City overhauls system, service

San Antonio is spending 30 months and nearly $90 million to implement a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system with customer relationship management (CRM) and development services applications.

The integrator is Deloitte Consulting, which will assume responsibility and liability for the integration and "success of the project," said Milo Nitschke, the city's finance director. SAP AG is providing the ERP and CRM software, and Hansen Information Technologies is providing the development services software.

Nitschke described development services as "a putting together of building inspections, code, planning, safety. It's a variety of services that if you were going to build a house and business coming into town, you go to a place and you get your permitting, you get all your planning. And what we are doing with the electronic approach is you can do that from wherever you're sitting right now once we get the system up."

In 1998, the city (www.ci.sat.tx.us) — the ninth largest in the country — began looking at updating or replacing its 28-year-old financial management system. During the next two years, it budgeted $500,000 and investigated what other cities were doing. He said cities such as Phoenix and Minneapolis took a more progressive approach to improving constituent services.

"Financial management actually became the basis for creating a system that provided better services to its citizens," he said.

The project's first phase, completed last October, involved "a needs assessment, a to-be assessment — that is, where we are today, what we've got and where we'd like to be in three years, and then developing a business case and why we should proceed," Nitschke said.

The process included input from several hundred city workers from 30 departments for across-the-board buy-in. "All were in support of us going about and implementing the new system," he said. "There were lots of questions and properly done with respect to what is our selection process, how are we going about protecting ourselves from risk, what is the time frame, are we sure this isn't too much money."

The system will be implemented in phases and will be completed no later than January 2005. Employee training — involving about 4,500 people over the course of the 30 months — is also built in to the system. "It's a complete redo of what we have," he said. "We're changing the way we do business."

Although the project costs are $87.6 million, productivity gains over a 15-year period are estimated at $140 million, Nitschke said.

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