Finance Overview of Projects for 2002-2003 Over the next few years the focus of systems developments in Finance, with the assistance of MIS, will be on how to make best use of information and communications technology to assist financial information management and financial applications developments. This does not represent a massive change of direction, but the current systems, experience with web based systems such as WebFirst and improved technology make this more achievable. The aim will be the provision of a range of financial information and services in a secure fashion and encouraging user control. The main strands of developments will focus on presentation, accessibility and building on existing applications. Presentation. WebFirst has shown that the presentation of financial information in a simple and accessible format can be highly successful. It is hoped to build on this and present a wider range of information in this manner. Encouraging users to select and maintain personalised views of financial information will be a major theme. Financial Information Management. Recognising that technology changes more rapidly than the underlying information a key aim will be to manage the information base better. This will involve enhancement of role-based or postbased access to information and applications, paying more attention to the integration of different sets of information, including those held with other departments. Building on existing success. Applications such WebFirst and eFinancials are providing considerable expertise in web-based financial applications. It is hoped to build on this in future applications developments e.g. expanding eCommerce via eProcurement, eTransfers, Cash Receipting via the web etc. Role Based Access. Our existing services already provide both a degree of role based access (for example you can view only transactions relevant to your job) and personalisation (WebFirst and Cfacs menus are linked to tasks). It is intended to take this further, to investigate the inheritance of rights when post-holders change (which improves the user experience, operational efficiency and security in one operation) and to extend the formal definition of access rights more broadly to incorporate, for example, authorisation rights and roles to facilitate workflow planning. The security requirements of finance are significant. At present we rely on passwords to authenticate on systems, but this presents difficulties when authorising transactions whether internally or externally. The continuing need for a physical signature does limit the University’s ability to implement electronic workflows, whilst relying on passwords alone gives rise to audit and control concerns. Certain technologies, for example digital signatures, are now legally recognised in place of physical signatures and finance will need to investigate their potential particularly alongside the work being undertaken by MIS on a single sign on. The Finance Department has a clear vision of how it would like to develop its financial information management and streamline its processes. The plans set out will show that and in addition it will also contribute to wider corporate initiatives and standards as these emerge. A number of projects are currently underway and others will be identified in due course. A large number of developments have been identified as part of the Corporate IT planning for 2002-2003 but the main areas of Financial Systems development over the next few years are detailed below. Financial Applications Developments Development of Existing Applications Implementation of eFinancials - This involves the migration of the current Financial Information System to a web-based application. Work is currently underway to test eFinancials software and identify any new procedures and processes that will be required in order to go-live on eFinancials. A provisional go-live date of February had been set but the poor performance of the software resulted in this being postponed until May. February, May and November are the main windows of opportunity to introduce system changes. The financial position of the Cedar Group and the risks of implementing eFinancials when the system is still new and developing mean that the University will have to be confident the software is fit for purpose before any migration to eFinancials is undertaken. Given the risks associated with moving are high the future of eFinancials will be reviewed over the next few months. The future of Cedar - A review of the future of Cedar’s financial systems is needed. The number of forced upgrades and the recent changes in Cedar’s financial circumstances require the University to have a strategy for its continued reliance on Cedar/Redac. (Redac is the name proposed by Alchemy, the company that has offered to takeover Cedar.) Cfacs, version 7.5.5 has a likely life until August 2004. Any new financial system would realistically take 18 months to 2 years to select, procure and implement and would require a major commitment of resources. If the University felt confident enough to migrate to eFinancials then the life span of eFinancials is significantly longer. However, the eFinancials software is not currently robust enough to use operationally. Unless it is passes its acceptance testing by the end of February then the May go-live date would be increasingly unlikely as a two-tothree month training and documentation period is needed before any go-live date. There are currently about 500 Cfacs users and training is a major part of any new systems implementation. The risks associated with moving to eFinancials centre around the quality of support. EFinancials is a fairly new product and should Cedar/Redac fold, then support for eFinancials would be more difficult to obtain. There is also a concern that Cedar/Redac staff may not be sufficiently motivated/resourced to provide adequate support for any problems encountered in the post implementation period. The choice for the University is between moving to a new system in the medium-term or trying to get eFinancials to the stage where it can be implemented successfully and give Cedar/Redac software an extended lease of life. The advantage of looking for a new system would be that any eProcurement or eBusiness requirements could be combined with the selection of new software. Indicative costings suggest that a replacement system with eProcurement and eExpenses would be £200,000 - £300,000 for software and £200,000 - £300,000 for Consultancy. Hardware costs would be in addition to this. This project would have public sector procurement implications depending on the circumstances prevailing e.g. EU tender if selecting to replace CFACS or an urgent requirement should the company fold or product not be supported. Appropriate advice will be sought from the Director of Procurement. The advantage of staying with Cedar/Redac is that the costs of change are less. However, in the medium term it is likely that the University will want to purchase eProcurement software and indicative costs from Cedar/Redac are between £100,000 -£200,000 for a site licence, plus any additional consultancy or hardware costs. Key decision dates will be the end of February when the evaluation of eFinancials software will take place and if the May date is not achieved then the end of July is the next decision point. WebFirst. As part of the overall strategy to minimise the risks to the University associated with the Cedar Group’s financial crisis it is important to ensure that the future of the WebFirst reporting system is assured. The feasibility of moving the WebFirst reporting to a data warehouse is being reviewed. This would eliminate the need for WebFirst to run against the Cedar Financial System, potentially result in performance improvements, future proof WebFirst against any changes in Financial Systems and would also provide an opportunity to review the technical set up of WebFirst. Electronic Remittances. A major exercise to collect and collate bank information for members of staff and create links to payroll as appropriate is now largely completed and BACS payments for staff expenses were started in November. This is being followed up by a project to electronically email remittances to staff, which was funded by the KETF. Integration with Other Systems. There is on-going work between Estates and Buildings and Accommodation Services to enhance the electronic transfer of information between systems. Work started in early summer this year to specify the transfer of information from Finance Systems to the EBIS. The first area to be developed is the transfer of Accounts Payable information to EBIS and it is hoped that this will be completed in the next few months. The development of a new link for the transfer of purchase invoices between Accommodation Services and Finance is also currently underway and is hoped to have it completed in the next few months. The development of a corporate Organisational Hierarchy will require work in the next year. Other areas to be reviewed include the Library, ERI and Student Records, although it is unlikely that much work will be done here until the next academic year. New Applications Developments Electronic Transfers. Money was awarded for the introduction of a web-based electronic transfer system from the KETF, to replace the existing internal ordering system. Work will progress to develop a detailed specification, prototype and webbased solution to this over the next year. Construction Industry Tax. The manual recording of information to allow the payment of this tax is done largely by Estates and Buildings. The administration of this tax would be greatly enhanced if it were on Cfacs. However, the existing version of Cfacs software is not robust enough to support this and the introduction of this functionality has had to be delayed until after eFinancials has been implemented. Authorisation Database. An initial specification has been drawn up and discussions have taken place with a view to developing an authorisation database for Finance and Procurement purposes. Work will be required to develop the specification, to develop the application and to undertake testing over the next year. eCommerce Framework. Work will continue to see how the University can make best use of eCommerce technologies. A number of initiatives are currently underway. The pilot of ePayment via the web is currently on going in the Office of Life Long Learning. Over the next year the pilot will be expanded to include CPA, Accommodation Services and the Finance Department. As part of the Finance Department pilot of ePayment an application is being developed to allow cash receipting via the Web for students and staff. If this is successful then it can be expanded to the wider community. As part of the roll out of ePayment to other areas, issues such as the use of a corporate shopping basket, VAT recording, raising web-based invoices, and banking arrangements will need to be addressed. Document Management. Effort will continue to develop a sound business case for Document Management in the Administration and to continue the search funding. The Finance Department and Estates and Buildings Departments would like to pilot document management in the area of purchase invoice processing and departmental mail distribution. This would involve the use of scanning, workflow and retrieval techniques and would provide valuable feedback to the University about the benefits and problems of document management. EProcurement. There are a few initiatives that are currently underway which need to be further explored and developed. These include the HE eProcurement (HEEP) initiatives and exploring eProcurement applications that are available. Work will continue with the Director of Procurement to identify the most appropriate way forward. This will be an on-going work priority over the next few years. Other initiatives in this area include the use of purchasing cards in the University that is currently being progressed by the Director of Procurement. Travelling Expenses. The possibility of introducing a corporate system will be explored over the next few years and if possible a suitable strategy developed to implement an electronic solution. Information Management Over the few years we will be reviewing the method of presenting information to staff, students, principal investigators, suppliers and customers etc. The main aim of this will be to provide a personalised view of financial data. Work will be on-going to develop the intranet/extranet to provide information in an appropriate format for different user groups. The FinMI will a specific project within the financial information management strategy. FinMI. As part of the corporate management information project the Finance Department will be involved in the provision of financial data to the corporate data warehouse. Once the corporate hierarchy has been implemented work can start in this area.
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