Cupertino cuts reporting time from two weeks to five minutes
- By Stephanie Kanowitz
- Jun 26, 2015
Until recently, Cupertino, Calif., was stuck in the 1980s, at least when it came to its information technology. At the beginning of this year, city employees were submitting paper time cards and purchasing orders that had to be routed around offices via intradepartmental mail.
Kristina Alfaro, the city’s director of administrative services, faulted SunGard Pentamation, a 16-year-old system Cupertino used for finance, human resources and payroll.
“It was really easy to put information into the system, but any time you wanted to pull information out, it became quite a process, to the point where if we wanted to run a five-year analysis, it would be a two-week process because the system couldn’t provide it, there was no way to report on it,” Alfaro said. “The only way to get it to be put together meant we had to take a bunch of PDFs, transform them into Excel and then pop them into an Access database and then create these five-year reports.”
Facing a need for better reporting and staring down a July 1 deadline for implementing Affordable Care Act requirements, the City Council voted unanimously last June to contract with New World Systems’ LOGOS Financial Management and Human Resources software. The $821,060 deal included $561,060 for licensing and implementation and $65,000 a year for five years to cover software maintenance.
Using LOGOS, city workers can log in, fill out a purchase order form, including specifying what departments should be billed for a purchase, and send it electronically to the finance department, where it’s approved and posted.
Similarly, timesheets went from paper to digital, giving Alfaro the ability to approve them from any place she has Internet access.
As for those reports that took two weeks to compile, they’re now ready in five minutes, Alfaro said. Using the LOGOS Business Analytics tool, she can open various datasets, choose fiscal years or look only at expenses or revenues, and create a pivot table to build a report. She can save reports and e-mail views to various recipients. Because permissions drive the system, employees see only the budget units they’re allowed to access when they pull the reports.
“I don’t have to create the report 10 different ways to fit the 10 different people who need to look at it,” Alfaro said. “I can create it once, share it with everybody, and then each time one of them runs it, they only see the budgets that they’re allowed to view.”
The data is updated automatically every day at 4 a.m., but if new information is needed sooner, the information technology department can reset the database manually.
The biggest challenge was migrating the data to LOGOS. The city wanted to move five years’ worth of information, so employees spent about five months pulling things from Microsoft Access and SQL databases and Microsoft Excel spreadsheets.
“We would clean up the data in our test database and then we would package it up and FTP it to them, and they would actually run a validation tool, and it would give us a very, very clean list in an Excel spreadsheet, every line item that didn’t come over clean, whether it was a formatting issue or a financial number that didn’t match in the database,” said Mariyah Serratos, IT manager for the city.
Financial data was migrated first to be ready for the fiscal 2016-17 budget cycle. That aspect went live in January, followed by payroll in April.
The city added five servers to get LOGOS up and running, Serratos said -- two test servers, a portal server, a database server and a live server, all running off VMware – and data is stored locally.
To secure the system, Cupertino uses access levels, including user-based and role-based security. Also, every button on every field is customizable, Serratos said, so controllability is high.
Productivity has slipped since LOGOS was implemented, Alfaro said, but that’s to be expected as employees get comfortable with the system. “We’re just starting to start our upswing,” she added.
She expects it to change workloads. For example, finance department workers had been doing so much data entry that they had no time to check their work for errors. Now “we’re spending more time looking at what we’ve actually put into the system,” Alfaro said.
Stephanie Kanowitz is a freelance writer based in northern Virginia.