Manchester software deal slammed
MANCHESTER — More than two years after the city entered into a contract with a company to overhaul the computer system it uses for everything from payroll to citizen complaints, a consultant has recommended an immediate halt.
In a report presented to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen Tuesday, the consultant hired by the city, BerryDunn, called on the board to delay “going live” with the first phase of the project in December until the vendor, Innoprise Software, complies with a detailed management plan.
The report finds that Innoprise is behind schedule on eight of ten performance measures, including security, testing, training and department readiness.
According to one of the report’s findings: “City staff involved in the project lack the training and understanding to configure the system ... City staff that have attempted to configure the system are not provided validation whether or not the configuration is correct.”
The consultants with BerryDunn, a public accounting firm based in Portland, Maine, reviewed documents and interviewed employees from the Information Technology and other city departments, as well as officials with the software company.
Alderman Patrick Arnold, who had voted against awarding the contract to Innoprise in Sept. 2010, was highly critical of the handling of the deal.
“I don’t know about you Mr. Mayor, but for me this has been one of the most frustrating projects I’ve ever observed,” Arnold said, directing the statement to Mayor Ted Gatsas. “Boondoggle is all I can think of to describe it.”
The contract with Innoprise is estimated to cost $1.5 million. The city has spent around $230,000 on the project so far, according to Finance Director Bill Sanders.
According to the consultant’s report, Innoprise is obligated to perform 8,000 hours of service to the city. Chad Snow, BerryDunn’s project manager, said for the software system to be completed under the new management plan, the city would likely to have to pay for additional time.
“So far, only the community engagement modules have been developed,” Snow said. “They haven’t got into the more complicated parts, like payroll.”
Gatsas attributed the problems to inflated claims made by Innoprise’s founder, who announced he was selling the firm to a Canadian company, Harris Computing Solutions, shortly after the deal with the city was signed.
“I think we were sold a bill of goods,” Gatsas said.
But Gatsas said he wanted to work with BerryDunn to develop a management plan to complete the software contract.
“This will give us something to go forward with. We’ll ask Innoprise if they agree to it, and if they say no, we can use the plan to write a new request for proposals,” Gatsas said. The Board of Aldermen voted to accept BerryDunn’s report and to spend another $15,000 for the firm to devise the management plan. Arnold voted against the motion.
Innoprise has been the target of legal action in recent years, including a lawsuit brought by Iowa City over claims the company failed to deliver on a software system.
The acrimony over Innoprise contrasts with the reception the company received when the city’s Information Technology Department was advocating for a system-wide overhaul two years ago.
“The proposal from Innoprise Software will provide the city state-of-the-art software that we can implement in the order that meets the city’s needs. Citizen Request modules with access to building departments, code enforcement and business licensing will be some of the first modules to be implemented,” wrote IT Director Jennie Angell in a letter to the aldermen in September 2010.
The “Citizen’s Request” modules are among the components of the system that have not been put in place. Alderman Dan O’Neil, the chair of the board, said, “There were mistakes that were made, but we’ve got to move forward.
O’Neil added that he had a request for the consultants. “I would just ask if you can put this into layman’s speak,” he said. “I think I had to read the report three or four times. Just remember your audience.”
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Ted Siefer may be reached at email@example.com.
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