Conroe, October 24 – Harry Hardman, the popular and highly-respected telecommunications businessman from Conroe who is also running for the at-large Countywide position for the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District in the November 6, 2018, General Election, revealed enormous wisdom, as well as political courage, in confronting the Montgomery County Commissioners Court during the October 23, 2018, meeting in a citizen comment about the $15 million Enterprise Resource Planning software, which three of the five voted to approve on August 28.
Hardman’s full comments in which he slammed the Commissioners Court to their faces follow:
“Good morning Judge and Commissioners,
“My name is Harry Hardman, and I have been a property owner in Montgomery County since 1999. I am addressing the court today to share my concerns regarding the recently acquired ERP system. By way of background, I have spent my career as an executive in the Technology Sector and for the past several years have been deeply involved in selling solutions like the one the County has acquired. I am deeply concerned that such a major acquisition can quickly turn into an extremely expensive debacle unless immediate action is taken.
“The current scenario is a vendor’s ultimate dream – an unsophisticated customer with little or no experience in deploying SaaS (Software as a Service or ‘cloud-based’) applications, significant transitions at the top (County Judge, Commissioner and most importantly, County Auditor), and what appears to be a bottomless budget. This scenario creates the perfect storm for what could be a worst-case situation for the County and a best-case situation for the vendor, as it presents virtually unlimited opportunities for ‘add on’ business, additional consulting hours and delayed implementation dates which could easily double the current estimate of $15M. The most recent submission by Mr. Jalomo of $195,000 for an additional module not even two months after the initial purchase makes it extremely clear to me that this project has not been well managed or coordinated, and it will not end well for we the taxpayers unless significant and immediate steps are taken.
“Based on my experiences with these types of implementations and subsequent Best Practices established therewith, I am making the following recommendations to the Court as well as the Board of District Judges:
- If possible, cancel the current contract. The County Auditor is an extremely important position regarding this solution, since the Auditor’s office touches every department in the County. To continue to try to implement this solution without the input, coordination and buy-in of the Auditor to insure the new solution meets their requirements, it is destined to failure. Clearly, a county the size of ours can certainly utilize a comprehensive ERP solution like the one we purchased, and I understand why the Court approved the purchase earlier this year. However, with the recent decision not to renew Ms. Martin’s contract, the status quo of having an Auditor in place with significant experience in how the County works is no longer in play. These extenuating circumstances DEFINITELY dictate cancelling the current contract and rebidding it after the new Auditor has been hired and on board long enough to participate effectively in this project.
- If the Court is unwilling to cancel the contract, you should immediately suspend any further implementation(s) until the following happens:
- A new County Auditor with experience in working with this software is hired – This skill may demand a premium from a compensation perspective, but in the long run it will save the County millions.
- A comprehensive Statement of Work (SOW) for all Departments is developed – apparently, this very basic step has not taken place yet as evidenced by the Purchasing Dept. already asking for additional monies for this project. A Committee should be formed with a representative from each department to adopt and review specific requirements from each group to ensure that no further ‘oversights’ are made and that specific functionalities are identified and included in the implementation. To not have the input of all departments affected by this project and a clearly defined roadmap established up front is almost a guarantee that this will become a debacle.
- Specific milestones should be set, and individuals held personally responsible for successfully meeting them – a project of this size is a massive undertaking, and it is very easy for things to slip – timelines, budgets, etc., unless and until specific milestones are created and measured. Further, specific individuals should be held accountable for meeting these milestones, and there should be consequences for not meeting them. I would specifically target the Auditor’s Office, the Treasurer’s Office, the IT Department and the Purchasing Department as key areas to focus on to ensure that the project proceeds on time and on (or hopefully) under budget.
“Gentlemen, I make these comments as a person who’s ‘been there, done that’ in working large software implementations, and have seen first hand what works and what doesn’t. When these types of projects go poorly, they do it in a spectacular (and extremely expensive) way. I appreciate your attention to this matter and I desperately urge you to consider cancellation of this contract before it is indeed too late. Thank you.”