Wellington council financials back on track

Wellington City Council is confident it has resolved the problems associated with its implementation of PeopleSoft financials on Sybase. It now expects to begin the rollout of its FMIS (financial management information system) next March, to be completed in time for the new financial year in July 1998. Later, the council expects to implement PeopleSoft's HR module.

Wellington City Council is confident it has resolved the problems associated with its implementation of PeopleSoft financials on Sybase. It now expects to begin the rollout of its FMIS (financial management information system) next March, to be completed in time for the new financial year in July 1998.

Later, the council expects to implement PeopleSoft’s HR module.

The decision to choose PeopleSoft financials was made at the end of 1996, based on a support services review which identified a need for more workflow-based processing to support what is a fairly complex distributed business. There are, in fact, 23 business units within the council.

Support Services also wanted the HR system replaced.

Price Waterhouse Urwick was chosen as the implementation partner.

“Installation began in February,” says council IT manager Tony Welsh. “At that time we were also looking to select the hardware for the corporate office.” (Sun was eventually chosen.)

He says problems began to emerge during systems testing, the first in the process scheduler. Those were fixed in July, which was the original go-live date.

“As part of the testing process we began to hit deadlock and arithmetical overflow problems,” he says. “The key to sorting it out was getting the right people in the right place at the right time.”

That meant importing Peoplesoft and Sybase technical consultants from Australia and the US.

In October the council hired Rational Software “because of its expertise in testing”.

“Rational added a lot of value to the whole process,” Welsh says.

Systems acceptance testing this time around included controlled repeated tests for all Phase 1 PeopleSoft modules. Some of the stress tests ran as “torture tests” at 14 times the peak load. Conducted over five days, the tests also included average peak load, stress and overload. A variety of baseline information was collected, including optimal transaction mix, processing contention and indicative response times.

The other testing involved simulation of normal business processing at normal and peak rates for 50 users, simulation of normal business processing at three times average peak load and processing of all overnight batch and interfaces.

Price Waterhouse was responsible for directing the original design from which the problems arose. Welsh says that there are multiple ways of approaching design but “if it doesn’t optimise the database, you have problems”.

All up, the project will cost $4 million, including the hardware. Welsh says the delay factor now is in finding the right window to be able to link the new system within budgeting cycles.

He doesn’t believe there will be a cost blowout for the council. “There is a fixed price aspect to the contracts. Council minimised the risk during contract negotiations.”

However, he wasn’t prepared to comment on an issue that is concerning council staff — PW consultants attending the same training courses as the staff. Normally, some sort of discount would be appropriate.

The financial system being replaced is called Logan. Written in Powerhouse, it was purchased seven years ago.

“We’re looking at a number of sub-projects,” Welsh says. Due to be implemented in 1998, they include rates, water billing and cashier systems.

“We’re assessing which will be People-Soft or written in our user development environment (PowerBuilder and Sybase).

As part of the FMIS project, around 400 PCs are being upgraded to run PeopleSoft applications. The council is also configuration testing Microsoft Outlook and Exchange, which it is likely to install for groupware. The council is primarily a Microsoft environment.

In other projects, an intranet will be rolled out over the next six months. Welsh says certain applications are available now to 400 people. “The intranet will be very important.

“We’re also looking at opportunities to provide direct access for the public to council information. This could be via kiosks, it could be through the Internet.”

So how does Wellington City Council compare to other local authorities with its three-year information systems plan?

“Two years ago we were probably four years behind because of our major legacy environment,” Welsh says. “Now, we have a strong infrastructure. We’ve replaced all our networks and have a fibre backbone, and all our councillors are connected through remote access services.

“Three years ago we had 14 Vaxes. We now have only one, which supports legacy applications, and we plan to replace that with an Alpha in the next few months.”

The three-year IS plan consolidates a lot of business process reengineering (BPR). “Most of the council savings will stem from BPR. IT is an enabler.”

Welsh says the library is another major area for IT. “There are several initiations involving the Internet. We expect to roll out new services over 18 months.”

Information management is pivotal. “We’re looking to provide internal tools to support better use,” he says.

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