Loudoun’s Costly Software Headaches Mount

The county has been trying to replace an important piece of software since 2011, but more than four years later, it has hit another hurdle.

Loudoun supervisors in November of 2011 approved a contract up to $21.1 million to implement Oracle eBusiness Suite, a set of programs meant to handle everything from payroll to mass appraisals and tax revenue across both the county and public schools. The programs are collectively known as Enterprise Resource Planning software, or the ERP system. The previous suite of software is more than 20 years old.

In December 2013, the board earmarked another $9.2 million for an ERP Implementation Fund in the county capital project budget. Then, in December 2015, the board appropriated $1.5 million of fund balance to the project. This, staff reports note, does not include future project management, consulting, and technical support expenses.

But now the project is on hold. The third and final phase of implementation, which missed three different go-live dates, went so poorly that the county now holds the vendor, Applications Software Technology Corporation, to be in breach of contract. In November 2015, the county informed AST that the project was on hold.

According to staff reports, in October 2015, Oracle Consulting and Sales found the software built so far has “overly complex and unnecessary configurations.”

Nonetheless, the county is committed. Supervisors put off providing another $403,400 for ERP consulting until the end of budget discussions, but several seemed to think the money would be necessary.

“I know this stinks, I know we’ve spent a lot of money on this, this project is at a critical point at this point,” Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) said.

“We need to do this,” Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) said. “Some of us have been following this for four years. When the other two phases went live, we did the same thing.”

Newer members to the board had serious doubts.

“This feels like throwing good money after bad,” said Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large), adding that it seemed like an “illogical, almost irresponsible thing to do.” Supervisor Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run) said he would oppose the item because his office has not had a full briefing from the Department of Information Technology.

The county attorney and county staff are still working with AST to get the software up and running, although AST Vice President of Marketing and Communications Melissa Sider said a new go-live date has not yet been negotiated.

“We’re under the impression, and it’s our intention, and we were given the impression, that it’s in everyone’s best interest to get this done,” Sider said. She added, members of AST senior management were in Loudoun meeting with the county this week.

“The project as a whole is 93 percent complete, and the first two phases were complete on time and on budget,” Sider said.

County Administrator Tim Hemstreet said at a budget work session on March 7 that if the county can resolve the current issues with AST through negotiation, the project could be moving again within 45 days. If not, and the county has to seek legal remedies, he said the project would be on hold indefinitely.