by Barbara Black
Last March you read a front-page article in CTR about Concordia's new financial information system, SCT Banner 2000, which was purchased at a considerable saving with McGill University.
Since then, Concordia's Financial Services Department has been hard at work preparing for the big switchover on June 1, 1999. Larry Tansey, Manager of Processes, Systems and Policies, explained in an interview just how carefully this is being done.
One of the priorities was to secure the support of the future users of the system by involving them in the design and building of the new system. This was done by establishing "process teams."
Representatives from each functional area of Financial Services, members of Instructional and Information Technology Services (IITS) and end users sat down together to build the new system. In addition, bodies like the University's budget administrators are being consulted on a regular basis.
"Support from the University community has been terrific," Tansey said. A technical team, led by Wendy Hedrich and Peter Paquet, has been busy directing all the computer resources necessary for the project's success. Programmers, network specialists, database administrators and others have all been hard at work for the past few months to get the system up and running.
The Director of Academic Technology for the Faculty of Arts and Science, Andrew McAusland, has also lent a helping hand. When Financial Services switched their desktops from Macintosh to PC, it was McAusland who provided the training courses in the use of PCs. The courses are recorded on camera and then placed on a Web site, where the user can view them at leisure.
The FIS project is being directed by the Management Information Systems Steering Committee (senior administrators). Reporting to them are the members of the Implementation Team (directors and senior managers of Financial Services and representatives of IITS).
The reason for the June 1, 1999, deadline is the Y2K factor, which is not met by the old system. To be sure there is a smooth transition, a test environment has been created where users can go in and work on Banner. By next June, general ledger, purchasing, budget and grants management will be ready for the new system.
"It has a lot of nice features," Tansey said, particularly accessibility for the individual user. The current FIS is an awkward animal, with two or three steps to every task. By June 2000, when Banner will be in general use, such tasks now done on paper, like the procurement of goods and services, the issuing of purchasing orders, and the cutting of cheques, will be done electronically.
"A system doesn't usually meet all your requirements, but we will do a minimum of modifications at first," Tansey said. Requisition forms, vendor tables, purchase orders -- all will be redesigned for maximum efficiency and accessibility to staff in every department.
"It will have a major effect on everyone," Tansey promised, and the training and preparation will be thorough. "The ground's not going to shake on June 1, but it will be the first step in changing the way financial business is done in the University."
Want to learn more about the new FIS? Consult the Web site designed by Eric Patton at: http://relish.concordia.ca/treasury/fis/sct.html
The Procurement Process Team meet every Thursday morning to prepare for the new financial information system. In the back row are Luc Metras (IITS), Henry Kovalcik (Electrical and Computer Engineering), Jong Kwon (IITS), Anna Gentile (McGill University), Nick Doulas (Purchasing Services, and team leader) and Pat Pietromonaco (Distribution Services). Seated, left to right, are Joan Soares (FS Policies, Systems and Procedures), Sandy Whitney (Accounts Payable), Larry Tansey, Catherine Wickham (Purchasing Services) and Wendy Hedrich (IITS). Miriam Posner (Chemistry and Biochemistry) is missing from the photo.