Madison, Wis. — In other circumstances, it might not seem unusual for a procurement committee to choose Oracle’s PeopleSoft software for human resources and payroll systems, but in the wake of a cancelled Oracle e-mail implementation two weeks ago the state Department of Administration was taking no chances.
Independent evaluator Dale Cattanach, retired former director of the Legislative Fiscal Bureau and state auditor, observed the procurement process for a $9.2 million software system that is supposed to integrate dozens of HR, payroll and financial management systems across state agencies.
Cattanach’s report says the procurement went by the book. Aside from a minor ambiguity in the writing of the RFP that no vendor took advantage of, he found no problems.
That hasn’t stopped critics from pointing out that three Oracle employees gave governor Jim Doyle $3,250 soon after an unrelated no-bid contract was given to Oracle in 2005, and claiming that the choice of Oracle/PeopleSoft this time was political.
But the choice is perhaps a safer one in this case because of Oracle/PeopleSoft’s large market share in the HR space, compared to Oracle’s small share of the e-mail market.
“I think this one is extremely reasonable,” said Ed Meachen, CIO of the University of Wisconsin System, who is not involved in this project but is experienced in the field. “It was a straightforward, analytical, and sort of brave thing to do to pick the right product for the job … depsite the clear potential political fallout.”
This bid, however, was competitive. Oracle beat two other companies: SAP, somewhat narrowly but decisively, and Lawson, by a mile. Purely on technical requirements, it was a close decision, with SAP coming in first. But after demonstrations of the software, a committee evaluation process gave Oracle 14 points out of 15, to SAP’s 11 and Lawson’s 4.
Lawson is the vendor involved in a $25 million payroll system under development at the University of Wisconsin-System for six years. Some key technology officials said late last year it had been mismanaged and should be replaced with Oracle/PeopleSoft. An assessment in October said it should go forward as planned, but Meachen said that essentially nothing has been done and the university is waiting to see what the state does.
Cattanach said more than 150 people from state agencies were involved in the process. They documented existing systems and practices, defined standard practices, developed scripts for the demonstrations and attended to provide comments on the software.
The main evaluation committee included six state employees and one private-sector member.
The Department of Administration says there are at least 38 HR and payroll systems and 59 financial management systems in use in state agencies.
Administration secretary Steve Bablitch said this project, which the state is referring to as the Integrated Business Information System, or IBIS, will provide much-needed consolidation. He said it will save money by eliminating duplication and allowing the state to better use its buying power.