Decades-old internal software used by the City of Mission is set to be replaced, speeding up municipal business across all departments.
Mission council has earmarked $2.5 million on July 19 for two new enterprise application softwares, scheduled to be fully implemented by April, 2023.
“It’s hard for people, perhaps, to understand how big of a deal this actually is,” said Mayor Paul Horn. “It seems like a very small quiet item on a July agenda, but it’s a very big deal in terms of that front-counter experience for people.
“If we do it right, we will very rapidly catch up in a lot of areas where we’re behind.”
People doing business with the city have sometimes complained about slow processes, particularly when it comes to development applications.
Not only will the new software speed up these processes, but it will integrate the various department’s information databases and input systems, streamlining communication.
Currently, only the finance department has such software in place, but it’s “woefully out of date,” said Chief Administration Officer Mike Younie. Other departments like development services and engineering and public works have no systems.
The city hired a consultant in 2019 to review and provide guidance on Mission’s enterprise systems. He found there was a lack of confidence in the reliability of data, functionality, several software defects, missing systems and little integration.
The report identified the need to a new city-wide system, at a cost that would exceed $1 million.
Mission is “significantly behind the times” in comparison to enterprise systems in neighbouring cities like Abbotsford, Langley, and Chilliwack, said Robert Thomasson, a municipal business analyst managing the project.
“The database structure is based off of (technology) you would have seen in the 1990s … It’s like working in Windows 3.1,” Thomasson said.
“When you’ve got manual processes mixed in with old software … It takes a long time to run reports. The exporting and input of data just doesn’t work.”
He said when information has to be plugged in manually, human error starts to come to into play.
For example, development applications are currently tracked through spreadsheets, and the system can’t process the information before sending off to the engineering department. Thomasson called it “antiquated.”
“Engineering finds out about these development applications way after the fact,” he said. “We’re looking to double our population in the next 10 years. We’re gonna need a robust system to keep up with that.”
Coun. Mark Davies said the new system will be a “game changer,” and a lot of work has been put into understanding the city’s end-to-end processes. Once implemented, he said it will have a “snowball effect” on the speed of service delivery.
“This will directly address (complaints), and both development and planning will be some of the first rollouts,” Davies said. “It’s removing all the delays that happen in a traditional application when someone completes a step.”
The software also will allow improved information flow between the city and the public, according to Younie.
He said applicants will be able to check on the status of their applications online, and the residents will be able notify various departments about municipal issues instead of having to call or email.
The city’s financial plan is to be amended, with $2.5 million being drawn from unappropriated accumulated surplus reserves. The current capital plan expects the balance of that reserve to sit at $4.8 million by the year’s end.
The city has also applied for a Union of BC Municipalities grant to cover $500,000.