WHEREAS many rural municipalities (RM’s) are not getting everything they need from software applications due to programming shortfalls, software restrictions, excessive costs compounding for upgrades, support, maintenance and customizations required to meet local needs; and
WHEREAS many RM’s do not have the staffing capacity or expertise to fully operate all systems to 100 per cent of their capabilities; and
WHEREAS many off the shelf systems fall short in some way or another of what could be acquired through a complete “rural municipal software system approach” owned and operated by the AAMDC and customized for AAMDC members; and
WHEREAS customizations with complete functionality and improvements could be a benefit to all RM’s, not just the one municipality that completes the customization; and
WHEREAS the focus could be on developing a “fully integrated municipal system” specifically designed to enhance “single” data entry for municipal operations, financial systems, budgeting and costing systems, digital records, assets, fleet, spatial data and performance management including benchmarking capabilities, service level improvements and most importantly, robust reporting, both internal (council/staff) and external (public) that would be a benefit all AAMDC members; and
WHEREAS if a complete rural municipal software system was developed for all RM’s there would be a true benefit to the “central” approach, including economies of scale, full system ownership and control by the members through an AAMDC business unit; and
WHEREAS many RM’s currently duplicate many customizations and purchases which is not an efficient use of taxpayer dollars; and
WHEREAS many RM’s do not have the technical (staff/training) or financial resources (budgets) required to use their systems to 100 per cent capacity and as a result they go without or simply accept status quo;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the AAMDC be asked to survey the membership to determine if there is enough interest to establish a Business Services Unit that would focus on developing a “fully integrated municipal software system” – either through existing applications, new custom programming or both – to the scale the membership desires.
The County of Newell has been through a gruelling exercise over the past couple years looking at many software applications and vendors to try to improve on existing software systems. The focus has been on having a “fully integrated system” across all applications that is available 24/7 to any internet connection.
While third party applications are available, there remains a huge gap in how systems integrate with most municipal applications. As a result, there is no real fully integrated software package designed 100% for municipalities that meet the needs of all municipalities. Many packages can be customized to provide the information desired, based on a single entry concept, but that comes with huge costs and training requirements, leaving most municipalities at the mercy of their vendor.
While there are choices for most individual software systems there is really no system that will fully meet the needs of the County of Newell, and to pay for the custom programming to do so, is simply not a viable option for one municipality. Estimates are now close to $750,000 dollars for the starting point to upgrade the current software systems in the County of Newell to try to “integrate” third party applications across the organization. Considering that only the County of Newell would benefit from this investment, County Council has decided to present this resolution to see if there would be any interest in moving this central concept further in the future.
It is certainly fact that any system would need to be developed with third party applications, as it would be inefficient to try to redesign applications where huge investments have already taken place, but with a central service and custodian, then any upgrades, customizations, templates, libraries, reporting, and communication linkages to other applications could be shared with all members as they are developed, meaning everyone could benefit one way or another from such an investment. Ideally, most all current applications would be supported through this business unit.
Obviously, the focus of such a system would be the outcomes and the access to fully transparent municipal information for councils, staff and their ratepayers. Ideally, systems and outcomes would be derived from a technical steering committee which would work with a business unit from AAMDC capable to make this project happen. One of the guiding principles would be for ease of data entry with single entry platforms for all applications where nothing is duplicated. The County of Newell believes this would be a true long-term investment and the benefits would be enormous. The savings of working together could be re-invested in reaching the goal of having a fully integrated municipal software platform.
The County of Newell recognizes that many municipalities may not be interested in this from a standpoint of using new software systems, but they certainly could benefit from the central service for templates, library, documents, linking data, queries, reporting and central programming improvements for their current applications. The County of Newell believes there is a real opportunity here to work together for the benefit of all and so we ask for your support of this resolution.
The AAMDC has no active resolutions pertaining to this issue.
The AAMDC planned to conduct a needs assessment to determine whether sufficient interest exists and how much members were willing to pay in support of this software. However, the AAMDC has yet to secure the necessary funding to conduct the needs assessment. Until such time as funds become available, no further work will proceed on this issue. As such, it has been assigned the status of unsatisfactory.