Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 Finds a Home in Redmond
Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 will be available in August, but the city of Redmond will be ready to go live with the new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system in July.
Redmond, located northeast of Seattle, coincidentally is the home to Microsoft's headquarters and campus. City officials worked with Dallas-based Tyler Technologies (a Microsoft Gold Certified partner), as well as Microsoft, for about two years, contributing to the development of Dynamics AX 2012 product, which was unveiled in January.
The city of Redmond is a new ERP customer for Microsoft, although the city early on joined Microsoft's Technology Adoption Program (TAP) as a participant, explained Charlie Johnson, global industry product director for the public sector for Microsoft Dynamics.
"Part of the process and distillation over the two years [under the TAP participation] is that we expose them to what we're developing [and] our specifications, and seek their input," Johnson said in a phone interview. "There are several things that the city of Redmond has provided back to us as far as how we can improve the product and make it better. So that before the product goes out for general release, we've in essence gone through the processes with the city of Redmond [and] incorporated their comments and improvements…to make it better for all of our public-sector customers."
The city currently is using a five-year-old JD Edwards solution for its budgetary control, procurement and financial reporting. The move to Dynamics AX 2012 was prompted, in part, by the mayor's initiative to update the city's technology to provide services to the community. That refresh effort was part of what Mike Bailey, director of finance and information services for the city of Redmond, focused on when he joined the city about three years ago. Bailey previously served with the city of Renton, Wash., which had long worked with Tyler Technologies on ERP needs.
"One of the top projects and needs on the [mayor's] project plan list was a refresh of the financial system functionality," Bailey said in a phone interview. "At that time, we didn't know what path that would take." He added that the city wanted to put better technology into the hands of its departmental branches. The ERP system is not just for use by Bailey's personnel but it's meant for others to use and designed to more efficiently share information.
"We don't want to make accountants out of a parks manager, a fire battalion chief, or a road transportation manager," Bailey said. "But we want to give them the sort of tools to do their jobs well." He added that it's a two-way street, as the city will expect accountability from the departments using the new system. The city also wants to make it easier for interested citizens in the community to track the city's compliance. The JD Edwards system was a less flexible tool, being "very locked down, very inaccessible," Bailey said.
The switch to a new ERP system represents a big transition for the city because all of the data structures are different, Bailey explained.
"We are going to displace all of the functionality that we currently are getting from the JD Edwards solution with the Dynamics solution and/or we're going to use Tyler's payroll [system] in the interim," Bailey said. "In this day and age, everything's in SQL databases anyway, and we can pretty much map a lot of the master files that we want to port over and not have to reenter [data]."
In addition to replacing its current ERP system with Dynamics AX 2012, the city plans to go live with Windows 7 and Microsoft Office 2010 upgrades in the same July timeframe, according to a Microsoft blog.
The city is paying $150,000 for the Dynamics AX 2012 upgrade, which was budgeted by Redmond's City Council. Bailey said that ERP implementations of such a size can range between $5 million and $10 million, according to some estimates. Johnson said that part of the reason for the discount was the city's input given to Microsoft over the past two years.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.