ITD’s march to a new comprehensive financial management system is making steady progress and should culminate with full implementation before the end of this year.
Initially, the transition team that is shepherding the complex process expected testing to be complete this spring, with a staged migration by the beginning of the 2006 fiscal year, July 1. That target has been moved back several months, explains Janice Biggins, coordinator for the American Management System (AMS) Advantage project.
“With several customized changes in the AMS program, we haven’t had enough time to do the completed testing yet; we wanted to have it thoroughly tested and ready to implement before we rolled it out,” Biggins explains. “We don’t want to introduce it until we are confident all of the conversions are compatible.”
As a result, the AMS transition team expects to begin with the phased introduction of online time sheets in November. Because it will require some user training, Biggins expects separate instruction/implementation in each district. Training at Headquarters also will be a staged process.
“The Executive Team has been very supportive of delaying the go-live date. They want to make sure we implement a complete and thorough solution.”
The transition team devoted the past several months to “prototyping,” tests within the system all the way to the user level. They have done a conversion test three times, Biggins says.
Unit testing, which covers a number of business scenarios and the functionality of each component, is under way. The process will test the validity of the setup that was completed in the prototyping phase and is expected to take about two months.
After unit testing, the process will move into system testing – a review of the business processes from “end to end to check the flow of financial information. The final testing phase, user acceptance, will begin late this summer. It will include a number of end users who will work directly in the system to assure a stable environment,” Biggins adds.
It will be similar to the beta testing of new computer programs and will include users from outside the transition team.
Testing should be finished by mid-September with data conversion to begin in October.
As many as one-half of the eventual users will be exposed to the system before user acceptance training, allowing them to “get their feet wet before learning how to swim.”
Biggins said the new financial system includes only about 13 customizations for ITD; the intent was to modify the AMS program, known as Advantage, as little as possible. The most significant departure from the shelf version is ITD’s unique time sheets.
Although CGI-AMS recently introduced a new version of Advantage, ITD will continue to work on implementing the previous generation, anticipating that it will be easy to catch up with the upgrades in the near future.
“It’s been very flexible,” Biggins said of the new system. Only a minor number of internal changes have been required to make it more efficient.” But some of the customizations ITD has integrated into Advantage likely will be incorporated in future CGI-AMS releases.
ITD is the first state agency in Idaho to adopt the new financial management system. Representatives of the State Controller’s Office have helped the transition team work on solutions that will require integration with the state system. They also have been following its progress with great interest and may consider converting to Advantage.