Sept. 22-28, 2000
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U.Va.'s new online finance system nearing completion

By Rebecca Arrington

After 18 months, U.Va.'s Integrated Systems Project staff, working with employees in a number of departments and with software company Oracle, have completed the design stage in finance and are now at the build-and-test stage.

ISP estimates that 90 percent of the affected employees already have the basic technology skills needed to use the custom-designed Oracle programs.

ISP prioritized the work necessary to replace the University's archaic, often incompatible and redundant business operation processes into three timelines. Phase one targets the University's financial processes. Departments will begin using the new set of integrated software applications for this area in July. Phase two will develop integrated systems for human resources and payroll tasks; and phase three will produce new applications for the student information system.

Beginning next month, ISP advisers will be meeting with key finance personnel in such areas as grants management, accounts payable and receivable, and labor distribution to make sure that the interests of every unit on Grounds are reflected in the final product.

Barbara Henry, ISP team leader for labor distribution who still works half-time as director of HR's management system, likes the new program and thinks the roughly 600 U.Va. employees who will be using it come July 1 will, too. "Wow, I can do that," is what Henry hears employees say at meetings where the new system is demonstrated.

"Users won't see too many changes," she said, but the new system will allow departments more flexibility and ownership. For example, departments will enter data themselves, instead of sending it to Human Resources for data entry. They can also view what they've entered online and make changes, if necessary.

The new Oracle program will separate U.Va.'s funding information from its personnel data, which in the old system was lumped together. The new system also will replace U.Va.'s old funding account and object code information with five new data categories, called PTAEO (project, task, award, expenditure type, and organization). The new system will eliminate the need for shadow systems, as well, which departments now create to have electronic records of paper reports generated by HR.

The University's current budget program is being replaced, too, with Oracle's "Awards and Projects" system. The conversion will take place over two fiscal years. Next year's budget will be prepared on both the current program and the new Oracle system.

"This is the only time we'll do this in duplicate fashion," said Colette Sheehy, vice president for management and budget, who is also a member of the ISP executive committee. "In addition to serving as a good learning exercise, this method will create an important link between University budgets prior to fiscal year '01-02 and after," she said.

Switching to an integrated system reduces maintenance costs, makes the work easier and more effective and provides better service to faculty, staff and students, said ISP chief Bill Randolph.

The "go live" date for ISP's finance phase -- when the new software will be implemented -- is July 1. Many U.Va. employees will be affected by this change, and ISP will provide training sessions before the switchover. ISP estimates, however, that 90 percent of the affected employees already have the basic technology skills needed to use the custom-designed Oracle programs.

Users will also have access to a reference manual, which generates user guides, both in print and online. One feature of the online guide is a visual flow chart of the entire procedure. "If the user gets stuck mid-task, he or she can call up the flow chart, click on the specific task, and see step-by-step instructions," said ISP training manager James Potter, who compared the program to a "user-friendly version of U.Va.'s infamous gray financial procedures manual."

ISP's phase two HR and payroll systems will go live July 1, 2002. The student information system should follow in January 2004.

Information about ISP is available online at; information about training is at



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