June 3, 2010 By Russell Nichols
Fed up with a manual, paper-based work force management system, human resource and IT officials in Carlsbad, Calif., sought a solution to streamline human resources operations.
On June 6, city officials and technology vendors plan to kick off a cloud computing strategy to strengthen efficiency and security, automate payroll services and potentially save the city $830,000 a year, said Gordon Peterson, Carlsbad's IT director.
"The big motivator for moving forward with the new system was integration and automation," he said. "The goal is to improve internal services without adding staff."
Carlsbad sits along the Southern California coastline, a popular tourist destination with some 100,000 residents. More than 1,000 people work for the city, and local officials wanted a more efficient software system to manage payroll and benefit requirements for employees.
The limitations with the city's current application forced workers to develop manual, adjunct processes that Peterson called "shadow systems" that wasted time, resources and money. Take time cards, for instance. These paper cards had to be plugged into spreadsheets and signed off by supervisors and managers before they got delivered to payroll.
"Carlsbad staff is delivering time cards to payroll from a dozen different locations, and payroll re-enters them into the payroll system," Peterson said. "If you want to do analysis on how time is used, it's virtually impossible."
With the new Web-based system, set to go live in August 2011, time cards will be routed electronically and workers will no longer receive pay stubs in paper form, Peterson said. To help improve its human resources operations, the city will use enterprise applications from Lawson Software, a global provider of enterprise software, services and support.
"While budget challenges continue to plague municipal governments, many cities are looking for ways to increase worker productivity to help reduce costs," Brian Murphy, general manager, Public Sector for Lawson said in a release. "The decision for the city of Carlsbad to upgrade its existing HR and business processes will not only help drive efficiencies, but will also help free up time at the administrative HR level, allowing employees to focus on more strategic activities to better address citizens' needs."
In Carlsbad, core technology that provides a human capital management system never existed before, Peterson said. Supported by $2.8 million from the city's innovation fund, he added, the new system aims to utilize cloud computing to maintain the level of service with no increase to IT staff. The project will be funded for three years, after which the system will have to pay for itself.
Early estimates, Peterson said, show that this new system can save Carlsbad $460,000 through greater efficiency, $310,000 by position reduction and $60,000 in hard cash that's used to pay for current software maintenance.
"This system," he added, "will also free up existing staff to perform more valuable work for Carlsbad citizens."
All over the country, community leaders are looking to boost economic development through various initiatives. One key element in many of those initiatives is the use of information technology. When local governments build IT infrastructure, create e-government applications, assist high-tech startups or otherwise focus on technology, they create conditions that draw businesses to their communities and help retain skilled workers. This paper discusses and provides examples of these various ways local government can use technology to ultimately make a community more attractive to businesses, visitors and residents.