Public Sector Pandemic Response Depended on Resilience, Determination
A large school district in Virginia, the state controller’s office in Idaho, and a municipal water district in California all had distinctly different experiences when the sudden arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic brought sudden, profound change to their operations.
But the resilience, determination, and innovation they all brought to the task became the common theme when JD Williams, Director of Industry & Solution Strategy, led a roundtable discussion during Infor’s Gov21 Virtual Summit last month. The panelists traced the moment of change their organizations had gone through and the role of their in-house IT systems in making a rapid transformation work.
Williams opened the session with a quote from U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who observed in 1932 that “new conditions impose new requirements on government, and those who conduct government.” As public sector organizations enter the second year of the pandemic, “that’s where we’re at now,” he told participants. “There’s a lot of new conditions, and a lot of new things we need to do.”
Fairfax County Public Schools
Michael Draeger, Business Manager at Fairfax County Public Schools, said COVID-19 had forced his organization to “rethink everything” about the way it interacts with 188,000 students and 25,000 employees spread across 198 schools and centers. “Doing that forced change, and some of that has been good,” he said. “It’s forced innovation and new solutions.”
Before the pandemic, the district “didn’t have a very large remote work culture,” Draeger said. The sudden need to urgently shift that profile meant filling hardware and software gaps for many staff, helping households with three or more people trying to get simultaneous Internet access, and helping users leverage the equipment available to them at home—even if it was different from what they were used to at work.
The abrupt operational changes led to a lot of questions about employee compensation and benefits, and eventually shifted the employee onboarding process ahead of the new school year. The experience pointed to opportunities to rethink and update business processes that had been heavily dependent on paper, and nightly HR transaction records made it easier for the IT operations team to keep up.
State of Idaho Controller’s Office
Idaho State Controller Hon. Brandon Woolf said the pandemic opened up new opportunities to boost productivity across a group of 25,000 employees.
“Many states struggle to implement an ERP system in the best of circumstances, let alone going through a global pandemic,” he said. But despite those challenges, the Luma project is on track, with Idaho’s finance, budget, and procurement modules scheduled to go live in July, and a second phase comprising human resources, human capital management, and payroll set for January 2023.
Woolf said the Luma project team kept the implementation moving forward, even as staff members moved to new locations and found new ways to get their work done. He cited two unexpected benefits: the productivity everyone gained when they no longer had to commute to and from work each day, and the reduced need for head office meeting space.
But those gains would not have been possible without Infor’s suite of cloud-based products that allowed the state to “quickly adapt and pivot during the pandemic for greater collaboration from any location,” Woolf told participants. The CloudSuite ERP “will further allow the state to adapt quickly and provide exceptional service despite future unknowns.”
Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District
The Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District in California embarked on its cloud strategy in the early to mid-2010s and became an early adopter of Infor CloudSuite Financials and Supply Management in 2016, Director of IT Jim Ollerton told summit participants. The last module migrated to the Infor multi-tenant cloud was in January 2020—and the pandemic began just a few weeks later.
“The pandemic has put enterprise system resilience in the spotlight around the world,” with IT managers on the front line of the effort to keep their organizations up and running “in circumstances that, really, none of us could have planned for,” Ollerton said. But thanks to its early cloud strategy, the district was “very well prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic,” with the ability to send 60% of its staff home and achieve 100% productivity the next day.
“Having our entire, modern, multi-tenant, anywhere-access ERP system in the cloud was amazing.”
Looking ahead, “I don’t see this work-from-home, anywhere-work stuff changing,” Ollerton said. Before the pandemic, “our water district, Public Sector in general, was not a very innovative work-from-home industry. Now we are.” With CloudSuite in place, and 100% employee adoption of routine communications, he foresaw 2021 bringing “more excitement, hopefully, less panic for all of us, and hopefully life coming back to normal, but our IT strategy is still going to go in this direction.”
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