City sold on new financial software

With current system becoming increasingly antiquated, City will turn to more reliable and efficient software

The Tracy City Council on July 13 threw its informal support behind a new financial software system, meaning the City will move ahead with the purchase of new software that would benefit all city employees in myriad ways and will help the City manage its budget much more efficiently.

Tracy City Administrator Erik Hansen, along with City Finance Clerk Peggy Zwach, presented their financial software recommendations to the Council during last week’s work study session. The need for a new system has grown exponentially over the years, as the system the City currently uses, Banyon, has proved to be less and less reliable; the system crashed nine times in one week recently, including four times in one day, resulting in lost data and reductions in productivity.

“There’s a frustration level that goes with every crash,” Zwach said at last week’s study session. “It’s to the point now that we just laugh.”

Other problems with the current system, Hansen and Zwach said, are a lack of customer service from the Banyon staff and insufficient reporting, meaning it’s difficult to measure performance.

“We’re looking for solutions to those kinds of problems — some better customer service, in particular,” Hansen told the Council. “The (Banyon) technology is really from the 1990s.”

New software, the pair said, will bring with it not only better customer service, but a stable, more modern platform, the elimination of paper workflow, more effective reporting tools for staff and increased compatibility between other systems and vendors.

“We would be able to store things electronically,” Hansen said. “A lot of times you could go on a report and go, ‘Oh, there’s an expenditure there, I wonder what that was’ and you want to look at that invoice … well, you can, but you’d have to go dig it out of a box somewhere.”

Zwach received proposals from three companies: Tyler Technologies, Civic Systems – Caselle software, and BS&A. These companies were chosen through recommendations from other city managers, Abdo Eick & Myers and a review of what area cities use.

Hansen said he contacted officials in Maple Lake and Lake City, both of which have already converted from Banyon to Caselle. He said Tyler Technologies was impressive, but carried a price tag almost three times that of Caselle.

“From our perspective we didn’t feel like it offered three times the value,” Hansen said.

BS&A was also a more expensive option than Caselle, but it carries a lower annual cost.

He said Caselle and BS&A were very close when it comes to cost and functionality, but Caselle has a number of advantages, namely the comprehensive customer service and the app feature, which includes time card communications.

“If we have someone working in the field right now, we just kind of do their time card by hand; what this system would allow you to do is take your smart phone with you, you punch in that you’re at the job site, and punch out when you leave,” Hansen said. “It will geo-code … to allow us to track hours and payroll a lot better than we do right now.”

Service orders will be much more fluid under the new system in that employees in the field can get an automatic alert on an electronic device (iPad, tablet, laptop). The worker can then record notes back into the system to verify that the project has been completed. The City will have to purchase some new technology for workers in the field, such as tablets. The City is already planning on ordering more tablets to prepare for the addition of two new council members next year.

“The amount of efficiency that brings is just a step above where we are right now,” Hansen said. “The field techs really like it, because they can stay out in the field, they know what they’re supposed to do, where they’re supposed to go, they don’t have to go back to the office to see if there’s a fax. It’s really a great feature.”

See this week’s Headlight Herald for more on this article.