system support

County optimizes existing ERP while laying the groundwork for a new system

As Multnomah County, Ore., ramped up its IT operations, officials found that the existing enterprise resource planning system and the support for it no longer made the cut. Next year, the county will switch to a new ERP solution, but until then, it’s getting more help with issues that arise related to the existing system -- saving time and money in the process.

Multnomah County has the second-largest government IT support organization in Oregon, trailing only the state government.  “I know that many of my peers in smaller counties would struggle to provide an equivalent level of support that we’re able to provide here," Deputy CIO Bob Leek said. "The size and breadth of the operations that we have afford us the capability to have enough resources to do what we need to do.”

Support for the county's ERP system was another story, though.

The county has been using a highly customized version of SAP’s ECC 6.0 application with Oracle databases since 1999 for tasks such as human resources and finances -- critical systems that the county relies on.  When a problem arose in any of the than 1,900 customized code points, Leek and vendor representatives “spent a lot of time arguing over who was accountable for fixing what aspect of the problem,” he said.

As Leek began crafting a strategic plan for moving to a new ERP system, such issues factored into his consideration of other options.

“We began to look at what our support costs were and how those costs were justified in terms of the amount of money that we’re spending and the type of service that we were getting,” he said. “When we defined our problem statement as how can we reduce our costs and increase our service experience," the county decided to look at other options for supporting its new and existing ERP platforms.  

The county chose Rimini Street, a Las Vegas-based company that provides enterprise support to public- and private-sector clients. The company uses a primary support engineer model, which ensures that a single point of contact is familiar with the county’s business systems, thereby streamlining support.

That approach has freed county workers to “take on maybe lower-level-severity issues, maybe annoyances in the software that we might not have been able to treat or diagnose in the past,” Leek said. “And some of our support engineers are now able to help with the transition to our new ERP system that we’ll be going live with next year.”

To prepare for the switch in support, the county went through a three- to six-month pre-transition process. During that time, Rimini Street provided a dedicated environment into which Leek and his team downloaded everything the county had the rights to through its contracts with SAP.

“What that ensured was that when Rimini Street picked up the support for our application and our database, we both knew that they were working on the exact same versions and copies of the software that are available in non-production environments,” he said.

The county is moving away from SAP toward new, non-customized ERP tools, and it is investing in training staff to support those, Leek said.   He added that if more support is necessary, he would evaluate contracting with Rimini Street or another partner.

About the Author

Stephanie Kanowitz is a freelance writer based in northern Virginia.

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