The ease, speed, and capabilities of the new finance system has been worth the long hours and hard work to get it online July 1, says Matt Stephenson, director of business services and special assistant to the associate vice president of business and auxiliary services. Yes, that’s July 1, 2011.
Stephenson, whose duties include supervisory responsibility for Purchasing Services, Printing Services, Conferences and Special Events, and oversight of the bookstore contract, is a member the SunGard Banner finance team (for university finances) and the project manager of the SciQuest implementation team (for purchases and accounts payable).
“With the former system, it could be a herculean task to get the most basic of data,” he says. “For example, most people would be surprised to know that from a purchase office standpoint, it was a rather difficult process to go about simply finding out how much we spent with a particular vendor.
“Someone outside of purchasing had to run the report, which of course meant phone calls, requests, and waiting for the information and hoping the information was right. This was not anybody’s fault; it was just the way the current system works. Luckily, we have very good people to retrieve that information, and they turned the request around quickly. But it was not instant. With the new system, it is with the click of a mouse to get that information."
And that means the person making the request gets an answer sooner.
"Additionally, we have the ability to gather different information, analyze the information to make smarter business and service decisions," he says, "and it frees up employees’ time to work on more important tasks in their jobs. I think this is the true power of the system.”
Overhauling the system, the first component of the university’s new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution, is a painstaking process, especially when you consider the ambitious timeframe of only a few months. One goal was to minimize the need for customization and therefore allow for easier updating and maintenance. So, both teams started with general templates from Banner and SciQuest on which to build complex systems.
“We have also spent quite a bit of time studying our business processes such as purchasing, accounts payable, accounts receivable, fixed asset management, etc.,” Stephenson says. “We have broken the processes down to a step-by-step and analyzed each step to see how it will work in the new system. In many cases, our current processes fit the system, or the new system is configurable enough that we did not have to change the business process.”
Stephenson expects implementing the systems to consume 90 percent or more of his workweek through mid-July, and members of the finance team will remain active with the process as other modules such as payroll and financial aid go live in 2011 and 2012.
“Make no mistake, this process has been long and at times very hard,” he says. “As we got closer to ‘go live,’ this only intensified. I feel safe in saying that everyone on the team has felt a great deal of frustration at one time or another just because of the enormity of the project and the desire to get it right. This is a natural part of any project.
“However, even in these times, the group members have stayed professional and worked diligently and intelligently though the issue. With a project like this, you really get to see what kind of people you’re working with. Without exception, we have a great group of people here at Ball State. I have very much enjoyed working with these people.”
Before the system was launched, it went through rigorous testing from personnel from various departments, and those who use it have been trained. Stephenson urges the campus community to be patient.
“The system is a great asset and tool for the university,” he says, “but at the end of the day, it is a tool. The way we use it to work more efficiently and provide better service to our students and on- and off-campus clients will be how we get the return on investment. This implementation period is only the beginning. The real work and good use of the system will come from the people getting ready to use it.
“I know there is apprehension. Change is a hard thing for anyone—myself included, but I would like to assure everyone that it will be OK. That is not to say there will not be some struggles and a learning curve. There is always a learning curve with a new system.
“If you experience a problem with the system, contact our team. You were given contact information for help in your training. If we do not know the answer right away—remember, we are learning the system, too—we will work with you until the issue is resolved.
“However, even with the struggles, in the end you will have a new tool that will give you the opportunity to do things we could only talk about in the past.”
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