Software upgrade draws debate

Published 10:22 am Saturday, January 10, 2015

Vendor bid within budget

The City of Franklin is looking to upgrade its workflow software for the first time since 1999. City Manager Randy Martin said the current system is labor intensive, outdated and is one of the things that slows down getting out utility bills.

The software change would impact almost all of the departments of city government, including tax, utilities, finance and human resources. It’s also going to be a headache at first, Martin said, as during the transition staffers will have to work off of both systems, but once it’s done, it’ll be a good thing.

“I’ve gone through two software upgrades in my career. It’s not fun and it’s not easy,” he said. “But once it’s over and implemented, there will be a lot of advantages. Clearly what we have now is very outdated.”

The bids for the project were received by the evaluation team on July 18, 2014, but the evaluation team did not submit its recommendation until Dec. 3. Martin said each member of the six-person team spent up to 80 hours of direct time during the demonstrations and additional hours in evaluating the proposals over the past several months.

Due to the significance of the decision, the team elected to have the vendors conduct on-site demonstrations. They did this after a two-phase written process.

They took extra time because, at its cheapest, the software upgrades will cost more than $100,000, so making a mistake very costly. It’s also not something that cities do every few years, Martin said — software such as this typically has staying power for around a decade.

Ultimately, the team recommended the cheapest bidder, Edmunds and Associates, in the amount of $122,069. Keystone Information Systems was ruled out in September, and Tyler Technologies, with a bid of $488,991, received two of the six votes.

The team’s report recommended Edmunds and Associates, though it noted that particularly in tax administration and collection, the software has some weaknesses compared to the Tyler Technologies product that will require additional development.

Members who favored Tyler noted that Edmunds had some bad reviews from localities already using the software, and also cited fears that some of Edmunds many no-cost items might end up costing the city. Even one member who voted for Edmunds noted that it would not address all of the city’s needs out of the box, and that additional development would be required. Had Tyler been cheaper, that unnamed member would have voted for them.

On the other hand, Edmunds supporters noted that Tyler would have to modify its system as well, in the spot of electric billing.

Regardless of any potential shortcomings, Martin said that Edmunds would be a huge improvement over the current system and would adequately meet their needs. He could not justify the additional costs for the city over features that “would be nice to have.” The city manager said from here that he would conduct negotiations with the low bidder.

No action from city council was taken, as no budget amendment was anticipated in paying for the upgrade.

Council has budgeted $225,000 for the software upgrade, and it has $178,481 available as of Dec. 1, 2014.