After years of delays, cost overruns, employee resignations and corruption charges, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, may finally be ready to launch a major upgrade to its enterprise resource planning system.
The project, which was originally slated for completion in 2018 at a cost of $25 million, now carries a $35 million price tag and has fewer features, Cleveland.com reported last weekend. Several officials told the publication that although the project has delayed the inclusion of features such as talent management, asset inventory and others, they’re hopeful that the first phase of the project can finally launch this week.
Officials said the new system, which uses payroll software from a company called Infor, will begin handling wages and timesheets for employees in the county executive’s office, fiscal office and public safety agency, with additional departments to be added in the coming weeks.
In 2019, the project was split into two phases, and the county estimated the second phase, which would include the removed features, could cost an additional $4 million.
County Chief Information Officer Andy Johnson told Cleveland.com that the cost overruns were a result of the county’s failure to account for internal labor costs. The county was also plagued by staffing and management issues: More than two dozen employees assigned to the ERP upgrade have quit in recent years, Cleveland.com reported.
The county’s former chief technology officer, Michael Young, stepped down in 2019 amid a broader probe of corruption in county government. Another IT chief, Scot Rourke, who replaced Young as ERP project lead, became a target in the probe, and though he was never charged with a crime, he was placed on leave and did not return.
Emily McNeeley, the county’s former IT general counsel, in 2020 received a one-year probation sentence after pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges related to county projects, including the ERP upgrade. One of the charges, obstructing official business, involved McNeeley failing to tell the Cuyahoga County Council in 2016 that one of the ERP vendors, Ciber, had employed staff who had been convicted of bribing her father in a separate project while he was a Pennsylvania Turnpike commissioner.
Officials have said they are hopeful the ERP will solve many of the county’s operational issues, which are common for local governments stuck using old technology platforms. A 2013 request for proposals shows the county wanted to take advantage of “enterprise-class systems” to increase automation, reduce duplicative work, create documentation where previously it was “not easily accessible or non-existent,” improve data-sharing capabilities and better track operations.
Though many of the project’s tribulations have passed, some officials are still worried. Councilman Michael Gallagher has called the ERP upgrade “one of the worst things Cuyahoga County has been dragged into.”