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State of Maine lays off 15 independent consultants on $13k a month amid efforts to implement troubled Workday system

Vendor claims government failed to provide 'clear direction' for the project

The US State of Maine has laid off 15 independent IT contractors, each paid $13,000 a month, who were working on its paused project to implement a new Workday HR and finance system, which is at least two years late and millions of dollars over budget.

What exactly the contractors were doing during March is open to question since Workday suspended the project in February, owing to a contract dispute with the administration.

Nonetheless, those techies-for-hire got an average of $13,000 each, at a rate $108 per hour, according to Kirsten Figueroa, commissioner of the Maine Department of Administrative and Financial Services.

In a recent Committee on Government Oversight meeting, she said: "We did recently release some staff from the Workday project, as good stewards of the project and fiscal resources, while we are in this transition. We released 15 independent contractors."

The contractors were laid off as of 16 April, creating an anticipated saving of around $206,000, Figueroa said. She said some contractors and internal staff remained working on process design and data extraction from legacy systems.

In a March letter to the Joint Standing Committees on Appropriations and Financial Affairs, she confirmed that, following the third-party assessment of the project, "communications between the State team and Workday team were happening regarding concerns identified by that report."

On 12 February, Workday paused the project, she said. The state notified Workday on 25 February that Workday is required to remedy several contractual issues within 30 days.

Local news reports said the Office of Attorney General Aaron Frey planned to negotiate "the terms of dissolution" with Workday. Figueroa had earlier said Workday would repay $22.2m "due to incomplete deliverables and failure to meet the State's requirements."

However Workday previously hit back at claims its "project staff have shown no accountability for their part in this flawed process."

Figueroa made the allegations in a May 2020 letter, released in April, in which she said the state's project management office discovered "significant gaps in configuration and testing, as well as best practices and methodology that had not been followed."

The office also found the "project timeline contained inappropriate overlapping phases; exit criteria for various testing phases were not met; training and communication were inadequate; knowledge transfer to the State of Maine staff who will be supporting the product was extremely limited."

For it's part, the Californian SaaS application vendor has blamed Maine for project delays.

Christopher Curtis, Workday veep for global professional services, said in a letter dated 9 March that the state changed the specification once the project had started. For example, it did not inform Workday of its need for a Labor Cost Distribution solution "until the configuration and prototype stage of the deployment."

Workday had shown "good faith" and offered access to Workday Financials at no additional cost while also providing consulting, configuration and testing, he said.

He added that the state had decided to dissolve its Department Process Advisory Committee. Its decision to forego use of that steering body was not a material breach by Workday, he said.

Curtis also denied that Workday's decision to pause work on the project was a breach of contract. He said the contract allowed it to terminate work if a "customer repeatedly fails to perform its obligations… resulting in inability of Workday to meet its obligations and time-frame commitments."

"As Workday has previously stated, because of the State's failure to provide clear direction to Workday and the need to resolve underlying issues with the State that were inhibiting the project's success, Workday paused the project consistent with [the contract] in order to avoid engaging in unproductive and unnecessary work," Curtis said.

In a letter from 31 March, the state confirmed it was acting on its plans to terminate the contract.

Both Workday and the State of Maine have been contacted for comment.

The project is not the state's only unhappy experience in replacing its ERP system. In 2016, it signed up ERP vendor Infor to provide the HR system and the pair planned to have the system up and running in 2018. That contract was "terminated for lack of delivery" in June 2018.

Later in 2018, Maine contracted Workday to provide an HR system, this time expecting a go-live date of 2020. That date was then revised to 2022.

Maine's multiple legacy systems have led to integration problems, inherently inefficient processes, and incompatibility with systems that are no longer supported. ®

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