The Computer Ate My Budget

from the or-did-it-just-eat-Tacoma-Washington... dept

What is it with large, government computer systems and their inability to actually work? Last month we wrote about problems with an expensive SAP computer system the Federal Technology Service had installed that was causing people to cry by having such user friendly features as making the simple "save" feature take 15 steps. Now, the city of Tacoma, Washington is admitting that their $51 million SAP implementation has made it impossible for them to do a budget. One of the reasons the city spent so much on this fancy new computer system was to have more accurate data for budget forecasts. However, it turns out that SAP doesn't actually have a budget module, so they've been trying to kludge stuff together. Right now, that means that the city can't actually figure out how much money they'll have at the end of the year, or how much they're likely to bring in. Computer glitches certainly happen, but you have to wonder why the city would agree to switch on the system that couldn't do some of the most basic features it was supposed to.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Dick Beldin, Aug 11th, 2004 @ 11:22am

    Software selection committees

    When software is ostensibly selected by a committee, what often happens is that the manager's favorite sales rep is a shoo in. Committees rarely check to see if the software can do X because managers don't care, they got theirs during the sales process.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2004 @ 3:12pm

    Grammar alert

    Insert a verb please:
    "how much money they'll at the end of the year"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    Mike (profile), Aug 11th, 2004 @ 3:51pm

    Re: Grammar alert

    whoops. fixed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Gumby, Aug 11th, 2004 @ 11:36pm

    non-technical owner

    One situation I've seen a couple times is a non-technical manager is charge of a project. They dutifully go to all the stake holders and ask for requirements so they can build a check list of features. Then the ask the vendor to commit to delivering to the checklist. What this lacks is a technical person (i.e. software engineer/architech) who "owns" the overall problem and vets the entire solution. (Or a team of them - if the project is too big). If you only ask people to care about their little piece, the overall system&integretion gets neglected.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    thecaptain, Aug 12th, 2004 @ 5:45am

    Re: non-technical owner

    Agreed, whenever I've worked in/with/for companies who have non-technical people in charge of software purchases and implementation, it was universally a disaster...

    Money gets spent on who has the best sales job...just sending a checklist of requirements doesn't help because 1) MANY sales people will simply say its available and really not know or care and 2) shmooze the higher ups with freebies, gifts and lunches to get the nod...

    The end result is a higher up bringing a package to their tech department and commanding "here...make this work, its supposed to do 1,2 and 3" and if it doesn't, its the tech dept that gets blamed, not the CEO nor the salesman nor the vendor.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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