People First or People Last? State’s antiquated HR system will put Florida behind other states and at a disadvantage in competing for talent
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Simply maintaining the current system costs approximately $32 million per year.

The state of Florida has relied on the People First system to provide HR, payroll and benefits solutions for more than 20 years. The system is built on antiquated SAP software. SAP is a German, multinational company known more for products that support manufacturing rather than state governments.

There is widespread consensus among state agencies that the system has outlived its useful life and it’s time to move to cloud computing to reduce costs, improve HR process efficiency and protect the state’s employee data with modern cybersecurity controls.

Several other states have either modernized in the cloud or are in the process of doing so, such as Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Michigan, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Washington. Department of Management Services Secretary Pedro Allende testified in December at a hearing of the House Administration & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee, that a “competitive procurement will help us deliver the best value to the state.”

People First supports more than 220,000 users across 33 state agencies and public universities. Some 1.3 million people per year use it to apply for state government jobs. Because the SAP system wasn’t designed for state government, Florida ended up with a patchwork, server-based system with thousands of code changes, making the system very expensive to maintain. A small army of state IT staff and contractors are currently needed to support the system. Simply maintaining the current system costs approximately $32 million per year.

In 2022, the Legislature funded $1.2 million to the Department of Management Services to commission a business case to explore options to modernize People First. DMS retained one of the world’s leading IT consultancies, the Gartner Group, to examine options. Gartner concluded the state should pursue a competitive process to modernize People First and allow the incumbent and other cloud software providers to bid to ensure the state identifies a solution that fits its business requirements and Florida’s cloud first policy at an affordable cost.

In his 2024-25 budget recommendation, the Governor proposed $19.4 million to begin this process. However, there is a buzz around the Capitol that the deep state in the House of Representatives prefers the status quo. In fact, in the House proposed language in HB 5003 that was not heard by a single committee that would prevent modernization of the People First solution and legislatively direct DMS to renew the incumbent’s contract for a five-year period. This would mean state and public university employees and retirees would continue to struggle under poor service provided by the existing, antiquated People First system, while SAP would continue to bill the state millions for a solution that does not adhere to Florida’s cloud first policy or meet the needs of its workforce.

People are by far the largest cost in the state budget. In a competitive labor market, the employee experience matters if the state is to recruit and retain the best and the brightest. The People First system is simply too important for politics to prevail and monopolistic practices to rule the day.

Florida is long known for embracing market forces to determine the best outcome. A modern cloud-based replacement for People First will protect valuable employee/retiree data by providing enhanced cybersecurity, improve access to badly needed data to manage the workforce, introduce industry HR best practices to state government, and reduce costs through scale economies associated with cloud computing.

It is time for the Legislature to put politics aside, vote down any effort to promote uncompetitive practices and support the Governor and Department of Management Services in a competitive People First modernization process.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


4 comments

  • Web Guy

    February 8, 2024 at 2:00 pm

    It sounds like you are confusing the software with the platform. People First is the software and it could run on the cloud, or in a centralized data center, or in someone’s closet (if it had enough cooling).

    You’re also mistaken if you think anything related to the cloud saves money. It is consistently the most expensive type of hosting platform.

    Besides, if the current system costs too much to maintain, a new one will cost ten times that to build from scratch. So that leaves the question: who is lobbying to win that payday?

  • Poppy Forgot His Password Is Password

    February 8, 2024 at 10:23 pm

    Bwahahaha hahaha 😝

  • Don Peoples

    February 9, 2024 at 11:34 am

    The complexity of the various participants is what drives the system to be cumbersome and expensive. The number of “rules” (i.e.. variances in the types of employees, benefits, pay, etc.) is really what drives the complexity.

    Ps. the contract includes call center support too – not just the technology.

    Needless to say, I guess that the incumbent is lobbying hard for the status quo.

  • Tech Guy

    February 12, 2024 at 9:09 am

    How many of you had a Blackberry? You know, that phone device that came in 2002 – 5 years before the IPhone was released. Well that is when this PeopleFirst system was bought. Technology has changed, its time to move off this ancient system

Comments are closed.


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