County set to rip and replace troubled SAP software system

SAP's software is used successfully by thousands of government agencies, a spokesman maintains

Commissioners in Jefferson County, Alabama, are poised to vote for removal of a problematic SAP software system in favor of a new system developed by Tyler Technologies, after spending some US$20 million over a number of years.

"We can finally get rid of the SAP system," county commissioner George Bowman told television station WBRC Fox-6 this week. The SAP system Jefferson County installed was better fit for manufacturers, "not for municipal government," he added.

The Munis software will give Jefferson County capabilities it needs for fleet management, personnel management, finance, payroll and other areas, while enabling departments to share information, according to Bowman.

The new system will cost roughly $6 million and commissioners are set to vote in favor of ripping out SAP during a meeting on Thursday. Tyler bills itself as the largest U.S. software company solely focused on selling software and services to the public sector.

Debate over whether to spike the SAP project dates back to at least August 2010. At that time, a county official told IDG News Service a primary problem was an inability to generate acceptable reports from the system. Officials have also complained the system generally lacks usability.

A number of third-party service providers have been involved with the SAP project. County officials couldn't immediately be reached for comment on whether any of the system's problems could be attributed to lack of performance on the part of those providers.

While SAP may not have been the right fit for Jefferson County, it has been for many other customers, according to a spokesman.

"SAP software is used successfully by tens of thousands of government agencies, including applications specifically designed for governmental accounting," said SAP spokesman Andy Kendzie via email. "Our financial management systems are used in agencies at the federal, state and local levels. SAP's goal for all our customers is to make them among the best-run agencies in the United States."

It's not clear that Jefferson is making the right decision in removing SAP, said analyst Michael Krigsman, CEO of consulting firm Asuret.

"The question becomes the cost going forward of SAP versus Tyler Technologies on one side, and in addition, the cost of retraining [staff] and the cost of implementation," Krigsman said. "Plus, the disruption that a new implementation will definitely carry with it."

"Hopefully, Jefferson County has done a thorough analysis of the cost of benefits of making the change," he said. "Failure to do a thorough analysis could leave the county with yet another expensive disappointment."

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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