By Cole Parkinson
It’s that time for the Municipal District of Taber to upgrade some of their IT equipment.
The M.D. had budgeted $70,000 for the conversion of financial systems software to online hosted, municipal budgeting software as a service with associated integrations and employee self-service module.
Quotes were brought forward to council during their regular meeting on March 8. Administration’s report explained they had “ requested individual quotes specific to the purchases” and overall, the total cost was $69,029.23 plus GST.
“It’s a Cloud migration, so I’ve itemized the different components that are part of that overall project and showed how each item was dealt with independently, according to our purchasing policy. If there were opportunities that allowed us to go out for bids on the different applications, we certainly did so. Individually, the values were applied to our purchasing policy and then presented in front of you here,” explained Bryce Surina, director of IT and GIS. “We’ve been able to stay within ($70,000) and it’s been looking even quite promising, even with some of the changes we’ve seen in front of us today.”
The quote saw $15,300.00 plus GST for a Serenic hosted financial systems conversion, $25,750.00 plus GST for Questica budgeting software service (Implementation and Year 1 Maintenance), $10,000.00 plus GST for Serenic\Questica integration, $12,789.23 plus GST for ESS licensing, setup, and training, and $5,190.00 plus GST for portable tablet hardware (ESS Submissions). Council asked specifically what they were buying.
“The Serenic hosted financial system is what we currently use, we do have an on-premise install on this product right now. We plan to migrate it to the Cloud so we can take advantage of the efficiencies that are gained in the reduction of backups, system updates, patching, maintenance, downtime and things like that. You get those economies of scale that go with Cloud solutions,” said Surina. “The second item is the Questica budgeting application, so it’s an additional module that will be added and integrated into the Serenic online system. Essentially there is a transfer of information that goes between those two applications in order to allow us the advanced functionality of a budgeting software. Questica has got an application that we evaluated to ensure we could check some of the boxes with regards to integration with our website presenting the budget process better to the public. There is a real key element of transparency that we included in this process.”
Surina next explained in-depth what the integration/licensing/setup/training is and what the new tablets would be used for.
“The third item is the integration between the two and there is a significant integration between those applications for interactions with the software so that staff can see relevant data, current data, in both applications. The third item is the ESS licensing, so there is a setup component that goes along with taking what we have currently in our systems for payroll and employees, and then adding a module that allows employees to access their information within our system online. There is an element of adding new and more current information for our staff as well, so that includes everything from requests for time off — things like that are streamlined better with these online applications. (It’s) more of a formal application process, so it makes it easier for our staff and easier for the process to flow through and to ensure we don’t miss components or key elements,” he said. “The final component is a hardware element and that is the tablets that would be facilitating the employee self-service modules.”
“These would be Android tablets that would be charged and ready for employees to basically grab and turn on the module, and submit their time to a timesheet online. It would be through a Cloud solution — a secure online solution obviously. That would be something really key that would make sure is fully secure and available through these devices.”
With the move to digital, council still wondered if hard copies would be kept around. They were also fearful of any kind of data loss, but Surina explained they’ve already explored the backup capacity and they’ve been happy with it so far.
“Going forward with this Cloud solution, we’ve had them provide us with a full backup process as far as their solution goes. We’ve also got information about uptime for their solutions — essentially they’ve provided redundancy within their application and they’ve had essentially no downtime because of the way they can patch applications live. They do a backup process that would meet our minimum requirements for providing us recovery if something were to ever happen. They do have and they’ve proven to us they have the essential uptime that we would require for our data integrity. The hard copies that would exist would be hard copies that we would acquire using the system.”
With just under $70,000 coming from the M.D. to pay for the upgrades, council asked about how often this would be needed. Administration explained they’ve implemented a rotation already and they will continue to follow that moving forward.
“It’s a five-year rotation that we’ve been following for this key Serenic environment. It is our financial solution, so it is one of our primary applications — it really is our main server if we listed them. This provides us all of our functionality for tax and basically the entire under the administration sever environment, that would be it. We don’t want to exceed the five-year window on that, we feel like the kind of integrity chances of downtime and all of those things add up after that. We’ve done a five-year rotation historically on that,” stated Surina.
Surina continued to explain the move to Cloud-based servers would bring cost savings to the M.D.
“We’ve replaced in the past, because it was on-premise, an IBM server, so that was the hardware element we were talking about along with the backups,” he said. “Those hardware costs essentially would be gone because we would be utilizing a Cloud solution, and again, the economies of scale that go along with that and the fact they have hundreds of clients running on a fully redundant Cloud solution built for that environment.”
A motion was carried to approve the purchasing of a conversion to Serenic hosted financial systems, Questica budgeting software with interactions, and the Serenic employee self-service module at a cost of $69,029.23 within the approved 2022 capital equipment budgeted value of $70,000.