Marin County computer system saga comes to an end

Full implementation of Marin County’s new IT system is now slated for Jan. 8, more than three years later than originally planned.

“The good news is that the ATOM project is ready for its final phase,” Steve Leckey, a consultant hired to manage the project in April, told Marin County supervisors on Tuesday.

“I’m also happy to say that the project is under budget by about $ 3 million,” said Leckey, whose contract makes his services available to the county until Feb. 5 at a cost of $ 305,900. .

But Angela Nicholson, a Marin County assistant administrator who oversaw the project for some time before Leckey, said the savings of $ 3 million doesn’t account for all the time county staff spent on it. work.

According to the schedule announced Tuesday, county employees will begin filling out their own timesheets online from December 13, and the county will issue its first paychecks using the system on January 8.

The installation of the first phase of the new system began in February 2015 with the design of new finance software. This software went live as planned in July 2016. The payroll and human resources components of the system were originally scheduled to go live in July 2017, but both proved problematic.

Marin County has budgeted $ 14 million for the project – dubbed “Marin Administrative Technologies” or ATOM. Of that amount, $ 8.2 million went to Tyler Technologies of Texas, the maker of the software. An additional $ 5.8 million has been budgeted to cover the cost of installing and learning the software by county staff.

The Tyler computer system replaces a system purchased from SAP for $ 2.23 million in 2005. At the time, the county also signed a contract to pay Deloitte $ 8.8 million to oversee the installation of the SAP software. .

However, the system became so problematic and expensive to maintain that officials abandoned it four years later. The county sued the vendors, alleging corruption and fraud, and spent $ 5 million on the litigation before settling the case for $ 3.9 million.

Liza Massey, the county’s director of information services, said the main reason the county has been successful in reducing the cost of installing the Tyler system is because it signed a “not to exceed” contract with Tyler, not a “time and materials contract” like it was with the previous system.

Nicholson, however, said Leckey’s estimate that the project is $ 3 million below budget does not take into account the modest cost of staff time, which was not tracked.

“Five to seven people have worked full time on the project since we started implementation,” Nicholson said.

Other estimates are even higher.

Massey said a core team of 12 county employees have been working on the project since joining the county in May 2018. On Tuesday, Leckey thanked a dozen county employees for their contribution to the project.

“Certainly a lot of man hours went into the project,” Nicholson said. “It’s just that we didn’t hire additional people to replace them. Departments have struggled with this. They had to figure out how to do their regular work with their employees on the ATOM project.

Nicholson said the facility could have been completed earlier this year without the additional demands for staff time imposed by the COVID-19 health emergency.

Nicholson was given new emergency management duties when the COVID-19 health emergency struck, which necessitated the hiring of Leckey.

“Once COVID hit, there was no way I could do both,” she said.

Nicholson began overseeing the project after IT department business systems manager Tim Flanagan left for a job in Solano County in January 2019.

Nicholson said the biggest delay, however, was Tyler’s acquisition of Executime, a third-party vendor. The county’s contract with Tyler included a license with Executime for software that will allow county employees to digitally fill out their time cards. After Tyler acquired Executime in the summer of 2016, the Executime software had to be integrated with Tyler’s existing systems.

If the project kicks off as planned in January, Leckey told supervisors the county can begin its next task, which is due to be completed by the end of 2021: upgrading the entire system.

“It’s a fair amount of work to do,” he said. “But believe me, this is nothing like your original implementation.”

Gordon K. Morehouse