New Technology and Buisness in the civic sector

he New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is turning to MCI Systemhouse to help manage its $18 billion public works operations. MCI Systemhouse, the telecom firm's systems integration unit, will help create an enterprisewide management system to replace a system that now is run from five computer systems in two agencies. The new Capital Program Management System (CPMS) will be built around Oracle Corp.'s Oracle Financials software.

MCI was tapped for the $4 million design phase of the project but will be eligible to compete for the entire integration job. New York City chose a phased approach to keep cost projections on track for the huge software-customization project. "It took some courage on our part," said David Tweedy, CPMS' senior director for management services. "Everyone is always in a rush to get a project done. We wanted to go over some piloting work in detail with our users so we know what we are facing."

MTA has plenty of users to accommodate. CPMS will not only be used within MTA but among its operating agencies, such as MTA New York City Transit, MTA Long Island Rail Road, MTA Metro-North Railroad, MTA Bridges and Tunnels, and MTA Long Island Bus. "The bottom line, from what I've learned, is that these project fail or succeed not on the technology side but on the user side," Tweedy said, "so we are spending a great deal of energy dealing with that."

Some of MTA's caution is due to the challenge of adapting a commercial software solution to a job as big as the MTA enterprise. When firms buy software suites, there is usually a "much better fit," Tweedy said. "It often has as good as an 80 to 90 percent fit. With us, that rate was more like 60 percent, and that's what makes a project like this challenging."

The initial award to MCI is valued at $4 million, while the cost of the entire integration is projected at $12 million to $14 million. "When MTA originally went out for procurement, they were looking for someone to do everything," said Robert Cooney, director of business development for MCI Systemhouse state government solutions. "During the procurement, they decided to sign a contract for design only and then offer an option for development."

Although MCI originally pursued the contract as a full-blown development job, the company also benefits from the contractual arrangement, Cooney said. "We liked it from a vendor perspective. The risk is lower this way, and we think we are going to be smarter six months into it," he said. "We will be able to offer MTA a lower-risk solution."

MTA will also continue its contract with Andersen Consulting, which was hired in 1995 to help develop the conceptual design for CPMS. "We are keeping Andersen around for the second phase, not so they can look over MCI's shoulder" but to serve as yet another check for keeping the system on track, Tweedy said.

- Jennifer Jones

Andersen and North to Pursue Public-Access Markets

Andersen Consulting, the global systems integration company, has expanded its presence in the state- and local-government services market with a new teaming arrangement with a kiosk developer. Chicago-based Andersen will join with North Communications Inc. to provide multimedia public-access and service-to-the-citizen solutions.

"Kiosks are now clearly a very popular way to provide services to citizens," said Doug Ryckman, Andersen's managing partner of government and health services for the Americas. The two companies recently signed a five-year cooperative global marketing agreement to leverage their combined experience in human services, financial management and public safety.

"Andersen has a number of clients that are looking for public-access solutions, and we specialize in providing those," said Rick Rommel, North's vice president of marketing.

"Conversely, there are many public-access solutions that could benefit from back-end business process re-engineering," he said. "There are many times when we see our clients get so frustrated when we tell them that we can help them provide a service to their client base for a fraction of the cost," only to have the client realize that because of agency procedures, they are unable to use the technology.

North claims to be one of the few providers to offer full-service kiosk solutions. "North competencies include the fact that we support the development of the kiosk, from manufacturing to software engineering for all underlying functions," Rommel said. The company currently is installing 25 kiosks in New York City for public financial transactions, including parking ticket payment and general city information.

The joint agreement is similar to others Andersen has forged to provide services and products. "It is common for us to have alliances with hardware and software providers," Ryckman said. "But the North agreement is a bit different in that it is a global agreement, and they will be a preferred teaming partner." That is, Andersen will incorporate North's kiosks in all applications that require the technology, unless the customer specifically requests otherwise.

The alliance between the companies is important, Rommel added, because of the role kiosk technology now plays in public-service delivery. "The statistics I have seen show that only about 5 percent of the population uses the World Wide Web. Really, the kiosk is the government's Internet. If a government agency has a message it wants to deliver over the Internet, how is it going to reach the other 95 percent of the population?" he asked.

NEC Software Would Automate Fingerprint-Matching Job

NEC Technologies Inc. says it wants to take the "human factor" almost completely out of the fingerprint-matching process by resorting to neural networking techniques.

The Itasca, Ill., company's Automatic Classification and Pre-Selection (AC/PS) software homes in on the crucial "pre-classification" phase of the fingerprint-identification process, during which a technician views and classifies prints based on their unique complex of whorls, loops and arches. It is also the phase of the matching process most vulnerable to human error and inefficiency, experts say.

AC/PS would automated the manual review-called the binning approach-using "a hybrid of structural analysis and neural network rules," said Chris Warner, an automatic fingerprint identification system (AFIS) product manager with NEC. The software is being bundled into the company's fifth-generation Fingerprint Matching Processors, or it can be purchased as an upgrade (starting at $55,000) to newer existing NEC AFIS 21 systems, he said.

Several NEC installations, including the city of Atlanta and Mississippi's Department of Public Safety, will receive AC/PS software by early 1998, according to NEC. California's Department of Justice, now upgrading its AFIS infrastructure, is also considering using AC/PS, which the company says can reduce manual errors by 15 percent.

"We are looking at the technology," said Gary Cooper, assistant chief for the California DOJ. "If it really does bring the process down to a system based on code, that would be more accurate."

California now has nearly 100 mid-level technicians who do little more than eyeball fingerprint cards. "One person might call something a whorl that another person might call a loop or an arch," Cooper said. "We are looking at improving our accuracy."

NEC has conducted its own tests of the software with the Illinois State Police and the Chicago Police Department. ISP assistant bureau chief Buck Buchanon said one of the advantages of such a system is the consistency of results it produces-both good and bad. "One of my observations is that if you allow a computer to make the call, when it is wrong, it is consistently wrong," he said.

Buchanon and Cooper also said the software might enable agencies to move technicians into less-tedious case work.

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