Botched Software Install Means LA Teachers Not Getting Paid (Or Getting Paid Too Much) For Months

from the nice-work,-if-you-can-get-it dept

It always amazes us when we hear about big software systems that organizations pay millions (or sometimes hundreds of millions) for end up making life a lot worse. Remember when the Federal Technology Service (irony alert) spent a ton on a system that required 15 steps to save a document. Or the system that turned processes that used to take minutes into ones that took weeks. Then there was the city of Tacoma, where the city spent $51 million of taxpayer money on a new budgeting system that couldn't create a budget. It looks like we can add the Los Angeles Unified School District to the batch. They're in the middle of a big ERP project that apparently has been screwing up how much teachers are paid for months with no clear end in sight. The district claims that most of the problems are with teachers getting overpaid, but some were underpaid and others not paid at all apparently.

There certainly are many such installations that work just fine, so you have to wonder what the folks doing the installation and integration work did wrong when you hear about these stories -- and whether or not they're still getting paid the full amount (apparently $55 million to systems integrators Deloitte Consulting in this case). The real kicker, though is how long the problem has been going on and how much longer it's expected to continue. There have been errors at least as far back as June and potentially earlier (the article isn't clear). While the district keeps saying it'll get better "next month" prior to the latest payroll, the district also issued the following statement: "Tomorrow is payday for certified employees. We will have payroll errors tomorrow and the majority of those problems will be overpayments. I urge anyone who thinks they may have been overpaid to not spend the money, as overpayment errors will need to be corrected by the end of the year." By the end of the year? Ouch.


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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 8th, 2007 @ 11:13am

    underpaying teachers?

    I didn't know teachers made enough to be underpaid....

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 8th, 2007 @ 11:14am

    Throw more money at the software install.

    Remember, as any teacher's union will tell you -- all of the problems in our education system are not the fault of the teachers or the people in them. It's all an issue of money. Even in states like Oregon where some 57% of every tax dollar goes to education and they have massive lottery funds going toward education, the current massive failures are all due to a lack of funding.

    So as a retarded bitch I once had as a teacher had on a bumpber sticker she stuck to the chalk board "FUND BOTCHED SOFTWARE INSTALLS AND LET THE NAVY HOLD BAKE SALES".

     

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    sonofdot, Oct 8th, 2007 @ 11:24am

    Goes back to at least February

    According to the article, this phase of the project went live in January 2007, and there have been problems as far back as February.

    Interesting that the acronym for the project is BTS (Business Tools for Schools). Without the Tools, I guess it's just BS.

     

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    Michael E, Oct 8th, 2007 @ 11:36am

    I wonder about the project staff

    Long projects like these are usually victimized by resource turn-overs that usually have a detrimental effect on the deliverables. Then once in the deployment swing, the rush of the schedule makes replacing resources and poor HR and onboarding processes, makes continuity of skill and experitise nearly impossible to maintain. Then you get what may have been a 'cunning plan' turning into a full on debacle!

    I've seen these projects fail time after time and all because the delivery companies never seem to get the message that the success of the project is DIRECTLY related to the resources. Contrary to popular belief that IT workers can be 'commoditized' these instances prove with certainty that this is really NOT the case.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 8th, 2007 @ 11:44am

    Possible reasons for the problem

    There's issues with PeopleSoft in Chicago Public Schools, this issue with SAP in the Los Angeles Unified School District, and issues with other systems in smaller districts. In a small way, it's the vendor. Most of it though, is the specific need of a school system.

    Usually the issue is that schools systems have a unique pay system whereby a 10 month employee receives 12 stipends a year. In other words, they are paid their full salary over the course of 12 months instead being paid for actual hours worked. The reason this is done is usually so that the teacher is paid over the summer when they are not actively teaching.

    Overpayment happens when the system pays for actual hours worked, instead of the calculated stipend. If I'm a teacher that makes 36K a year. Normally, I'm paid 3K (gross) every month. However, if I'm paid for actual hours worked, I get $3600 (gross).

    Underpayment is rare, but happens sometimes when an hourly teacher or teacher aide is paid a stipend instead of the hours worked. Take Sep 20007 and an hourly teacher making 10/hr for 35 hours/week. The monthly check should be $1330 (not paid for Labor Day). The system mistakes him or her for a person being paid a stipend and issues a check for about $1166.67. ($1400 was the expected salary for Sep 2007 including Labor Day divided over 12 months).

    These systems are designed to handle how the rest of us get paid. You work 40 hours in a week, you get paid for those 40 hours. Even if I get paid a salary, it's much easier to figure out.

    There are schools that have figured out how to compute it correctly. Some use a homegrown system as an add-on, others just get good consultants.

     

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      Petréa Mitchell, Oct 8th, 2007 @ 1:47pm

      Re: Possible reasons for the problem

      Thanks, Anonymous, for that interesting explanation.

       

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        have to be anonymous, Oct 8th, 2007 @ 2:11pm

        Re: Re: Possible reasons for the problem

        Thanks. I work at a school district, so I have to be anonymous.

        Years after installation and months after an upgrade, we still deal with these issues!

         

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    Colin Samuels (profile), Oct 8th, 2007 @ 12:28pm

    Considering the Potential W/H Liability, Disgruntl

    I'm frankly amazed at the nonchalant attitude that many employers seem to take when enterprise software rollouts start resulting in late payment or underpayment of wages. When you consider the penalties which rapidly accrue and the broad recovery rights for aggrieved employees under states' wage and hour laws, the diminished employee morale on which many reporters focus seems odd.

    Probably because of diminished liability under those W/H laws or because of alternative resolution processes described in union agreements, the main offenders in this area, at least lately, seem to be governmental agencies. Just a few weeks back, the Wall Street Journal had a lengthy article about how Arizona State University implemented and rolled-out an Oracle system with the expectation that many payroll-related errors would occur. Essentially, they made the decision to use their employees as beta testers for their new system to troubleshoot issues as they arose. Far from being defensive about this decision, those responsible happily cited Google's working beta style of software development as their model for their Oracle implementation.

    When problems and low morale resulted, what were the workarounds while IT staffers and Oracle implementers sorted things out? There was the fiscally irresponsible approach: if an employee claims that s/he should get more money, give it to him/her on the spot and revisit the issue later (maybe); this broke down as staffers simply couldn't write checks fast enough. There was the technical approach: "fix" it in the new system and try again -- an approach which at times resulted in new checks being issued for $0.00. Finally, there was the self-service approach: tell the employee that you're working on things and leave them to their own devices to make up the the short-term shortfall in their budgets, by getting loans from the employee credit union in many instances.

    For a government-shielded employer like a university or a school district to take these approaches to employee wages is irresponsible from a management standpoint; if a private employer takes its cues from these high-profile implementations, severe legal consequences are the likely result.

     

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    DuhLoitte, Oct 8th, 2007 @ 2:28pm

    Could the cause of the problems be the consultants

    Having had to deal with deliotte consulting, which we have not so foundly started referring to as Duh-liotte - this kind of outcome doesn't surprise me. I'd be curious to know if deliotte is still there "trying" to fix the problem?

     

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    Tim H, Oct 8th, 2007 @ 3:16pm

    Concurrent Employment

    I am an SAP Consultant and have worked with public school system in the past as it relates to SAP.

    I can tell you the issue is directly related to the lack of support for "Concurrent Employment" in SAP (An example is SAP's current Employee Self-Service application does NOT support CE AT ALL). Schools systems have situations where teachers have more than one role (gym teacher, security guard at football games, etc etc) and get paid different based on that job (sometimes w/o benefits) at a company and have to be paid differently because of it. SAP isn't really designed for these types of situations because traditional businesses (the ones SAP is good at supporting) generally have a 1 employee to 1 job ratio.

    SOOO.... What needs to happen is the implementation partner has to compensate for this by developing custom code and thus you are at the mercy of their developers for this reason.

    School systems generally don't have the budget to pay most SAP saavy personnel (generally because highly trained SAP Employee cost a lost and add to that they are dealing with "Duh-Loitte".

     

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      that anonymous guy, Oct 8th, 2007 @ 9:43pm

      Re: Concurrent Employment

      PeopleSoft says that they handle concurrent employment, but it doesn't help if implemented badly. It doesn't play well with Pension functionality and can cause headaches with Absence Management and Payroll.

      Back to my earlier point, what happens when a ten month teacher decides to tack on summer school? It isn't pretty.

       

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