A lengthy and intensive performance management technology selection process was thrown for a loop for one local government organization this year when its final choice was acquired by SAP.
Hampton, Va., selected Pilot Software for its strategy and performance management project, just before SAP bought the company. After some hand-wringing, Hampton stuck with SAP and so far the results have been encouraging.
Hampton went through a rigorous selection process and chose Pilot Software from a group of 10 competitors, according to John Eagle, assistant city manager for the City of Hampton.
"The Pilot solution was the clear leader," Eagle said. "It had a product that was easy to use, and it was one of the most affordable."
Hampton, a city of about 150,000 people located on the Chesapeake Bay, was looking to organize information across city departments -- from libraries to the police department -- so it could find efficiencies and reduce redundant processes.
"[Hampton has] probably 30 different business units; there's lots of potential for redundancy," Eagle said. "How do we manage and take a hard look at that? That's where we started talking about strategy management and performance management."
The acquisition gave Hampton -- not an SAP shop -- second thoughts. Officials with the city scrutinized the decision, Eagle said, grilling SAP on what the acquisition would mean for customers, service and products.
"It was kind of a surprise and a shock to us that they got acquired," Eagle said. "We asked a lot of questions. SAP sent in a lot of people and had us on the phone with a lot of folks." PilotWorks will be "tucked in" to SAP's existing product suite, filling a hole in the company's offering, SAP said at the time of the acquisition. In the future, PilotWorks will be integrated with SAP's other applications and built on its NetWeaver platform. This started to assuage officials' concerns, but Hampton didn't just take SAP at its word. The city turned to about a dozen SAP and Pilot customers going through the transition.
"Without exception, the Pilot customers said they saw the SAP acquisition as a good thing and had a good experience with the transition up to that point," Eagle said. "We asked a lot of questions, and we got a resounding affirmation of where we were going."
Although it is still fairly early in the project, the city is happy with its decision to stick with SAP.
"The product is very easy to use," Eagle said. "It's a very straightforward tool that has a lot of power to do analysis that you don't typically have in Excel."
One place the city is seeing dividends is in measuring the performance of its 3-1-1 call center, a non-emergency number similar to 9-1-1 but designed to handle issues like potholes or burned-out street lights. Hampton uses Pilot to evaluate call abandonment rate and wait time. The city believed there was a correlation between the two metrics, but it was difficult to quantify using the old system. Both values were plotted on a graph using different scales -- wait time in seconds and call abandonment rate in percentage.
"With the old system, trying to show correlation by plotting actuals on a graph was tough," Eagle said. "In the new system, we were able to show that relationship in literally about three minutes."
Eagle would do some things differently if he were to do the project over, starting with hiring people to work full-time on the project.
"It's not the product. The product is pretty easy," he explained. "But you're talking about culture change, changing the very nature of how people do work and what they pay attention to."
A full-time resource would be able to focus on the project's technical and cultural issues exclusively, without being pulled away by other duties, and could also provide an outside perspective, according to Eagle.
He also cited some relatively minor detailed, technical issues, such as users receiving financial information in the form of full data dumps, rather than in a more summarized, usable form. Rather than problems specific to the SAP installation, Eagle chalked those up to part of doing business.
"There are some devils in the details, and you'll always have those," he said.
Phase one of the project is almost complete, with its rollout of one interface to four departments, and so far SAP has delivered on what it told Hampton from the beginning.
"So far they've come through," Eagle said. "We've been pretty happy with the service we've gotten, and we've had a lot of conversations with them. No complaints as far as that goes, knock on wood."
The city will continue a measured, division-by-division install until all of its departments are complete.
"It's a tough thing to look at, measuring outcomes and results as opposed to things you do, your activities," Eagle said. "Getting an entire organization to do that takes a lot of time and effort."