Union Calls on San Antonio to Fix SAP-based System

Legacy data issues, other glitches lead to payroll snafus

The head of San Antonio's police union has called on the city to fix or discard an SAP-based payroll system that has caused headaches for his membership since its installation five months ago.

The payroll application is part of the city's wide-ranging $89 million software installation dubbed the Enterprise Resource Management System and built around SAP AG's R/3 ERP and CRM software.

The city bought the system to replace a number of 30-year-old homegrown legacy systems, said Troy Elliott, director of the project for the city. Funding was approved in June 2001, and Deloitte Consulting LLP was retained as the integrator. The system rollout began in 2003.

Elliott said there were a number of technical and procedural issues that led to the payroll glitches - none of which had to do with the quality of SAP's software.

"Change is tough when you've had a system in place for 30 years," Elliott said. "We're still working through [the migration]."

Teddy Stewart, president of the San Antonio Police Officers Association, last week held a press conference at city hall to highlight a string of glitches that he said has prevented the force from receiving accurate paychecks and that led to incorrectly managed personnel information.

"This SAP system has been a nightmare," Stewart said in an interview. "Since implementing it last year, it's been one headache after another. It's been terrible for morale."

By going public, Stewart said, he hopes to apply pressure on city officials to "do whatever it takes to fix it or go back to the old system."

"There have been issues around the accuracy in the payroll process, and there is a strong sentiment on the part of the council that those errors need to be corrected," said San Antonio City Councilman Julian Castro. While the system hasn't lived up to its promise, he said he hopes that the city and Deloitte "will learn from mistakes made in the first couple of phases and improve performance."

Bob Campbell, national managing director for the public sector at Deloitte & Touche USA, said that the issues with the rollout are much like those at similar projects, and that all have been "quickly and properly addressed" so far.

Worse Than Expected

The city had anticipated some difficulties because of the complexity of the police and fire department payrolls, but the result was worse than expected, according to Elliott.

The formatting of the data in the legacy applications in some instances helped cause glitches when placed in the SAP application, he said. Also, SAP requires enterprisewide compliance with its rules, and some departments were interpreting policies individually.

Nevertheless, Elliott said the city has been stabilizing the system and reducing the number of errors. He expects the payroll to be running mostly as expected by March.

"It's going to work as planned," said Elliott. "From a city standpoint, we'll do whatever we need to make it work." The city expects to go live with SAP CRM in July.

"We have an excellent relationship with the city of San Antonio and have been told as recently as [last week] they are satisfied with SAP's software," said William Wohl, a spokesman for SAP America Inc. in Newtown Square, Pa.

"This is another situation where a municipality has been duped into thinking these massive upgrades are easy, and lo and behold, they find out they're not," said Joshua Greenbaum, an analyst at Enterprise Applications Consulting in Berkeley, Calif.

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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