CATEGORY: Business Intelligence
REVIEWER: Larry Kerr, ERP director for the City of Greensboro, North Carolina.
BACKGROUND: The city of Greensboro has 230,000 residents and is the third-largest city in North Carolina. Like most city governments, Greensboro operates many vastly different departments and service groups. It provides police, utilities, road construction and maintenance, solid waste collection, parks and recreation and manages 18 fire stations, seven libraries and 3,480 acres of parks and public land. More than 2,500 full-time employees work for city departments and more join the payroll for seasonal or hourly work, as needed.
PLATFORMS: AIX platform and Oracle 9.2 database.
PROBLEM SOLVED: After 30 years of operating on a homegrown system, the City of Greensboro was at a crossroads. We were faced with an enterprise system that we were no longer able to support, mainframe technology that we couldn't integrate with other systems and non-migratable data programs. Without the time or the internal resources to overhaul our legacy system, we implemented enterprise applications from Lawson Software to gain the functionality and scalability we needed to support future growth. We consolidated financial, procurement and HR operations for all departments on a single PC-based platform. The result: managers gained immediate access to more detailed information critical to more effectively managing budgets, staffing and service delivery.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Lawson's Human Resources, Financials and Procurement applications and technology extensions have helped the City of Greensboro turn numbers into knowledge, increase efficiency and decrease time spent on manual, administrative processes. Using Lawson's solutions, we were able to automate core functions of human resources payroll and time/leave entry and decentralize human resources functions by moving reporting and data entry functions into individual departments, closer to where hiring and other personnel decisions are made. Lawson Procurement has simplified our purchasing processes and vendor file management by standardizing item and vendor master files. In addition, the application has given us the ability to more easily manage the purchasing process in accordance with state law while providing us with superior reporting capabilities. Lawson's financial management software allows us to extract the financial information we need to develop effective operational strategies. Using the General Ledger application, we are able to capture more detailed information and improve analysis of transactional data. In addition, technology extensions have proved to be lifesavers for uploading large amounts of information, simplifying requisition processes, managing the capital budgeting activities and tracking invoices - among many other critical functions.
STRENGTHS: Key strengths of the software are its high degree of flexibility and its Web-based functionality.
WEAKNESSES: We've needed to be able to support certain "exceptions" to conform with some pay and benefit policies we have that were not incorporated into the core application.
SELECTION CRITERIA: The key for us in evaluating software was the degree of flexibility in the Lawson product. We needed a solution that would allow us to tailor the applications to our specific needs and functions without modifying any code. The built-in flexibility of the Lawson's applications met our criteria and offered compelling Web-based capabilities, which its competitors did not have at the time of our implementation.
DELIVERABLES: The integrated ERP system has provided a foundation on which the city has streamlined operations to save taxpayer dollars and free employees for more strategic activities. Specifically, the system has helped the city reduce (and in some cases eliminate) paperwork and accelerate critical procurement, payroll and financial processes.
VENDOR SUPPORT: While there was a learning curve associated with implementing the Web-based system, which was a new product for Lawson when we started the implementation, the support Lawson provided has improved significantly as the product has matured. Lawson is committed to helping public sector entities improve their operational performance and quality of service to constituents. They understand or have made the effort to learn the unique challenges we face as a public sector entity and continue to develop industry-specific solutions to help solve these challenges.
DOCUMENTATION: While the documentation was sufficient, the City of Greensboro implementation team decided to draft its own documentation during the implementation which serves as a resource and reference for team members as they build out new functionality and support upgrades to the system.
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