Workforce Suite Moves Coastal City Off Paper Into the Cloud

The deployment, which is still ongoing, is expected to yield monetary and time savings, and is something of a shift from an on-premise-first emphasis.

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One of the state’s better-known central California coastal cities is moving to a new workforce platform that should save it staff hours and money — and could become part of a paradigm shift in IT.

Santa Barbara, which serves more than 90,000 residents, is consolidating its staff timekeeping process from paper and digital solutions to a suite of tools from Kronos Inc. that will not only be entirely digital but hosted in the Google cloud — a shift that contrasts with the agency’s previously heavy on-premise-first posture. (The city’s on-premise enterprise resource planning (ERP) system will remain its system of record for employee data; however, some streams of employee data will be passed into the cloud to empower the new suite.) Among the takeaways:

• After an RFP that attracted five vendors, the city finalized two five-year pacts with Massachusetts-based Kronos in September 2018. The city is now implementing Kronos’ Workforce Dimensions Software as a Service (SaaS) platform, at a cost of just more than $346,000; and its TeleStaff scheduling and notification solution, at more than $270,000. Both contracts have the option of five one-year renewals at “not more than a four percent” annual cost increase according to a Santa Barbara City Council agenda report. The city fire department had been particularly interested in procuring TeleStaff — which Kronos obtained in 2011 when it acquired Principal Decision Systems International. The initiative is now in user acceptance testing and will go live this spring, potentially as early as March, the city’s Information Technology Manager Maryanne Knight told Techwire.

• The project is a significant cultural change from a manual process using yellow paper timesheets that were hand-keyed by payroll staffers into the city’s financial management system. City police and fire agencies utilized scheduling systems to assist with issues like overtime, call-outs and vacant shifts, but these weren’t connected to payroll either.

“We’re really expecting to see a huge time savings for the fire department. And also, of course, more fairness in applying their rules,” Knight said, referring to regulations governing who’s called for overtime and who should be assigned. Following implementation, the new degree of automation should free up at least one of two fire department staffers who keyed in payroll data, and represent a time savings for battalion chiefs as well.

• The exact time and monetary savings isn’t yet clear. However, in an era of increasing wildfires, the new system will also enable officials to more closely monitor expenditures of staff time or equipment use during mutual aid situations. The TeleStaff solution, which should eventually be completely integrated with Workforce Dimensions, will streamline tracking equipment and staff time, Knight said.

• The project follows the implementation of three large, enterprise-level systems that were all on-premise. Santa Barbara migrated to a new Accela solution for land use permitting; moved to Hyland’s OnBase enterprise information platform; and moved from Cartegraph Navigator to its Operations Management System (OMS) platform. But officials are interested in cloud-hosted systems, Knight said, after confirming that additional “real costs” for on-premise systems, such as spinning up additional servers, can alter an overall cost picture. By contrast, creating uniformity by having everyone on the same type of installation in the cloud can mean better response from vendors with service-level agreements to meet, she said; and disaster recovery in the cloud can require as little as an Internet connection to get back online.

“We’re starting to make those recommendations,” Knight said.

Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Techwire.