Case Study: Munis ERP
Technology That Transforms Communities
Information technology professionals face multiple options when visualizing the business environments of the future and rethinking how daily work will be completed. They can deploy best-of-breed solutions or they can develop home-grown alternatives. They can move to the cloud or they can remain a traditional on-premises installation. Technology has an increasingly important place in today’s fast-paced world. The right technology can completely reshape the way local government delivers services, becomes accessible to constituents, and does business with vendors and partners.
Decades-old legacy and enterprise (ERP) systems are at the heart of missioncritical and back office government processes. But taxpayer expectations for ease of use, transparency, and efficiency have risen dramatically in the internet age. Cloud environments, sensors, and virtual reality are changing missions and businesses. As those changes progress, CIOs face enormous pressure to maintain core systems while also investing in emerging digital technologies. But what if those same legacy systems have potential to become the foundation for driving innovation? 1
Facing Common Challenges
The leaders in Cranberry Township, one of the fastest growing communities in western Pennsylvania, developed a strategic plan to integrate their business functions and support their rapidly growing population, services, and development activities. As they kicked off their 25-year growth plan, they realized that their current technology would hinder their progress in reaching their goals. Antiquated systems could not share information, work was done in silos, and they struggled to get the data they needed to make good decisions. Moreover, they did not feel like they were providing the services they wanted to their citizens. Much of their processes were still paper-based, which stalled true progress towards modernization.
Similarly, Sue Farni, executive director of IT at the city of Mobile, Alabama, was rethinking her own city’s systems. After nearly four decades working in information technology there is hardly an IT road block she has not faced. Although a city much larger than Cranberry Township, the issues needing to be addressed were the same. In 2015, the city began the process of transitioning their technology by looking to new products that would integrate with each other, but also with the intent of taking the steps needed to move completely to the cloud. Most of Mobile’s systems were home-grown by the IT department and suited their needs when created, but did not work together and created a workload that the city’s small IT department could no longer manage.
Data was often duplicated, quality suffered, and manual imports were required for updates. Management did not have a way to easily report key performance indicators.
Director of Information Technology, Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania
Farni made the decision: rather than pick solutions for each department from separate vendors, the city would work with one vendor who could provide cloud-based solutions for all departments. They sought a vendor that could provide solutions for most, if not all, the city’s departments, from public safety to parks and recreation. After an extensive search, Mobile went with Tyler Technologies — a vendor who could provide integrated solutions all with cloud-based options. This choice also provided the city with one place to go should issues arise, and software systems that work together to provide much needed efficiencies and better analytics for informed decision making.
Finding the Solution
Cranberry Township, like Mobile, needed a new solution. The township had three different municipal data systems that could not integrate, which led to data silos and communication challenges. They knew enterprise-level decision making requires data that is comprehensive, reliable, and concise. To achieve their strategic goals, it became clear to them that they would need systems that could work together.
Cranberry Township’s leaders used their strategic plan as a guide to make their decision regarding new software. It was important to them to have cloud-based options, systems that would integrate, as well as a vendor that would help them achieve their goal of becoming paperless, and could provide better online services to their constituents.
They were currently using Munis as one of three installed ERP solutions — none which integrated with each other, therefore, it was a challenge to reach all their technology goals using disparate systems. As they researched, they realized that Tyler’s Munis solution offered a greatly expanded product suite with excellent support and a new, improved user interface. It made sense to expand their relationship with Tyler and take advantage of the full suite offered.
In Cranberry, the implementation of multiple Munis suites provided centralized data, streamlined hiring and personnel processes, eliminated repetitive manual data entry, improved services for their citizens, and helped manage the township’s permitting and revenue processes. With a single ERP system, the township significantly reduced licensing, technical support, and maintenance costs — a savings of tens of thousands per year. Moreover, Cranberry has been successful at sharing data between departments and breaking down some barriers where needed.
Especially attractive to the township is the fact that Munis was designed specifically for the public sector, and it was structured to be implemented without the need for IT to code and develop their own solution.
Director of Information Technology, Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania
Is this the outcome you can expect? The leaders in St. Louis County, Missouri, home to nearly one million people, would say yes. Like Cranberry, they had identified goals they needed to realize: develop a centralized cashiering system for collecting payments, taxes, and fees from citizens, while also improving citizen access to county government. Work was currently being done in silos and they needed to standardize countywide processes, procedures, and controls.
Ready to Transform Your Enterprise?
Top reasons why local government implements transformative technology
- Increase citizen satisfaction
- Grow citizen engagement through accessibility
- Increase collaboration across government agencies
- Better manage tax payer dollars by reducing operating costs and becoming more sustainable
Start by Reviewing Current Operations
- Are your current systems supporting your needs?
- Are departments working in silos?
- Does your current vendor still support the technology you use?
- Do you have a strategic plan identifying your biggest needs envisioning what your agency would look like and how it would operate, if those needs were met?
Socialize the Idea of Change Now
Introduce the idea of technology being the solution. Long lines at city hall? Introduce the idea of online payment options. Number of paper resumes overwhelming your staff? Introduce an electronic applicant system. Over budget? Introduce online alternatives to printed checks, invoices, and high postage costs. By getting buy-in early, time can be spent on finding the right vendor who offers the right technology (and if needed, provide change management services, because for some, change is hard).
Just ask the town of Amherst, Massachusetts. Their end goal was to implement new electronic, web-based applications that reduce paper, printing, and storage costs, to become a more sustainable community. To get buy-in, they partnered with their current vendor, Tyler Technologies, to pilot new systems through an Early Adopter Program. Through this program, they played an important role in shaping and testing new releases of the software and were able to implement changes without interruption to business processes. This success enhanced the credibility of the IT department, in turn, making future changes easier to execute as the town’s leaders were receptive to change, and open to securing funds for future projects.
By maximizing the Tyler Cashiering and Munis functionality, St. Louis County has developed a centralized cashiering process that capitalizes on the county’s multi-service operations and its strict treasury management and accounting procedures.
Assistant Treasurer, St. Louis County, Missouri
Build a Scalable Plan for Today and the Future
Always use your strategic plan as your guide. Start with small, manageable projects that have defined metrics to act as pilot projects. Examples of successful implementations will make future discussions easier and provide evidence to decision-makers that the right change is good and will result in long-term savings.
Cranberry Township, for example, knew that their largest need was a single ERP solution that would grow with them. Working with a single vendor, Tyler Technologies, made it easy. They already were using one of Tyler’s flagship products and they used a three-phased approach to add products that would provide the integration they needed.
“It is pretty impressive to look at all Munis has implemented within the township and all of the services we are now able to offer and manage through one system,” Osterrieder reflected. “We have been successful at sharing data between departments and breaking down some barriers where needed.”
Keep longevity front of mind. The issues of today may not be the issues of tomorrow. When selecting a vendor, think about:
- What other offerings does the vendor have that could be integrated later?
- Do they offer upgrades as the technology evolves?
- What kind of relicensing fees are involved, if any?
- Are all offerings available in a cloud-based solution?
- Can you utilize an existing procurement vehicle, like Sourcewell, to reduce stress and allow you to find a solution at the most competive price point?
From smart cities to the military, government is capitalizing on the ever-expanding world of the internet of things. While this has numerous applications to the public sector, the real potential is unlocked when data is actionable and new approaches to data management and analytics are considered and applied. Think through your biggest painpoints and work to solve those first.
The reason that I trust using a Sourcewell contract is due to the detailed requirements in the solicitations, the assurance of an in-depth review of proposals by Sourcewell’s panel, and the ease in access to documentation for review. I am confident about their processes.
Elizabeth “Binky” Peer
C.P.M., Redding, California
Know that the need for change is constant
Unlike ever before, technology can change the efficiency of the public sector. In fact, the right technology can completely reshape the way our local governments deliver services, become accessible to citizens, and do business. To a large degree, the future of an enterprise lies in hands of its IT department who have the power to rewrite how daily work gets completed, how connections with citizens are made, and what services are offered to their constituents. What they cannot do, however, is nothing. Business as usual is the most costly option in this new world of facilitated data sharing, online offerings, better analytics, and easier citizen engagement. As Cranberry Township and St. Louis show, forward-thinking governments are re-engineering internal backend systems to maximize the benefits of modernization.
1 Wall Street Journal, Tech Trends in the Public Sector