City plugs its software into modern systems

POULSBO — In 1990, the initial prototype for the World Wide Web was written, Microsoft introduced Windows 3.0 and Intel debuted the i486.

That was also that last time the City of Poulsbo’s finance department bought new hardware and software.

This month, the city started on the road to remedy this situation when the city council unanimously approved a $36,020 contract with Seattle’s Soft Resources Jan. 7.

The contract will cover consultation on the purchase of new financial software. Usually, city staff are able to choose new hardware and software, however, a consultant was recommended in this case because it has been 13 years since new financial software was purchased.

“The city is about to take on a very large project in terms of time and money spent,” commented Fay Shultz of Central Services.

Finance Director Donna Bjorkman, who plans to retire Nov. 1, told the council Wednesday night that one of her first jobs when she took the position was to buy the current computer system. At the time, her budget for hardware and software was about $40,000. Today, she said she estimates new financial software could cost $200,000-$300,000.

“And it could very well take three years before a return on investment is realized,” she added.

In a five-phased system, Soft Resources will run the gamut from assessing Poulsbo’s current systems all the way to preparing a request for proposals for new software, reviewing proposals and drafting contracts with a new vendor.

The general contract timeline is:

•Phase I (January-May 2004) Requirements — Staff interviews, establish criteria to create a request for proposals (RFP). Cost, $11,200.

•Phase II (January-May 2004) Research — RFP and vendor responses, staff will give a preferred alternative. Cost, $14,500.

•Phase III (January-May 2004) Demos — Three to four scripted demonstrations from preferred alternatives. Cost, $5,120.

•Phase IV (May-October 2004) Decision — Decision on a package and company. Cost, $640.

•Phase V (May-October 2004) Contracts — Soft Resources will assist with a high-level review of software contracts. Cost, $960.

Implementation of new financial computer system and staff training is expected to take place between October 2004 and January 2005.

Poulsbo’s current financial software and hardware was purchased from Spokane’s Application Software Products. Bjorkman said city staff have had a good experience working with the company for the last 13 years, but she’s now seeing many limitations to the current system.

“The results are there but are we working the most efficiently we can?” Bjorkman commented.

The search will focus on systems that can improve financial processes and reporting capabilities while streamlining processes. Staff hope the new system may also be able to add some new capabilities.

“We currently do not have Web-based capabilities such as online utility payments but we hope to move in that direction,” Shultz gave as one example on a wish list for the new software.

Soft Resources has assisted numerous private and public sector entities in choosing software. Some clients include the City of Bainbridge Island, King County Library System, American Association of Retired Persons and Weyerhaeuser.

“We do a lot of education because we’ve seen a lot of software demonstrations and we can give you an idea of what to expect,” commented Pam Etian of Soft Resources. “We’re leveraging off already best practice knowledge.”

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