Sloan leads the way as SAP accounting system pilot site


The Sloan School of Management made the leap to SAP on July 8 when they began as a pilot site for MIT's new financial systems functionality for departments, laboratories and centers.

"Now that I actually see an SAP account manager's report, I'm very pleased," said Ellen Baum, Sloan's director of financial services.

Ms. Baum is one of the first School administrators at MIT to experience what it is like to do real work in the SAP environment. "What's really neat is that I can drill down from the account manager's report to an individual account statement, then to a detail transaction report, and finally to the transaction itself. I won't be rummaging around in files for pieces of paper anymore. All our preparation work now seems worth it," she said.

The preparation work Ms. Baum referred to is the months of effort that preceded the launch last week of SAP at Sloan. What started in January as an exploration of SAP's high-level reporting and analysis tools evolved over time into the first pilot of the full functionality of MIT's new financial system.

The Sloan pilot precedes the release of the SAP software to the rest of the MIT community, which is occurring in two phases. During the initial phase of "Rollout98"--which starts on August 1--authorized users in departments, labs and centers will use SAP to look up purchase order, invoice and payment information, and to perform some of the reporting activities currently done in $SumMIT and in the CAO application.

When the second phase of the rollout begins on January 2, 1998, users will also be able to create requisitions and journal vouchers and manually set aside funds for anticipated future expenditures. In addition, departments will have an option of testing transactions against budgets for funds availability.

Between now and January, the Management Reporting team (MR) will work with the Sloan School and a few other representative pilots to evaluate and fine-tune the functionality to be delivered to the rest of MIT in the second phase of rollout. At the same time, MR and the Sloan School will continue working with the assistant provost and the assistant deans to develop SAP's high-level reporting and analysis tools.

The original rollout schedule for MIT's new SAP financial system called for the Sloan School to be the initial pilot test site. Although rollout and pilot plans have been modified significantly since then, the Sloan School remained eager to be in the vanguard of exploring the more advanced features of the SAP system.

COLLABORATING ON SAP

During the preparation for the pilot, the MR Project worked with Donna Behmer, Sloan's senior associate dean, and Ms. Baum in two areas: 1) configuring SAP to best meet the business needs of a department, and 2) determining which SAP reporting tool best met the management information and analysis needs of Sloan deans and other MIT senior officers. This was accomplished through an evolving collaboration among the Controller's Accounting Office, Management Reporting and Sloan.

"There has been a lot of settling in related to changing business processes--for example, determining what is now on paper, what is electronic, and how do roles and responsibilities change," Ms. Behmer said. "The most often-asked question to the implementation team was, 'What do I do with this form that I used to fill out and send to [Building] E19?'"

"We thought the overriding challenge would be learning the technology," she said. "While that does require its fair share of time, the most difficult and ongoing challenge will be understanding and implementing changes in how we do business. We are very pleased to be serving as the pilot and are eager to share what we've learned with others."

PREPARING FOR CHANGE

In late May, in order to prepare for the major changes that would take place, the entire CAO/Management Reporting/Sloan pilot implementation team attended a class on managing change led by Margaret Ann Gray and Kip Warren of the Training and Development Planning Team.

"The course outlines five keys to implementing change successfully," said Ms. Gray. "It identifies the stages of change in organizations and clarifies what leaders should do during each stage. This enables leaders to help others move through the transition and anchor the changes."

"At Sloan, we became aware of how critical it is for us to recognize and respect differences in how those we work with will adapt to change," Ms. Behmer said after taking the course.

The MR Project has been working to bring about change for some time. The "Leading Change" course provided implementation team members with a useful tool both to assess how they are doing and to identify ways in which they might improve.

"There is one area in which I think we could do better," said John Hynes, who coordinated the MR portion of the Sloan pilot. "Management Reporting needs to work even harder, partnering with departments, labs and centers, to foster business change as the new financial system is introduced. The Sloan School pilot pushed us toward changes which exceeded even our own expectations."

In addition to Ms. Behmer, Ms. Baum and Mr. Hynes, members of the implementation team include Jim Morgan and Gill Emmons from the Controller's Accounting Office and Friedemann Arnold, Trish Gilardi, Sue Keohan, Uwe Kiewat, Wai-Ming Li, Karen McCollin, Linda Scatamacchia and Wayne Turner from the Management Reporting Project.

TRAINING AT SLOAN

After completing the "Leading Change" course, the members of the implementation team turned their attention to preparing the Sloan community. A paramount concern was ensuring that SAP users in Sloan had both the skills and the tools that they would need.

"We trained about 45 Sloan staff in a sequence of nine courses, which included SAP overview and terminology, requisitions, journal vouchers, reporting, and the lookup of financial and purchasing information," said Linda Lancaster, the MR manager of SAP training. "Some of the classes had a few rough edges as we did a pilot test of our delivery and content, but everyone tried hard to make the experience a success."

"This was a real collaborative effort," she added. "The sequence of classes included two taught by Donna Behmer on the impact of SAP on Sloan's business. That helped to tie SAP together with the work participants were doing in their offices."

As training progressed, a major and parallel effort was underway to enhance the Sloan School's computing environment. "I was very concerned about the effect that all of this rapid change would have on the members of the Sloan community," said Theresa Regan. She led the Information Systems team that worked with Sloan to provide the appropriate upgrades and to ensure that all hardware, software, network and printing issues were addressed.

"What impressed me most, in the end, was the satisfaction that so many users experienced as they came to appreciate their own ability to adapt to the new environment," Ms. Regan said.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on July 16, 1997.


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