The PeopleSoftTouch

PeopleSoft software has forced a Delaware manufacturer to cut paychecks to Mickey Mouse and let failing Wisconsin college students evade expulsion. Guess what software the San Francisco school district owns?

But public records suggest Thompson felt he had less control than Bohuchot credits him with.

"I have a very disquieting feeling over the prospect of being held responsible for something that I had no or very little control over," Thompson wrote in an e-mail to Coleman. "I am requesting that you remove me from the slot of project director. This will remove all ambiguities and eliminate the possibility of sending mixed signals concerning the leadership on the project."

In her aforementioned e-mail to Bohuchot, Dorsch described that ambiguity more succinctly: "There will be many times in the next few months when I will be getting conflicting direction from you and Glenston."

Peter Ferguson
The SFUSD's CFO, Cathi Vogel, answers PeopleSoft-related questions at the Nov. 14 school board meeting.
Anthony Pidgeon
The SFUSD's CFO, Cathi Vogel, answers PeopleSoft-related questions at the Nov. 14 school board meeting.

During July 1999, Bohuchot -- who ran the district's technology department on a year-to-year, consultant basis -- was informed by Acting Superintendent Linda Davis that his contract would not be renewed when it expired in November. Before the contract expired, Bohuchot was lured to Dallas, where he would work with Rojas and Coleman again, at a $140,000 salary.

"Bill Rojas asked me to come, and he said Bill Coleman was there as well, so I was in hog heaven," Bohuchot says. "They gave me the ability to run the show. They said, "Let's outline some basic goals you want to accomplish, and let you do the rest.'"

High on that list of priorities, apparently, was Bohuchot's first task in Dallas: seeking bids for a new ERP software package for a school district that installed a $6 million payroll system in 1995.

Dallas school board members had less patience with Rojas' management style than the San Francisco board. Rojas was fired from his $260,000-a-year Dallas post within a year. Coleman has since resigned.

At a public hearing on the school district's PeopleSoft project earlier this month, the technology consultant who coined the phrase "drop and run" in August is using other colorful terms (among them is "unpeeling the onion") to describe the effort to salvage the PeopleSoft system festering inside the San Francisco school district's computers.

Sandy Rosen, a slightly built gentleman who slicks back what gray hair he has left over his tanned scalp, tries to make his voice echo through the miserable acoustics of the scantly populated auditorium at Everett Middle School. What he says, basically, is: This is a long way from over.

He describes how a team of consultants, some hired directly by the district, others from Arthur Andersen Consulting, the city government, and PeopleSoft itself, are working -- within a $450,000 cap -- to determine if the software and the data entered into the system are salvageable. By the end of the year, Rosen says, the consultants might know whether the human resources and payroll systems are functioning. But there are other, larger, more complicated pieces of the software that will take more time to assess, and even longer to repair. If repair is possible.

"This is like a never-ending story," board member Frank Chong says. "We want some closure."

Seated next to Rosen is Cathi Vogel, the district's new chief financial officer, who has been periodically chiming in; Vogel notes that there are alternatives to staying with PeopleSoft. "We could farm it out," she says, referring to an embarrassing scenario in which a school district located at the heart of the Internet revolution sends its data to a district with a working system, perhaps in conjunction with a number of other districts.

Discussing this possibility, she sounds -- increasingly -- like someone preparing to cut her losses.

"We are painfully aware," she says to the board, "that some very hard decisions will have to be made soon."

While the district mulls those decisions, PeopleSoft counts its money. Public records show that the company has collected almost $2 million from the SFUSD in licensing, maintenance, and upgrade payments since 1995, and at least another $400,000 in consulting fees related to fixing work done by a firm it recommended as an Alliance Partner. If the district wants PeopleSoft to salvage the software, it will have to pay the company approximately $1 million more.

According to its contracts with the SFUSD, PeopleSoft has gone above and beyond its legal obligations. And PeopleSoft has read the contract.

"Look, we sent six consultants there for three weeks at no cost to the district," PeopleSoft VP Chris Feeley says. "I think we've done enough."

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