How to Choose a Municipal ERP System for Your Agency

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  • How to Choose a Municipal ERP System for Your Agency

    Ask any municipal government IT manager what they think about the prospect of implementing a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, and they’ll likely go running in the opposite direction.

    That may be a bit of a hyperbolic statement, but it points to a very real problem. Municipal ERP projects have a reputation for being frustrating at best, and time-consuming, wasteful and ineffectual at worst. According to an oft-cited Gartner statistic, 55% to 75% of all ERP projects fail to achieve their goals and objectives. The reasons for this are varied and complex, but most failed municipal ERP implementations do have one thing in common: the agency in question simply didn’t choose the right ERP system.

    But how do you know which ERP is the right ERP? What features do local government agencies need to look for, and what questions do they need to ask when evaluating vendors? We’ll answer those and other key questions in this municipal ERP guide.

    What Is a Municipal ERP?

    An enterprise resource planning system — often abbreviated to ERP system — is a software program designed to integrate and manage day-to-day business processes and activities. In a local government setting, those processes and activities might include:

    • Data management and governance
    • Financial, HR and supply chain reporting
    • Accounting and bookkeeping
    • Compliance procedures
    • Budget and payroll management
    • Integrating systems
    • Fraud and risk detection
    • Data security initiatives
    • And more

    As you can see, the right municipal ERP system can help government agencies at the local level better manage and even optimize a wide variety of operations, thereby enabling them to better serve the needs of the public.

    The Benefits of Implementing an ERP for Local Government

    “Digital transformation” has become something of a buzzword in recent years, one used to describe the integration of digital technologies into all areas of business. Although agencies in the public sector might operate according to very different principles than organizations in the private sector, local governments are no less affected by the demand for digital transformation and systems modernization than their corporate counterparts.

    The right municipal ERP system can satisfy much of this demand, enabling agencies to:

    • Increase efficiency by automating essential workflows
    • Share data in real time, improving communication and ensuring process alignment between different teams and departments
    • Store and manage data within a centralized repository, thereby enhancing visibility, accuracy and reliability
    • Improve their data security posture using best-in-class cybersecurity tools and threat detection services
    • Implement universal standards to support compliance initiatives
    • Generate custom reports for greater visibility into the health and performance of their agency
    • Access advanced data analytics for more informed decision making and strategic resource allocation
    • Reduce costs by shifting from on-premise systems with expensive-to-maintain hardware to secure cloud-based solutions
    • Deliver more streamlined, valuable services that increase citizen satisfaction and engagement efforts
    • Achieve agency-wide goals and objectives through greater cross-departmental coordination and by leveraging data-driven insights

    10 Key Capabilities to Look for in a Municipal ERP System

    There are certain features and functionalities that come standard in most municipal ERP systems, but an ERP truly worth considering will including most, if not all, of the following capabilities:

    • Automation: Agencies at all levels of government are known for their red tape and paperwork-heavy processes, which prevent government employees from doing important work and make it difficult for citizens to access the services they need. Although there is no easy fix for this issue, an ERP system can reduce bureaucratic complexity by partially or completely automating existing processes, enabling workers to focus on high-priority tasks and citizens to spend less time filling out paperwork and waiting for follow-up on open tickets.
    • Data Analytics: Census data, motor vehicle registrations, property taxes and more — local governments collect large quantities of data in the day-to-day administration of government services. What government leaders might not realize is that data is full of latent potential and, when analyzed, can reveal valuable insights about their agencies’ performance, citizens’ expectations, gaps in service and more. Many ERP systems include powerful data analytics engines to help municipal governments identify areas of need, make more informed decisions and achieve key goals and objectives.
    • Business Intelligence: Business intelligence goes hand-in-hand with data analytics, enabling government agencies to extract data from multiple systems and build comprehensive dashboards and data visualizations based on any of their needs. The right ERP for local government will make extensive use of business intelligence, using data analytics and real-time dashboards in tandem to drive decision-making.
    • Financial Reporting: Government agencies at all levels are subject to financial reporting requirements. These requirements provide an accurate picture of an agency’s financial position and how government funding is allocated, thereby increasing transparency and accountability. With a municipal ERP system, agencies can configure custom reports according to local requirements and automate the reporting process for greater efficiency.
    • Mobile Capability: In order to ensure that workers both in the office and on the go have access to business-critical information and functionality, mobility is a must for any municipal ERP system.
    • Integration: To get the greatest return on your investment, it’s imperative that you seek out an ERP system  capable of integrating with any existing systems your agency relies upon for policy management, budgeting, public works ticketing, citizen relationship management and so on. By connecting each of these systems, you can gain a more complete picture of your agency’s day-to-day operations, more easily identify areas for improvement, enhance interdepartmental communication and increase transparency.
    • Accessibility: Accessibility has a two-part meaning here. You want an ERP solution that makes it easy to find the information you need, but also one that everyone, regardless of ability, can easily use.
    • Robust Cybersecurity: It’s no secret that cyber crime is a very real problem; in fact, the latest numbers put the average cost of a data breach at a staggering $4.24 million. While cyber attacks are not 100% preventable, there are certainly steps you can take to protect your agency from outside threats. Make sure your ERP solution comes with the latest software updates and look for a system with firewalls, anti-virus and anti-malware software and data encryption capabilities.
    • Intuitive Interface: A municipal ERP solution should work the way you want it to. Look for something with a simple, well-defined interface that’s capable of accommodating a broad spectrum of users. The goal is to find a solution that works, but also one that’s easy to use and understand.
    • Self-Service Portal: Look for a secure, web-based portal that employees can use to view W2 information, access different forms, view training history, submit name/address changes to human resources or payroll, submit requests for reimbursements and more.

    10 Steps to Take When Evaluating ERP Software

    1. Create the business case. This is an opportunity to illustrate the advantages and benefits of a municipal ERP system, including streamlining processes and creating a positive experience for anyone interacting with your agency.
    2. Ensure strategic alignment between stakeholders. It’s important to make sure everyone who needs to be is on the same page before moving forward.
    3. Consider both short-term and long-term needs. One of the goals of an effective ERP for local government is to mitigate challenges both now and in the future, which is why agencies need to think beyond the day-to-day and consider their long-term needs. Municipalities that are looking to grow and add new capabilities down the line should invest in an ERP solution that can support those future needs.
    4. Set clear and specific goals. It may sound simple, but government IT managers need to figure out exactly what an ERP solution will accomplish. What pain points are you experiencing? What goals do you aim to achieve? How will I gauge success? Be specific and include metrics and a timeline, if possible.
    5. Develop a strategic project roadmap. There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to the deployment and implementation of a municipal ERP solution. An effective roadmap will not only list the different steps and timelines, but it will also serve as a way to keep everyone on track.
    6. Establish data and program governance standards. Municipalities handle a constant influx of data, and as such are privy to vast amounts of personal identifiable information. The right ERP solution will help agencies define who needs to have access to which programs and certain types of information.
    7. Develop a change management strategy. Implementing any new software, program, system or process can often result in growing pains. Municipalities can mitigate any resistance by creating a strategy to address these potential challenges and concerns.
    8. Prioritize return on citizenship (ROC). Similar to the popular benchmark of return on investment (ROI), ROC looks at how well a municipality or individual agency is doing in relation to its citizens and community. Any type of software solution or new process should aim to increase an agency’s ROC and support its overall goals.
    9. Cast a wide net with your search. Consider ERP solutions from both large and small vendors, or look to a third-party consulting firm for support.
    10. Take your time when evaluating solutions and providers. Gather the necessary data and information and compare your prospective solutions. You could even create a spreadsheet detailing the most important aspects of an ERP for local government and compare each system side by side. With a variety of ERP options on the market, it’s important to be diligent and find the right one.

    6 Questions to Ask When Comparing Municipal ERP Vendors

    Though certainly not an exhaustive list, here are some questions that government IT managers can use in their search for a municipal ERP system.

    • What are the available applications and features? Although ERP solutions are similar, there are distinct differences.
    • How will this software keep up with evolving ERP technologies? The market is constantly changing, which is why you want to ensure today’s ERP solution can evolve and sustain growth and future goals.
    • How much does the ERP system cost? This should include all initial deployment costs, maintenance fees, subscription fees and so on.
    • Does the ERP vendor provide training and future support? If not, you may need to consult a third-party vendor for assistance.
    • What is the timeline for deployment and implementation? This is especially important since municipal budgets are dictated by the fiscal year.

    Conclusion

    Looking for an archiving solution that will integrate seamlessly with your ERP? The Intradyn team has extensive experience implementing archiving software and helping municipalities of all sizes maintain compliance. Contact us today for more information.

    As the chief operating officer and co-founder of Intradyn, Adnan provides wide-ranging oversight of day-to-day operations. He has two decades of experience helping to shape the direction of archiving solutions and has been instrumental in the success of the company’s global capabilities.

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