Published on 27-Jan-2010
Validated on 01 Jan 2013
"“We did a rigorous assessment of our existing systems from a functionality standpoint, and they didn’t meet our current needs " - Warren St. Germaine, Comptroller General for the Government of the Northwest Territories.
IBM Business Partner:
The key function of government is to provide services to citizens, so there is a built-in mandate–not to mention a political need–to devote as much budget money as possible to that effort. Because of this, government agencies sometimes find themselves having to choose between internal spending that enables them to do their jobs effectively and using taxpayer money for vitally needed social programs. That is a significant challenge for Canada’s Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT).
With increasing functionality require-ments, resource constraints and financial systems reaching end-of-life, the government of Canada’s Northwest Territories needed to deploy a new application suite that would integrate with its existing software and systems as quickly and cost-effectively as possible.
Government staff teamed with IBM Global Business Services to implement a state-of-the-art PeopleSoft financials package, integrate it with the existing PeopleSoft HR application and create seamless interfaces with Northwest Territories’ other systems. As part of the project, IBM also assisted with business process reengineering, training and change management.
Offers improved accounting capabilities and reporting for faster turnaround and better decision making• Enables greater transparency and visibility into expenditures• Provides commonality of processes and data across departments, yielding deeper insight
Keeping the wheels of government turning
Governments face challenges and priorities that are distinctly different from private-sector organizations. The key function of government is to provide services to citizens, so there is a built-in mandate–not to mention a political need–to devote as much budget money as possible to that effort. Because of this, government agencies sometimes find themselves having to choose between internal spending that enables them to do their jobs effectively and using taxpayer money for vitally needed social programs. That is a significant challenge for Canada’s Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT).
GNWT’s financial systems are a case in point. The systems were originally put in place in the early 1980s, built around what was then state-of-the-art application software. While it served the government well for 28 years, performing the necessary accounting tasks, no tech-nology can be maintained indefinitely and the software had reached the end of its useful life. GNWT was thus faced with an urgent need to bring its applications up to date. This challenge was a prime driver of the decision to implement new systems, but it wasn’t the only one; the application suite’s capabilities needed a refresh, as well.
“We did a rigorous assessment of our existing systems from a functionality standpoint, and they didn’t meet our current needs,” says Warren St. Germaine, Comptroller General for the Government of the Northwest Territories. “They were good when originally deployed, but today we need more automation and speed to get a better handle on our finances. Many tasks relied on human interven-tion–for example, the system could not do routine things like apply interest. To get proper payment figures we’d have to take raw infor-mation from the systems and process it manually. There was also a lot of redundant effort because the various accounting systems were not well integrated with one another. At the end of the day, it came down to the simple fact that the risk of keeping the old systems going exceeded the cost of replacing them.”
Limited internal resources in terms of staffing played a part in how GNWT addressed this challenge. As part of an earlier cost-cutting program, the number of staff tasked with, among other things, supporting the systems had been reduced significantly. Given the clear need to act quickly and without the ability to properly evaluate, select and implement a new financial application infrastructure on its own, GNWT looked to external partners for assistance.
Finding the right solution and putting it in place
IBM Global Business Services helped guide GNWT through an extensive software selection process. Taking advantage of the opportunity to make the financial systems not only newer but better, GNWT and IBM created a comprehensive list of what the new system should be able to do. Some 2,500 individual parameters covering areas such as required functionality, cost of ownership and ease of integration were considered, with a point score attached to each item. That process led to the selection of a PeopleSoft application suite.
The next step was to deploy the financials solution. GNWT initiated a new, competitive bid for this part of the project, to avoid any possible conflict of interest due to vendor involvement in the earlier software selection process. Once again, IBM Global Business Services came out on top. “IBM won for a number of reasons,” says Louise Lavoie, Assistant Comptroller General. “We selected them based on their extensive familiarity with Oracle/PeopleSoft as well as their leadership in technology services. The quality of the team was very high. We also appreciated their direct experience, not only with large PeopleSoft deployments, but with government-specific work and Canadian projects as well. Our needs differ somewhat from those in the U.S., so having Canada-specific experience was a plus.”
The close IBM relationship with Oracle delivers added value for customers like GNWT, because it complements the company’s deep industry, business and technical expertise. This makes IBM a one-stop implementation partner for PeopleSoft deployments, with the ability to handle the entire project without having to involve additional contractors–which means greater speed, efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
IBM Global Business Services was involved in the project from end to end, helping implement the PeopleSoft financial applications on GNWT’s servers of choice, and also assisted with data migration, integration with the existing PeopleSoft human resources and payroll system, interface with remaining legacy applications, business process reengineering, change management and training.
“The assistance we got from IBM was invaluable in supplementing our departmental subject matter experts and implementation team,” says Warren St. Germaine. “The dedicated IBM team kept us on track throughout the project.”
Valuable lessons learned
GNWT learned some valuable first-hand lessons in ensuring major systems rollouts go smoothly. Internal support came easily, says Lavoie. “When we did the initial gap analysis that showed the differences between existing capabilities and what the new platform would be able to do, our managers were very excited. So we got buy-in early,” she says.
Change management was a key issue, Lavoie notes. “We found that the level of preparedness of each department had a direct impact on how satisfied the end users were when we launched. So making sure that the implementation team supports the managers is important, but so is circling back with them and making sure everyone is ready to go when the day arrives.”
A new day
The new system not only fills in the basic accounting gaps found in the previous system, it also helps to automate many activities that had been done manually, such as tracking project and program spending, and doing travel expenses.
Reporting and reconciliation, too, is much more effective. “Our close at month-end is much closer to real time,” says St. Germaine. “Producing monthly variance reports could take as long as three weeks with the old system, which really hurt their usefulness. Now, after month end, we can produce that information in just a couple of days, so we can make decisions based on data that impacts the current month. This is important when tracking fast-developing events, like spending on the current H1N1 outbreak.”
The new system also provides commonality of data and processes across departments, which leads to better information. “That’s important because it gives our managers much greater visibility and the ability to drill down into the information more easily,” says Lavoie. “So now we have the tools we need to make much better and more informed business decisions, more quickly. For example, if spending is off track in a particular area, we can take corrective action much faster, which saves precious budget dollars.”
Looking to the future
The new financial application suite is more than a direct replacement for the legacy systems. “We’ve been looking at adopting a shared-services approach for all financial services in the government. This system is the starting point for that. There are lots of things we can add to it, now that the foundation is in place. That should carry us well into the future,” says St. Germaine.
“For now, we’ve got what we need. The system is fully functional and while we’re still in the learning curve, it’s doing what we wanted it to do and more,” concludes St. Germaine. “We will become more efficient overall, and we have capabilities we never had before. We’re quite satisfied, and we couldn’t have gotten here without the help of the IBM team.”
For more information
To find out more about how IBM and Oracle solutions work together and how IBM Global Business Services can help transform your IT infrastructure, please contact your IBM representative or Business Partner, or visit us at:ibm.com/solutions/oracle
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