Project Ocean is designed to replace a 30-year-old, Cobol-based mainframe application that still relies on punch cards. The project was run by Philadelphia’s Finance Department when it was initially launched in 2003 and later was taken over by the Mayor’s Office of Information Services. Now it is being jointly overseen by the IT unit and the city's separate Water and Water Revenue departments, Phillis said.
“I know it’s second guessing but the city suffered somewhat by not maturing the organisation to care for a project like this,” he said. Under the new project structure, he added, “we’re getting along terrifically. We're singing ‘kumbaya’ – not well, but we’re singing it.”
Phillis said he is hiring 20 contractors to work on the Basis2 deployment, including a programme director. But he predicted that there will be no need to customise the software for the city.
Philadelphia will be the first Basis2 user in the US, but city officials inspected the software at a comparable water agency in the U.K. before committing to buy it. Phillis said that on the kinds of features the city wants for bill presentation enhancements and an expanded customer history, Basis2 scored higher than rival products from SAP AG and SPL WorldGroup, a company that Oracle acquired last fall.
Peter Barzen, general manager of Prophecy Americas, a subsidiary of Prophecy International, said an earlier version of the company’s software – known simply as Basis – is being used by Aquarion that provides water to communities in four states. The earlier product was built on the Ingres database, but Prophecy began working with Oracle’s software in the mid-1990s, Barzen said. He added that Basis2 is natively integrated with Oracle's E-Business Suite.