The following questions and answers are intended to update the MIT community on the latest developments regarding the implementation of SAP, the Institute's new financial software.
Q. What will we use SAP for, and when?
A. The first phase that began August 1, 1997 includes:
- Lookup capability for Purchasing and Accounts Payable functions
- Generic reports, such as Account Summary and Detailed Transaction Reports
- Display of sponored billing data
The second phase beginning January 1, 1998 will include:
- On-line processing of SAP requisitions, electronic journal vouchers and manual encumbrances
- Routing of requisitions (workflow) and approval of requisitions (release strategies)
- Funds availability checking
Q. What happened over the summer, and where are we now?
A. In June, a Web-based tool, SAPweb, became available. It allows users to look up SAP purchase order information on their own. For example, if an administrative assistant wanted to know whether a vendor had been paid, she or he could enter an SAP purchase order number (or a paper or EREQ requisition number). The line items of the purchase order are displayed, along with processed invoices and checks that have been issued (or will be issued) against the invoices.
The SAPweb tool uses security features (available with Netscape Navigator 3.0 and higher) to ensure that only members of the MIT community can access the purchasing and invoice information. In March 1997, the Academic Council decided that viewing of purchasing data would be unrestricted within MIT.
The SAPweb tool was developed in response to the community's desire for lookup capabilities for purchase orders. Not only have community members found SAPweb useful, but its availability has also significantly reduced inquiries to Accounts Payable and Purchasing.
The Management Reporting Project conducted a successful pilot of SAP at the Sloan School during July and August. Many of the features that will be rolled out to the rest of the community beginning in January are already in use at Sloan.
In August, SAP training began for the first phase of Rollout98 to departments, labs and centers. Staff in the following areas were trained: the administrative offices of the president, the provost, the academic deans, and the vice president for research. These offices were followed by the School of Humanities and Social Science, the School of Architecture and Planning, Information Systems and Resource Development. (Staff in a few other areas also took the training, but those departments have not been fully trained.)
The training sequence begun in September is as follows: the School of Engineering, the School of Science, independent labs and remaining administrative offices.
Q. What does the training involve?
A. The training consists of two courses: SAP Basic Skills (scheduled for most mornings), and Display and Reporting in SAP (scheduled for most afternoons and some mornings). Participants may complete their training in one full day, or take the two courses on different days. Training is offered at the MIT Professional Learning Center in Building W89.
SAP Basic Skills is a generic course that covers the structure of SAP and navigation within SAP screens. It is offered in two formats: as a four-hour instructor-taught course and as a self-paced computer-based-training (CBT) course. Participants are encouraged to choose the CBT option, which permits each person to proceed at his or her own pace through the material. It also is an effective way for MIT to deliver training on a large scale. A CBT administrator is available during the training to answer questions.
The second half of the training, Display and Reporting in SAP, contains MIT-specific information on how to use SAP to do familiar financial tasks. This four-hour, instructor-led class covers the lookup of purchasing and accounts payable documents such as purchase orders, invoices and checks; and basic reports in SAP such as the Detailed Transaction Report (DTR) and Account Summary.
Some familiar MIT reports have been recreated in SAP, but are enhanced with "drill-down" capabilities that let users move from summary to detail in a few mouse clicks. The Display and Reporting course also covers some of the new language used in SAP (see accompanying article) and explains how it relates to MIT's terminology.
Q. Who should attend SAP training?
A. The training is aimed at requisitioners -- people who buy things for their departments -- and account monitors -- people who track expenses and reconcile financial statements. Faculty and others who work with financial reports may also benefit from attending. Ultimately, each organization determines who will be trained and which accounts those individuals are authorized to view.
THE NEW BUDGET SYSTEM
The Office of Budget and Financial Planning is developing a new budget system that will eventually replace MITBUD/BEERS, our legacy system, according to Stefano Falconi, director of the office. "While the features of the new system are by no means defined, we are considering several suggestions in the areas of budget submission, process and reporting," he said.
"Our constituents have offered suggestions, such as the following: a single submission tool -- preferably Web-based -- for developing and submitting both budgets and five-year plans; a shorter budget cycle; an opportunity to update current-year figures; and integration of the new budget system with the Data Warehouse," Mr. Falconi said. "While it is too early to determine which features will be included, I'll continue to seek feedback from the community on this topic."
SAP became the Institute's system of record on September 3, 1996. Since that date, the central financial offices have been using the software. For example, the Purchasing Department uses SAP to create purchase orders and blanket orders. The Controller's Accounting Office enters vendors' invoices and issues checks and travel advances in SAP. A series of new general and operating accounts were created, and the Office of Sponsored Programs creates new research accounts.
SAP brings real-time financial information to MIT through a common graphical user interface that provides a similar look and feel on the principal computer operating systems in use at the Institute (Macintosh, Windows and UNIX). Since SAP is an online integrated package, it eliminates a great deal of needless data re-entry.
Because of the connection between the purchasing and financial reporting processes, for the first time at MIT, commitments may be seen as soon as purchase orders are created. Overhead calculations are now done in real-time for some reports. Two other useful features of SAP are the ability to do multi-field searches and to "drill down" to source documents from a summary line item.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 24, 1997.