A final detailed project plan for the remainder of the rollout of SAP (MIT's new accounting system) to departments, labs and centers is being developed by a planning team formed in December 1997 at the request of Vice Presidents William Dickson and James Bruce.
As Mr. Dickson noted recently, the scale of this planning task is in some ways similar to that of planning a major construction project. "There are 60 related deliverables [work products and processes] that will make up the SAP rollout," he said. "We need to make sure that each one is ready when needed and is staffed appropriately. All obstacles to moving forward must be clearly identified and dealt with before they become major stumbling blocks.
"We have not engaged in many planning efforts of this scope at MIT," Mr. Dickson added. "Like insurance -- which most of us hate to buy -- planning is viewed as too expensive until you need it, and then it's too late to get it. It's always tempting to say 'Let's just finish the job. Planning is a waste of time.' In this instance, I disagree with that view. Only with thorough detailed planning will we be able to do this job efficiently."
"We originally hoped to be training new users in reporting, journal vouchers and requisitioning by now," Professor Bruce said. "We paused for a while to produce this plan, and the effort is really important to be sure that we get where we need to go. Once the planning effort is completed in March, we will have a general announcement regarding the details of the rollout."
The goal is to produce a plan with a schedule of activities for each aspect of the rollout. One important outcome of the planning process will be identifying any lack of resources required to finish each part of the rollout.
To ensure that the plan is manageable, the Process Owners' Council will be asked to review and approve the scope for the SAP rollout when the final plan is delivered. Following approvals, any changes in the project's scope must go through a specific process, including a formal schedule change and reallocation (or addition) of resources.
The planning team developed a list of technical and business issues that need to be decided before the rollout can proceed. These issues are being presented to either the Process Owners' Council, the individual process owners or the Academic Council for decisions.
The Process Owners' Council is a collaborative body that makes decisions regarding changes to MIT's business processes, changes to the SAP system, new SAP development, and system maintenance issues. In addition to Vice Presidents Dickson and Bruce, the Council includes Vice President Glenn Strehle, Katherine Cochrane (Management Reporting), Robert Ferrara (Information Systems), James Morgan (Controller's Accounting Office), Julie Norris (Office of Sponsored Programs), Chuck Shaw (Audit Division), Stefano Falconi (Budget and Financial Planning), Diane Shea (Purchasing), Victoria Sirianni (Physical Plant), and Doreen Morris (Office of the Provost).
MIT staff on the SAP planning team include Ms. Cochrane (leader), Steven Kellogg, Linda Lancaster, Robert Murray, Paul Page, Shirley Picardi and John-Marc Quilter from Management Reporting; Wayne Turner from the Controller's Accounting Office; and Mr. Ferrara from Information Systems.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 11, 1998.