials said, because nearly every product supports Microsoft Windows NT, several flavors of Unix and IBM AS/400.

This is less true of the database that forms the backbone of every package. Oracle supports only Oracle'the company claims it has more than 75 percent of the government database market'while the other packages support Oracle and popular enterprise databases such as IBM DB/2 and Microsoft SQL Server.

'Functionality rules,' said Dennis Byron, director of enterprise application research at International Data Corp. in Framingham, Mass. But he cautioned against expecting a single solution. 'No one does it all, so you always need another best-of-breed application,' he said. 'You just decide what you need to run your business, and you buy that.'

David Essex is a free-lance technology writer based in Antrim, N.H.

CompanyProductModules (partial list)Important functionsWeb-enabled?Application service provider option?JFMIP certified?Databases
American Management Systems Inc.
Fairfax, Va.
MomentumFederal general ledger, funds management, financial planning and reporting, payment managementStandard General Ledger rules-based accounting, financial reporting, invoicing, project spending control and cost accounting; supports full complement of OMB reportsYesYesYesDB/2, Informix, Oracle, SQL Server, Sybase
Computer Associates International Inc.
Islandia, N.Y.
MK LogisticsDistribution, manufacturing, planning and scheduling, sales force automation, warehousingRules-based warehousing, order management, return materials authorization; radio-frequency capability for handheld and mounted devicesYesYesN/ADB/2, Informix, Ingres, Oracle, SQL Server
Masterpiece/NetAccounts payable and receivable, draft services, fixed assets, fund accounting, general ledger, inventory, job cost, labor distribution, purchasingEncumbranceYesYesPendingDB/2, Informix, Ingres, Oracle, SQL Server
CAHRISMABenefits, payroll, personnel administrationWorkbench with a decision-support tool and interfaceYesNoN/ADB/2, Informix, Ingres, Oracle, SQL Server
J.D. Edwards World Solutions Co.
OneWorldCapital project managementContract management, job cost accountingYesYesN/AAccess, DB/2, Oracle, SQL Server
Contract managementContract billing and managementYesYesN/AAccess, DB/2, Oracle, SQL Server
Facilities, equipment and fleet maintenanceAdvanced maintenance management, fixed assetsYesYesN/AAccess, DB/2, Oracle, SQL Server
Finance and administrationAccounts payable, budgeting and allocations, foundation, general ledger, purchasingYesYesPlannedAccess, DB/2, Oracle, SQL Server
Grant managementContract billing and management, accounts receivableYesYesN/AAccess, DB/2, Oracle, SQL Server
Human resources managementHuman resources, payrollYesYesN/AAccess, DB/2, Oracle, SQL Server
Materials and warehousingAccounts receivable, inventory management, sales order processingYesYesN/AAccess, DB/2, Oracle, SQL Server
Oracle Corp.
Redwood Shores, Calif.
Public Sector Applications (state and municipal)Budgeting, financials, grants accounting, grants proposal, labor distributionBudget formulation, approval and maintenance; encumbered purchase orders; grant award management and proposal development; multiple receivable line accounting; position budgetingYesYesN/AOracle
Human resources, payrollBudget and position management, cash management and reconciliation, position control, tax-deferred annuity plans, workload shiftingYesYesN/AOracle
U.S. Federal FinancialsFederal general ledger, receivables, payables, purchasingBudgeting, cost accounting, financial reporting, invoicing, FACTS II (federal budgeting system) support, Prompt Payment Act supportYesYesYesOracle
U.S. Federal Human ResourcesBenefits administration, business intelligence and work force analysis, personnel action administration, self-service, work force developmentCareer and performance management; employee relations; labor and organization management; reporting, reconciliation, and records retention; recruitmentand staffing security; workflowYesYesN/AOracle
PeopleSoft Inc.
Pleasanton, Calif.
PeopleSoft 8 for the U.S. Federal GovernmentCustomer relationship management, financials, human resource management, supply chain, enterprise performance, learning solutions, electronic procurementActivity costing, benefits, inventory management, planning and simulation, profitability analysis, Thrift Savings PlanYesYesYesDB/2, Informix, Oracle, SQL Server, Sybase
PeopleSoft 8 for the Public SectorCustomer relationship management, customer information system, enterprise performance management, e-procurement and e-marketplace, financial management, human resources management, supply chainActivity costing, automated and Internet services, benefits, grant administration and proposals, planning and simulation, trading communitiesYesYesN/ADB/2, Informix, Oracle, SQL Server, Sybase
PeopleSoft 8 for Local GovernmentFinancials, human resources managementAccounts payable and receivable, billing, general ledger, payroll, purchasingYesYesN/ADB/2, Informix, Oracle, SQL Server, Sybase
SAP America Inc.
Newtown Square, Pa.
R/3Constituent relationship managementMarketing of public programs and services, product and service sales, public informationYesYesN/ADB/2, Informix, Oracle, SAP DB, SQL Server
FinancialsAccounts payable and receivable, asset accounting, controlling, funds management, general and special ledgersYesYesYesDB/2, Informix, Oracle, SAP DB, SQL Server
Human resources management, employee self-serviceCompensation and benefits administration, payroll accounting, recruitment, time and leave managementYes YesN/ADB/2, Informix, Oracle, SAP DB, SQL Server
Procurement and inventory managementContract management, distribution, inventory managementYesYesN/ADB/2, Informix, Oracle, SAP DB, SQL Server
Records managementElectronic signatures, information retrieval, workflow monitoringYesYesN/ADB/2, Informix, Oracle, SAP DB, SQL Server
Resource managementFacility and equipment, fleet, and property management; real estate, reimbursable servicesYesYesN/ADB/2, Informix, Oracle, SAP DB, SQL Server
Taxes and revenue managementBilling, payments and collection, revenue accounting, tax calculationYesYesN/ADB/2, Informix, Oracle, SAP DB, SQL Server


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