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New Computer System Falling Short of Expectations

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – A sophisticated and expensive new computer system was supposed to save Erie County time and money. But the SAP computer is sapping county resources and employees' patience.

When SAP came on line in May, there was a fair degree of anxiety among workers about a computer taking over virtually every county function. It meant learning a complicated new tool. And it also meant some of them would lose their jobs, due to greater efficiencies.

Seventy-three of those workers were laid off on Friday. Twelve year county employee Ann Fickelsherer is one of them. She says the saddest part is that SAP actually created more work, not less.

"We're a grant funded department, and we can't get the information we need to the state to get reimbursed for our vouchers," Fickelsherer said. "We've spent a lot more time finding information on this system and getting the reports out. Ever since SAP came into existence, the piles on our desks are increasing daily because we can't keep up with the work."

Ironically, there will now be fewer people to handle the load. And most say it will be a long time before the bugs are worked out SAP. Nevertheless, legislators voted for the lay-offs, with hope that the computer system will eventually live up to its potential. But Majority Leader Lynn Marinelli voiced the body's frustration with the system that, so far, isn't giving them the information they need to make important budget decisions.

"The fact that a $25 million computer system hasn't been able to tell us that yet is beyond astounding," Marinelli said.

The pricetag for SAP is $25 million and still counting. Total costs for the system, once its completely phased in over the next five years, could reach as high as $60 million.