The University Record, July 22, 1998
By Gretchen Weir
On July 1, the M-Pathways General Ledger and Procurement systems went into operation, changing how the University captures detail about financial transactions and purchases goods and services. To date, approximately 1,700 staff and faculty have been granted access to the system, with an additional 1,900 individuals scheduled to be authorized by September.
Converting to these new financial systems is a tremendous task. A full two years of cooperative effort supplied by schools, colleges, non-academic units, Financial Operations and Purchasing Services were needed to design the new financial processes and ready the PeopleSoft software.
We are now entering an equally important and challenging phase. Over the next months, the University community will gain experience using the new system and adjust work practices to capitalize on its capabilities. The system itself must prove its reliability, and any technical problems that arise must be fixed quickly so that work is not disrupted for long.
Although users receive training on the software before gaining access, there will be a period of adjustment as individual units determine how best to use the new reports and purchasing methods. Some trial-and-error is inevitable, and offices may find routine tasks take longer at first. This transition period will affect thousands of people in the University--anyone who administers budgets, authorizes payments or purchases goods.
Provost Nancy Cantor and Robert Kasdin, executive vice president and chief financial officer, recognize that the benefits of M-Pathways won't be realized until the system is stable and new practices are in place. They are letting units know how much they appreciate the additional effort and patience required of staff and faculty during the transition.
The introduction of the financial system is a large step toward preparing the University's information systems for the 21st century, but it is only part of the process. October will see another important step as the majority of University's admission systems are replaced by PeopleSoft's software. The Medical and Law schools will pilot student administration software beginning in February 1999. The remaining modules of student administration software will be in place campuswide by February 2000. PeopleSoft's Human Resources Management System will replace existing HR systems in July 2000.
Once all of the financial systems are upgraded to version 7.5, the PeopleSoft GRANTS module can be implemented for sponsored research administration. At that point, the University will have achieved its goal of integrating its major administrative information systems.
* With the introduction of PeopleSoft General Ledger and Procurement, three preferred purchasing methods will not change. Schools, colleges and non-academic units will continue to use internal service units, prime vendor catalogs and P-Cards for many of their routine purchases. They also can arrange with Purchasing Services to set up contracts with certain vendors, so that they can use a single purchase order (PO) for ongoing purchases. The major change is that electronic purchase orders, requisitions and non-PO vouchers will replace most other methods of procurement.
The University's new general ledger is based on a ChartField structure that captures more detail on financial activity and enables more flexibility in reporting.
Because the M-Pathways reporting environment is updated nightly, financial reports will be more timely than the reports created for fiscal year 1998.
Procurement information is flowing into the system automatically as purchase orders (POs), requisitions and non-PO vouchers are processed on-line, eliminating duplicate data entry in Purchasing Services.
Units can purchase items costing $2,000 or less directly from vendors with no intervention from Purchasing Services.
Staff who reconcile P-Card transactions can view transactions on-line and apply the appropriate ChartFields at their convenience after the 25th of the month.
Accounts Payable will use on-line notification (a PeopleSoft worklist) to inform requestors when vouchers have been created to pay for the items they ordered.
Authorized staff can electronically approve vouchers for more than $10,000; soon they will view invoices on-line as part of this process.
Offices can track single reimbursements, refunds and invoice vouchers, and determine when payments have been made using electronic non-PO vouchers.
Standard financial reports, which will be delivered monthly via Campus Mail, also can be printed locally on demand. A new financial data warehouse will be operational for ad hoc reporting Aug. 1.