State computer upgrade seen as saving millions

NH First, a 2-1/2-year project aimed at replacing state government’s aging computer and paper financial management system with state-of-the-art software, was lauded by Gov. John Lynch at a July 26 ceremony announcing the project’s launch in Concord.

The governor said the Enterprise Resource Planning project’s new accounting system will save taxpayers millions of dollars and make state government easier for citizens to access. The state currently uses several computer systems for payroll, accounting, finance and budgeting across all agencies of government.

“This really does mark the beginning of a new era in the way New Hampshire does business,” Lynch said at the New Hampshire Technical Institute meeting of about 150 financial managers throughout state government.

The changes will not come without a cost. The project will require state employees to contribute up to 100,000 hours of their time to complete the job, said Administrative Services Commissioner Donald Hill, who said it would not be easy for state financial managers to find the time to devote to this effort.

“I am well aware that many of you are overworked and understaffed,” Hill told workers.

Lynch said he was involved in overhauling financial systems as a management consultant for private industry. This effort can only work if employees make sure the project meets the state’s needs, Lynch said.

“The success of this project really depends on all of us,” Lynch said. “This is not a job we can just hand off to a vendor.”

A 2002 study concluded the project could save $6 million a year out of the estimated $120 million the state spends in purchasing services.

“Our system was so old, that we were going to lose vendor support,” said Hill.

Under a 10-year, $421 million contract, CIBER Inc. of Greenwood Village, Colo., and Lawson Software of St. Paul, Minn., will design and implement the system.

CIBER-Lawson Software Practice Vice President Paul Robson said the project would be completed in three phases. The first step is to overhaul systems for accounting, the Treasury Department’s programs and for preparation of the state budget by July 1, 2007.

The second phase will modernize the reporting of revenue and expenses by all agencies. The final phase will link the state’s payroll and personnel practices to the system.

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