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.


5 thoughts on “Loudoun’s Costly Software Headaches Mount

  • 2016-03-24 at 5:38 pm

    Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) It was sold to us as a needed investment because the county had too many disparate software systems that were no longer being serviced. Not mentioned in the article is the fact the prior Democratic board approved this contract in 2011. We were saddled with the aftermath and had to hire at least seven new FTEs to deal with the mess. I very very reluctantly voted in December 2013 for that additional funding and FTEs and I regretted it very much, especially when we got into disputes with the contractor last year. I wound up voting “no” on many subsequent ERP expenditures, because when you think about it, $21 million could build an overpass or school that could benefit more taxpayers than this. I am shocked they haven’t sued AST yet.

  • 2016-03-24 at 9:55 pm

    Ken Reid is certainly no fool. It did not take him long to understand that his failures as a Supervisor cost us taxpayers millions. So, apparently it was all someone else’s fault – not Ken Reid’s. Somehow this is an attitude all too common from Ken Reid. Thank goodness, he is no longer an elected official – and I hope that continues.

  • 2016-03-24 at 10:48 pm

    There are many decent enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems available, including Microsoft Dynamics and NetSuite. Oracle is generally costly, although not as much as a SAP. It is a guess that the county uses a Windows operating system, so I’m not sure why Microsoft was not considered. At any rate, Ken Reid’s assessment is correct. AST is a certified Oracle partner so should have had the expertise to correctly design and implement an ERP project. I trust that the county is going to hold AST to its contract instead of letting this turn into a debacle, like the US government letting CGI off the hook and then giving it another multi-million dollar contract after it failed to deliver the healthcare.gov website. Businesses, that don’t have access to “endless” taxpayer dollars, would never had let a situation like this drag on for this long.

  • 2016-03-25 at 11:33 am

    Congratulations Chair Randell on attributing the term “irresponsible” to the correct parties. It’s a huge step up from you condemning Loudoun homeowners as “irresponsible” for not paying higher taxes.

    Perhaps she’ll see a glimmer of reasoning why Loudoun homeowners are weary of paying more and more in taxes, when they see their money wasted on malfeasance such as this.

  • 2016-03-25 at 2:00 pm

    Loudoun probably has 5,000 Oracle developers living here. This is embarrassing.

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