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ITD chooses new financial management system

ITD will begin laying a foundation this spring for conversion to a new Integrated Financial Management System.
American Management Systems (AMS) recently emerged as the top choice among five bidders to provide a replacement for the Oracle system now used to handle the department’s financial, human resources and supply functions.

One of the first tasks in moving to the new system, explains Ken Stewart, automated systems manager for Administrative Services Division, is to complete a thorough gap analysis – a review of ITD’s software needs compared to the capabilities of AMS’s software, Advantage 3.

The primary deliverables from this project phase will be a detailed project plan, preliminary design specifications for the new system and a clear definition of what is in and what is out of scope. The gap analysis will begin on April 5 and will last a couple of months.

AMS is a web-based system – a significant change from the current Oracle Applications based system. Consequently, developers in the Information Systems section will be among the first trained to support the new system and will be exposed to several foundational classes for supporting web-based applications.

Much of the training specifically addressing the AMS software will be through self-paced, technology-based training. As soon as the materials are delivered, ITD will begin to make them available to the project team members. Additional, instructor-led classes will be provided to several key staff members to prepare them to train most of the ITD system users.

Because Advantage 3 is web-based, the new financial management program will reside on the web rather than have components installed on individual workstations. This will provide substantial support benefits to the IS help desk and district IS coordinators.

Changes, upgrades, or patches need only be applied at the server to benefit each system user. This is in contrast to the current requirement for these support people to maintain “fat client” software on hundreds of computers throughout the department.

Today, more than 300 ITD employees regularly use the Oracle Applications based system to manage the processes housed within IFMS. A similar number will also have access to manage the processes in Advantage 3 but the most visible increase to this number will be in preparing and submitting timesheets.

An estimated 1,200 users are expected to begin using web-based, on-line timesheets upon project completion. All ITD employees who have access to the World Wide Web eventually will be able to use the system’s timesheet capabilities and so this number is expected to rise as more maintenance sheds install suitable internet access.

The new system is expected to reduce errors and make the filing of timesheets a much simpler, faster and more accurate process, Stewart explains.

A key opportunity with the Advantage 3 software will be evident to those who pay bills and process reimbursements from the Federal Highway Administration. The new financial management system will interface with FWHA and the federal system, providing a streamlined process of obtaining reimbursements for federal projects.

ITD could become a pioneer for the product in Idaho. Other state agencies are anxious to see how well Advantage 3 works for the transportation department with the potential of adopting the AMS system for their own needs.

Oracle has served ITD admirably, but did so through extensive customizations. Often those customizations fell short of the department’s complex needs, Stewart suggests.

AMS has had 30 years of meeting the needs of public agencies. It designed Advantage 3 from the ground up to serve the unique demands of government. In contrast, Oracle is a product adapted from the private sector to fill the needs of a public agency.

“We’ve had success with Oracle, but we need to move on to the next level of technology and use a system that was built to serve public-sector needs,” Steward said.

ITD began looking a different software packages and solutions in February 2001 and completed drafting requirements the following year. The process of refining and modifying those requirements continued into 2003, and a request for proposal was published in late spring. Evaluation of the five bid proposals began in August 2003 and concluded with a letter of intent to American Financial Systems last month.