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New Mexico’s computer system gets an upgrade

SANTA FE – Since its initial installation in 2006, New Mexico’s $30 million centralized state government computer system has prompted more horror stories than hallelujahs.

So when it came time to upgrade the system, officials with the state Department of Information Technology wanted to take the time to do it right.

Over the last two years, the state hired two outside vendors at a cost of just under $20 million to help with the nuts and bolts of the upgrade, but also sought to train employees across state government on how to better use the system.

“Jumping in and doing a technical upgrade wasn’t going to help anyone if they didn’t understand it,” said Cassandra Hayne, who spearheaded the project for the department.

The two-part upgrade of SHARE, or the Statewide Human Resources, Accounting and Management Reporting System, was finished last month and is intended to reduce paperwork and simplify operations across more than 100 state agencies and offices.

Among the changes is a requirement that state employees enter their weekly hours worked – previously they had to report only exceptions to the normal work week – and the standardized use of electronic attachments for state contracts instead of a cumbersome paper system.

In addition, the upgrade also included a review of which workers should have access to the SHARE system, a move intended to bolster the system’s security.

“There was grumbling, but there’s not a whole lot of logical arguments you can make” against the changes, Hayne said in a recent interview. “Culturally, this was a challenge and the state really rose to it.”

Due largely to a faulty initial implementation, the SHARE system has had a turbulent legacy. Problems converting to the system led to record-keeping inconsistencies, specifically in the state’s efforts to reconcile cash balances – or balance its checkbook.

Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration moved in 2013 to draw down the state’s cash reserves by more than $100 million to cover potential accounting problems caused by the reconciliation issue.

Some state officials, including state Treasurer Tim Eichenberg, had pushed to reinstall the entire program instead of upgrading it, citing a litany of problems since SHARE was first installed.

But Department of Information Technology officials said they didn’t see a need to start over, with Hayne saying that starting over would have been almost as challenging as an upgrade and likely at least two times more costly.

Going forward, the state shouldn’t have to do any more large-scale upgrades. That’s because the system will be automatically updated quarterly by the software provider, Hayne said.

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