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Financial software decision delayed

Ocean Pines Director Tom Herrick on Friday said not enough consideration had been given to outsourcing some or all of association financial operations. The board has for months discussed purchasing new financial software.

By Josh Davis, Associate Editor

(Aug. 2, 2018) The Ocean Pines Board is likely to put off the purchase of new financial software until after the Aug. 11 election, based on an extensive discussion last Friday.

The delay of several months in making a decision has apparently affected the association’s bottom line. Treasurer John Viola said in his report Friday the association was over budget by about $12,000 in June because of information technology contract services required to operate the current systems.

General Manager John Bailey said the directors had been prepared to consider a vote on a new software management system based on recommendations by a technology work group, but agreed to a delay to allow Legum & Norman of Falls Church, Virginia to submit a late proposal. The technology work group had recommended Northstar Club Management Software.

Advanced Technology Group, a subsidiary of Legum & Norman parent group Associa, was scheduled to provide a demonstration in Ocean Pines on July 16, but postponed the meeting, Bailey said.

He added the Advanced Technology bid “Did not include any pricing, it did not provide reference clients … and they did not provide a sample contract as the other companies did.”

“To be fortnight, the L&N/ATG response was not complete and any further action on their proposal could be interpreted as being unfair to the competitive process,” Bailey said. “The board could, technically, go ahead and proceed to vote on new management software as per the recommendation of the [technology work group].”

However, Bailey added, “Some of the outstanding questions stemming from the ATG proposal may be able to be answered during the process of a demo day.”

He recommended the board “direct the general manager … to set up a demo day for ATG as soon as possible and see what they can physically bring to the table.”

“Board members and others can be present to see what the gaps are and how ATG plans or doesn’t plan to fill them. Then, the new board gets the pleasure and honor to make the decision on software,” Bailey said.

A decision needs to be made by October at the very latest, he said.

“It’s either Northstar or ATG or nothing new for another entire year,” Bailey said. “If a decision gets delayed past October, then we do have great potential to have to deal with all sorts of problems, similar to what we experienced over the last two months, with various programs not working, hiccups in the system, etc.

“We would at least have to do whatever is necessary to keep a bad system and supporting arrangement going and, quite frankly, that’s no way to operate,” he added.

Director Tom Herrick said Bailey had failed to address “the pink elephant in the room,” namely, outsourcing as a solution.

Herrick said the association budget and finance committee recommended, “That OPA fully explore financial management outsourcing options.”

“This board has refused to address that request,” he said. “You could bring in as many software companies as you want – you can bring in 20 new ones – that only addresses software. Our issues are much deeper than that, and I think that’s what this board and what you seem to be avoiding.”

Association Vice President Cheryl Jacobs said the board considered outsourcing financial management three times, most recently voting it down 6-1 on March 29.

“Only Mr. Herrick was in favor of that,” Jacobs said. “I don’t understand why we keep bringing up the same thing – do board motions not mean anything?”

Herrick asked if no more information is needed, why hadn’t the board yet voted.

“Because I’m trying to compromise with the rest of the board and the people in the community who are insisting that we do things over and over and over again,” Jacobs said. “And so we will once again give … ATG an opportunity to come in and do a demo.

“Maybe that will satisfy more people, but in my mind this decision has been made a long time ago,” she added.

Director Ted Moroney recommended bringing Advanced Technology in for a demonstration and letting “the new board decide what they want to do.”

Director Slobodan Trendic and Association President Doug Parks also said they favored allowing the next board of directors to make the decision, although Parks disagreed with the charge that outsourcing was never considered.

He said Ocean Pines systems currently operate on “islands of automation” and required additional outside labor to function.

“Oh, by the way, I hope you all notice that the IT contract services is an expense we carry,” Parks said.

He said outsourcing of labor could also be considered, but as a separate issue.

“Outsourcing is a staffing and labor issue. What problem have we identified that would require us evaluating outsourcing as an option?” Parks said. “On the other side, we’ve already identified an issue … that requires some remediation, some investment on the long term.”