The University Record, June 25, 1997

M-Pathways: ‘Pilots’ help straighten out the maze

By Gretchen Weir
M-Pathways Project

Like mapmakers, the M-Pathways General Ledger and Procurement teams have spent the last year learning the lay of the land. They have charted the steps we take to buy goods and services. They have mapped how we set up budgets and accounts. By talking with the "locals," they've learned about the shortcuts as well as the official routes.

As a result, they are constructing new, direct routes through our maze of procedures. In May and June, these teams invited nearly 250 people from across campus to try out the new M-Pathways financial systems. During full-day "Conference Room Pilots" (CRPs), attendees used PeopleSoft software to establish budgets, order supplies, assign costs, check encumbrances, post payments and view reports. The reactions were positive.

"They showed us a lot," reports Anita McDermott, of the Institute for Social Research, "and clearly explained how the new systems will work." Attendees particularly liked using PeopleSoft software during the hands-on portion of the CRP.

"Most budgeting today is done in shadow or ancillary systems," says Pam Fons, one of the leads of the General Ledger Team. "CRP participants were able to post budgets and expenses and see how the two interact in the same system."

The test sessions are designed to uncover what the attendees don't like. "I really appreciated that we could ask questions at any time," says Libby Molnar, an account coordinator at University Library. "At the end of the session, we saw all the comments they had recorded. It was good to know they were going to consider our suggestions."

"Several people complained that the price of an item doesn't appear on the first procurement screen," says Jim Peters, who leads the M-Pathways Procurement Team. "That's an example of the kind of helpful comment we will apply as we finalize the system. While we want to modify PeopleSoft as little as possible so that we will be able to upgrade easily, we may make some changes to meet the University's needs."

The teams are analyzing the suggestions to see which ones they can include in the final product.

The General Ledger and Procurement Conference Room Pilots were the first in a series. PeopleSoft's recruitment software, which will be in place in April 1998 to recruit students for fall 1999, a pre-award research administration package called GAMS, and the U-M's Space Management System will be tested in Conference Room Pilots in July. Check our Web page (http://www.mpathways.umich.edu) for more information.