Coordinators help areas prepare for SAP rollout


Four school and area coordinators are playing an important role this summer in helping MIT offices prepare for the next steps in the rollout of SAP, MIT's new financial system.

Toby Levi, administrative officer of the List Visual Arts Center, worked with School of Science coordinator Brian Tavares in June. "Dealing with Brian was quite refreshing," said Ms. Levi. "He came in with no assumptions about what we knew about SAP, and was ready to explain everything in detail. We showed him how we need to track our expenses, and then Brian explained how we could accomplish that in SAP��������������������������� It's good to know that even with a small department like ours, SAP can fit our needs."

Last year, the Management Reporting Project team and the assistant deans proposed the appointment of resource and liaison people -- a team of individuals who understand the business activities in the Institute's departments, labs and centers (DLCs), and who could work with DLCs to complete the transition to sap. They felt that the successful implementation of sap required that the Management Reporting team and the users understand their common objectives.

"Realizing that administrators are faced with the challenge of maintaining their normal workflow while implementing a new financial system, we saw the need for people who could help them understand what sap can do, how to best navigate through the system and produce reports, and how to rethink the work they do in an effort to streamline current methods," said Sheila Kanode, assistant dean for finance and personnel in the School of Engineering. "We went out to look for people who understood the daily administrative challenges facing the DLCs -- and thought it very important that this understanding be based on direct dlc experience."

TEAM MEMBERS

A search committee selected Robert Davine, Jennifer Kratochwill and Brian Tavares to be the new school coordinators. Because they need to represent both the interests of the academic areas and Management Reporting, the three coordinators report jointly to Assistant Provost for Administration Doreen Morris and Management Reporting Project Director Katherine Cochrane.

Ms. Cochrane designated Management Reporting team member Shirley Picardi to serve as an area coordinator. Dr. Picardi works in the same manner as the school coordinators, but focuses instead on the offices in the student and nonacademic areas.

Efforts are under way to fill two additional school/area coordinator positions. Interested candidates with at least five years of MIT experience, a keen understanding of the business activities of one or more DLCs, and a basic understanding of fundamental accounting principles should contact MIT personnel officer Jennifer Walsh at x3-4275.

The school and area coordinators have an intimate knowledge of how the DLCs do their business. Longtime MIT staff member Robert Davine, for instance, came to the SAP rollout from the Center for International Studies, where he was the administrative officer. In 1996, he served on the research management implementation team.

"As a former AO, I know how departments operate, and this knowledge is essential to assist administrators in setting up their departments for requisitioning," said Mr. Davine. He is currently the coordinator for the School of Humanities and Social Science, the School of Architecture and Planning, and the areas under the vice president for research.

"After working on several reengin-eering efforts, I thought it would be exciting to work directly on the rollout of SAP," Ms. Kratochwill said. She is the former fiscal officer for the Laboratory for Computer Science and now serves as the coordinator for the School of Engineering. She has participated on Management Reporting's departmental procurement implementation team, internal provider team and requisition testing team.

Mr. Tavares has been at MIT for 10 years, first as the fiscal officer in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, and most recently as a member of the internal audit staff. In early 1995, he served on the original Management Reporting team, which developed the management reporting vision that the Institute later adopted. In the summer of 1996, he was a member of the financial management implementation team.

"I wanted to take an active role in the changes going on at the Institute," he said. "This is a great chance for me to learn how the departments can best conduct their business with SAP today, and see what additional capabilities will be available to them in the future." Mr. Tavares is assisting the departments in the School of Science and the areas reporting to the provost.

Dr. Picardi could serve as a cross-functional team all by herself. Among the positions that she has held over the past 28 years at MIT are graduate student, Industrial Liaison Officer, secretary of the Alumni Association, bursar, and most recently, director of I/T Competency in Information Systems. In the spring of 1994, she was a member of the original core reengineering team that assessed and recommended to senior administration which Institute processes could most benefit from reengineering efforts.

SUMMER WORK

This summer, the coordinators are helping administrative and fiscal officers design an optimal financial structure and a requisition approval structure for their areas. The key tool for this work is a spreadsheet (often large) showing all the "cost objects" (general, fund and research accounts) that are currently assigned to the department.

In SAP, cost objects are grouped into "funds centers," which are used to control budgeting and spending. The bulk of the setup work involves assigning meaningful groups of funds centers to "spending groups," based on common requisitioners and/or approvers. Rather than requiring each requisitioner to have approval for each cost object, requisitioners can be given authority to spend or commit funds on a funds center -- or on an entire spending group. By eliminating the need to grant requisitioning authority for each new cost object, maintenance of the approval structure is much easier. Funds center authority automatically covers new cost objects as they are added to a funds center.

"My approach is to provide data about a department's accounts and users, and help them understand SAP and their options for a new financial structure," explained Dr. Picardi. "I then gather enough information to hand off to the authorization setup team so they can begin their configuration work. I might end up contacting each area four times over the summer to get the structure just right. It's an iterative process."

KEEP IT SIMPLE

Dr. Picardi is urging her contacts to keep it simple. "SAP is a robust product that is used in all kinds of organizations. You can configure it to be as complicated as you want, but maintenance down the road could be onerous. A simple structure is easier to set up and to maintain."

The coordinators are now working in high gear. They expect to visit every department, lab, center and administrative office by mid-August. Following the end of the current rollout, they will continue to work with their assigned areas to refine and enhance the basic implementation.

"I'm impressed by how much SAP knowledge is already in place," said Ms. Kratochwill. "Many of the people I meet with have already mastered the new terminology and have given some thought to how they would like to structure their areas."

Mr. Davine is finding that the departments he visits are ready to move forward -- with varying degrees of enthusiasm. "I thought I might encounter a lot of anxiety," he said. "This new system does ask people to change some of the ways that they work. However, the Institute is committed to SAP, and people want to get on with the changes."

The school and area coordinators welcome suggestions from the MIT community on how they can best help departments, labs and centers prepare for the rollout of SAP. The full coordinator team can be contacted via e-mail at mr-sac@mit.edu.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on July 15, 1998.


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