“Stagnant” Anchorage Software Project To Move Forward After Two Separate Audit Reports

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The City of Anchorage is moving forward with implementing a new software system two years behind schedule and millions of dollars over its original budget after two separate audits presented last Friday convinced the Anchorage Assembly it is too late to start over.

The Assembly approved a $750,000 internal audit by SAP, the company in charge of bringing the new software online. That investigation resulted in a report hundreds of pages long that left some Assembly members visibly frustrated over how little it actually said.

Following a presentation by SAP, the body heard from an independent auditor, Denver-based consulting group ZCo, hired to assess where the implementation process is breaking down, and whether it is worth continuing with SAP.

“We started off by suggesting that the project is definitely a salvageable, completable project, and that they should go forward,” said Zig Berzins, head of ZCo, who spent more than an hour explaining his findings to the Assembly.

But that advice came with serious caveats. “Your project is stagnant,” Berzins told Assembly members. “Morale is down. The momentum is not going anywhere.”

Berzins found the SAP project suffers from a lack of accountability,  poor management, and major problems with scheduling. He recommends full-time, dedicated staffing, as well as better time-lines for completing tasks. And to do that, the city will have to go well beyond its current budget estimates on a project that’s already cost $34.6 million.

The audit confirmed concerns that problems stemmed from unrealistically low estimates of how expensive and complex switching to a new payroll and city service software system would be when the project started in 2011.

“We have to decide as a group whether we’re going to be really all in on this or not,” said Assembly member Bill Evans. “Just nibbling around the edges and kinda doing it on the half-effort leads you to the problems we’ve had already.”

While the Assembly can approve resources going to the project, direct decisions on time-lines and staffing come from the mayor’s administration, which meets on February 27th to discuss next steps.