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Financial systems redesign progresses

The Reengineering Management Reporting Team is engaged in a two-part effort to reengineer MIT's financial systems and expects to have a pilot redesign in place later this fiscal year.

Starting last August, Management Reporting set out to achieve a redesign that would integrate processes and systems to deliver real-time financial and non-financial information across the Institute, reduce administrative activities connected with the procurement process, streamline the Institute's planning and budgeting processes, and lead to the adoption of a set of non-financial performance measures. The team's report was presented to the Reengineering Steering Committee late last year and approved.

As part of the early work associated with this redesign, it became clear that achieving the team's objective of providing integrated real-time financial information would require replacing key components of MIT's current financial systems.

Work last fall led to the selection of SAP's R/3 Release 3.0 as the system of choice and the decision to replace our current General Ledger, Accounts Payable and Receivable, Budget, Procurement, and Fixed Assets (Property) systems as soon as feasible. Functionality in the new integrated financial system will replace that found in these current financial applications including EREQ and the SumMIT

suite of functions which provide similar-though more limited-capabilities.

SAP AG was founded in 1972 by a small group of former IBM employees who were compelled by a vision of how technology could enable radical improvement in business processes. The company, located in Walldorf, Germany, began by developing standard financial applications for mainframe computers. Most recently, their product line has focused on integrated client/server financial applications.

(The full name for SAP is Systems, Applications and Products in Data Processing. It is almost never used.)

Work to define a new financial architecture for the Institute is almost complete. This work specifies the data architecture for financial data, a new chart of accounts, and the interfaces between the new financial system and the present systems and how these interfaces will change over time. This architecture will be presented to the Reengineering Steering Committee and the Management Reporting/Financial Operations Resource Team in August for review and comment.

Management Reporting/Financial Operations Release 1 will focus on implementing redesigned business processes to support the general accounting, purchasing, fixed assets accounting (property), accounts payable, and accounts receivable functions of the Institute. The locus of this work is in the Institute's central offices and will involve changes in work assignments and jobs in these offices. It will also include replacing the current computer systems that support these activities with the SAP system. Current plans call for Release 1's computer systems to go into test on April 1, 1996, and into production as the Institute's system of record on July 1, 1996.

Release 2 will focus on implementing redesigned business processes Institute-wide. Individuals in all of MIT's departments, laboratories, and centers will use these new processes for planning and budgeting, procurement, initiating journal vouchers, billing, revenue accounting, tracking property, close-outs and labor distribution. Release 2 is expected to be tried in a small number of organizational units later in fiscal year '96 and be implemented across the Institute in the first half of fiscal year 1997.

Katherine R. Cochrane is the overall team captain for these activities. Also on the leadership team are Laurence J. Connelly Jr., who will head the Release 1 team, Stephen R. Kellogg, who leads the Buy-Pay team, and Cynthia L. Vallino, who will direct activities focusing on end-user training, organizational structure, jobs and skills. Glenn P. Strehle, vice president for finance and treasurer, is the project's manager and co-sponsor. William R. Dickson, senior vice president and chairman of the Reengineering Steering Committee, and James D. Bruce, vice president for information systems and program manager for reengineering, will also serve with Mr. Strehle as co-sponsors of the project.

Given the systems work underway, the functionality of the current financial applications to be replaced by the new system, including EREQ and the SumMIT applications, will not be extended. Those applications will not be supported beyond June 30, 1997. At that time, these Institute business operations will run in the new environment, and the server systems and data to drive the current applications will no longer be available.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on July 19, 1995.

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