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ISP News
February 8, 2000

Going Project Centric
A Versatile Product
One of the strong selling points for Oracle was their commitment to designing products for higher education, specifically for grants management. Oracle Grants Management (OGM) is built on an established Oracle product called Projects, and allows one to charge multiple tasks to an activity, or project, and to fund that project from multiple funding sources. For example, a research project can be funded by a federal grant and state funds, and travel or supplies or salaries can be charged through the project to one or more of those sources as specified by the requirements of the sponsors.

While OGM was designed with grants in mind, the project concept is applicable far beyond sponsored research. "We have been meeting with deans, directors, and the ISP Advisory Committee," says Project Director Bill Randolph, "and it is clear that the reporting needs of virtually all of the University's departments would benefit from a project accounting approach. There are needs within schools and departments to account for activities by program, by faculty member, by center, by course offering, and the like. There are very similar needs in the administrative and support areas such as Housing and ITC."

Today departments are creating and using shadow and supplementary information systems to get the information they need for budgeting and management in a useable format. "People have also tried to use the University's general ledger, which should serve primarily as the official book of record, to try to do what OGM is built to do," Randolph says.

As a result, on February 2nd the ISP Executive Committee approved a Project Centric approach for the University of Virginia. This means that all transactions, except for few in the central offices, will be routed through the OGM application.

What's a PTAEO?

So what does this mean to those of us who enter these transactions? It means a new set of charging instructions called a PTAEO, which is an acronym for the five segments required for recording transactions in the Oracle Grants Management module: Project, Task, Award (fund source), Expenditure type (object code), and Organization. This new set of charging instructions will replace the current set of account codes, and it is possible that object codes will change as well. "All transactions will be charged to a project," says Randolph, "but we can certainly create projects that map to only one fund source, and that will simplify things for areas where project accounting is not needed."

In the initial conversion to the new project environment, the ISP and Financial Administration will work with departments and will convert their current accounts to a project format. "We will be starting off a bit slowly in the transition to the new environment," Randolph notes. "We will want to make sure we have the basics mastered before we begin to explore the more sophisticated features of the OGM module."

Better Decision-Making

Anda Webb, associate dean for Continuing Education and an ISP advisor, anticipates that the Project Centric approach will help create order out of chaos. "Like other schools at the University, we here in Continuing Education find ourselves 'lost in the details,' tracking expenditures either through shadow systems or manually on a yellow legal pad," she says. "I am looking forward to the day when we will be able to easily access the data we need and quickly make decisions based on good, solid information. While the concept of project-based tracking of expenditures is not a new one to the University, we will need to experience a shift in thinking as much of the work will now be done on the front-end, rather than after-the-fact. Continuing Education is looking forward to the new opportunities OGM will provide and making the transition to a new environment."

Bill Thurneck, assistant dean for administration and academic affairs for the School of Engineering and also an ISP advisor, adds, "The Project Centric approach should enable deans and other key decisions makers to retrieve information in a comprehensive and timely fashion, while this will, in turn, enable improved oversight and decision-making."


ISP TeamWork

The ISP teams are currently defining the future business model at a conceptual level, integrating the as-is processes mapped last month with the processes supported by the new Oracle applications, now focusing on a Project Centric approach. This future model will include preliminary indications of impacts on workflow, people, and physical infrastructure. Team members have interviewed deans and directors about reporting needs and continue to call on people throughout the University to fill in gaps from the information gathered during preparation of the Business Case. Over 100 interfaces have been identified that will have to be retained, eliminated, or created.

Getting Set Up for Set-up
Once the conceptual design is complete, the hands-on work begins for the teams, and the technical people at ISP are ready. "We are in the process of creating a dozen 'instances,'" says Virginia Evans, ISP technical lead. "Instances" are copies of the Oracle applications that staff members will use to "U.Va.ize" the Oracle software. Eight of the instances are considered part of the development environment and start out with the prepackaged "vanilla" Oracle software.

"Some of these development instances will be used to set up tables and populate them with information specific to the University of Virginia," says Evans. "Others will be used to build interfaces and convert data from the old systems to the new."

When the teams have populated and configured the system as they want it, the content from the development environment is transferred to three instances for "staging" and integration. One is a testing instance, another is for training, and a third is for conference room pilots. "If problems arise in any of these instances, adjustments are made back in the development environment before being returned to the staging instances and retested," reports Evans. "Only when we are satisfied that the test instance is working perfectly, without any problems, does the staging environment content transfer to the "gold" instance. This is the copy that will go into production."

Area Resource Teams On Board
The ISP advisors have spent the past month identifying their area resource team members and meeting with them to discuss their roles in helping to implement the Oracle applications. Each of the 21 ISP advisors represents one or more units of the University, together covering all units. Their teams are comprised of unit administrators and subject matter experts from, or representing, all units. ISP staff will be drawing on the expertise of these people for conference room pilots, testing, and training testing. The area resource team members will also ensure that all the people in their units who need to be trained on the Oracle applications in a given phase are identified and scheduled for training. We now have the names of our advisors and the areas they represent.

ISP Advisors Receive Oracle Overview Training

All the advisors who did not participate in the five-day Oracle overview training in December completed a three-day training session in January. "The ISP Advisory Committee members now have a far greater understanding and appreciation of the Oracle applications," observes James Potter, the ISP training manager who organized the training sessions. "This will be especially valuable as we proceed into the design phases of the project." Participants commented on the power of the software and the magnitude of the task of setting it up to do the work of the University. Bob Pate, associate dean for administrative services for the Curry School, was pleased to see concrete examples of the screens and navigation. Mark Reisler, associate dean for administration for the Darden School, found the presentation of the linkages between the different applications enlightening.

"Overviews of the Oracle applications will be available to the University community once it has been customized to our environment," says Potter.

ISP NEWS FROM OTHER PUBLICATIONS
Inside UVA February 4, 2000 Teams get to work on
bringing new integrated systems to U.Va.
Cavalier Daily December 1, 1999 Project consolidates informational systems

Go to ARCHIVED ISP NEWS DIRECTORY

 
The Project Centric approach should enable deans and other key decisions makers to retrieve information in a comprehensive and timely fashion.
 
 
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