County switch to new software not without its headaches

The Workday switchover has created issues with employee and vendor payments, but county officials say it will be worth it

CLARK COUNTY — Before there can be progress, sometimes there must be pain.

That has been the mantra for employees of Clark County in recent months as the transition to new software meant to modernize time and payroll management has not gone without its fair share of hiccups.

Clark County Manager Shawn Henessee is shown here at the 2019 State of the County Address in March. Photo by Mike Schultz
Clark County Manager Shawn Henessee is shown here at the 2019 State of the County Address in March. Photo by Mike Schultz

“There was some issues primarily with bill payments,” says County Manager Shawn Henessee with a sigh. “We think we’ve got a handle on what was going on with that. There was, basically it was software configuration errors and other things.”

The county is in the midst of transitioning to a cloud-based timekeeping software system known as Workday. The move is partly a response to Oracle’s decision to stop supporting the county’s previous software tools, and partly just an attempt to modernize and streamline operations.

Workday, a company of over 8,000 people based out of Pleasanton, California, was founded in 2005. The county says it was selected out of 10 software options that were examined. The annual subscription cost is slightly over $700,000, though Henessee maintains that the county should see eventual savings due to increased efficiency.

But first, they have to get it to work right.

“What you’re looking at is really a fundamental change in the finance software that we’re utilizing, and it’s both county employees getting used to it as well as vendors,” says Henessee. “It’s a really different approach so you’ve really got a lot of training and a lot of effort in implementation on both sides.”

The time-management part of Workday, Henessee says, began implementation a couple of days before he started. That first phase of the rollout wasn’t without some issues, but went relatively smoothly. It did prompt complaints from sheriff’s office employees, amongst others, that payroll hours weren’t being tracked properly, causing some to be overpaid while others received too little in their paychecks.

“I know that some people are mildly frustrated with it but, again, I think we’ve made progress in those areas,” Henessee says. “And there’ll probably continue to be some other areas as we continue to go forward that we’ll discover more things. In my experience, it always happens in this large of a software implementation. It’s just a question of how do you address them and mitigate the problems that crop up.”

Some of those problems also included delaying property tax statements from their usual mid-February date to early March.

“A financial system implementation is a huge undertaking, and the Treasurer’s Office is working hard to limit the impact on taxpayers,” said Clark County Treasurer Alicia Topper in a statement in early February.

“And that was, in many ways, a simpler phase than the financial component of this,” says Henessee. “It’s all of our bill paying and accounts receivable and all that kind of stuff.”

Those issues led to some bills not being paid on time, though in many cases Henessee says it was more a matter of miscommunication than money actually not being sent to vendors in time.

“There were a number of payments combined together, and so the vendor — and this happened in a number of areas — the vendor had received the payment and then put it into what they call ‘suspended mode’ because they didn’t have enough information to break down the different payments to where to apply them,” explains Henessee.

In most cases, the county was able to contact vendors to explain things, so Henessee doesn’t expect they’ll see issues with late fees or any damage to their credit.

Not done yet

Even as struggles to Workday fully functional continue, the county is also gearing up to implement new budgeting software later this year.

“Right now we use a budgeting system which is pretty labor intensive involving a very large number of spreadsheets,” Henessee says. “And so we’re looking forward to having that budgeting software in place.”

Henessee, who is currently in the midst of going through every department’s budget with a fine-toothed comb, said he anticipates have a system that can better keep track of where the money is going will also realize cost savings.

“What I tell people is budget software does not really address any budget issues or get you any more resources,” he says, “but it is a tool that allows you to analyze things a lot more to project your budget, where you’re spending, where your shortfalls are, and to look at a lot of different scenarios and do it very quickly.”

The new budgeting software won’t be available until next year’s budget, but Henessee is hopeful it could help with realizing some savings this year.

He’s also hopeful that it could do away with one of his most hated things: supplemental budgets. That’s another thing the Workday hiccups have delayed. The Spring supplemental is now in danger of running into early Summer. With the move to annual budgets starting this year, along with the new software, Henessee hopes to be able to move to a single supplemental budget starting next year. The goal, he says, is to have a clear picture of where departments may have unused funds so, rather than requesting additional money in a supplemental budget, they could quickly reallocate funds to cover unexpected costs.

It’s also something Henessee hopes may soon allow him to take more than one day a week off without coming back to find a couple of hundred e-mails waiting in his inbox.

But he’s not going to be holding his breath.

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