The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) in Little Rock, Ark. once manually processed 3,032 types of transactions. Its ailing payroll system was stitched together with add-on interfaces, the technical equivalent of duct tape and bailing wire. These interfaces bridged gaps between the payroll system, in-house data entry and calculation routines.
UAMS knew it needed to streamline its processes, and in June 2000, began the process of upgrading its financial and administrative systems. Called Project Mercury, it involved upgrading its human resources, finance and materials processes and policies. The university chose mySAP human resources, materials management and financial management software from Washington-based SAP Public Services Inc. to heal its process wounds.
SAP made sense to UAMS because of the product's structure and functionality, according to Mary Nell Donoho, associate vice chancellor and director of ERP systems at UAMS. As a public institution, UAMS took bids from GIAC, PeopleSoft, Oracle and Great Plains. The budget for Project Mercury was $8.5 million. SAP ran approximately $2 million. Donoho could not provide the cost of entering transactions manually or the specifics on the expected savings.
MySAP software has enabled UAMS to streamline its processes, allowed it to comply with new General Accounting Standards Board regulations, automated previously manual functions and brought stability to more fragile systems, she said.
Three main processes were automated by mySAP. The requisitioning process for moving goods out of inventory and back order handling were completely new. The travel management process under mySAP has added direct deposit of reimbursements and eliminated paper form processing. The university has also been able to adopt a program of positive pay for the bank, which involves sending the bank an electronic file of checks issued. The bank will not honor checks not on the list.
Payroll, possibly the most fragile system at UAMS, was implemented very smoothly, Donoho said. The staff commitment to excellence at all phases of the implementation, a solid testing program and good data cleanup for conversions all contributed to its success, she said.
"That's the one you really worry about," Donoho said. The UAMS payroll system before SAP was provided by Geac. It was a patched tangle of software with too many interfaces and too much of an opportunity for failure.
Donoho said, implementation "went beautifully" and that the only problems were very minor and could be fixed in a matter of hours.
In fact, the only real challenge in implementing mySAP was the materials conversion, which Donoho described as messy. UAMS had master data problems due to a failure to clean the data to be entered in the materials management system. Additionally, choices made during the conversion planning required manual fixes to get the system going, she said.
UAMS is running four mySAP environments: a training client, a development client, a quality assurance services (QAS) client and a production client. Each is on a Microsoft SQL platform, running SQL 7. The total cost of the hardware was less than $750,000, Donoho said.
Overall, the users have reacted positively to the software. "We have a few that love it... and a few that are slower to come around," Donoho said.
Donoho has some words of wisdom for others thinking about installing mySAP. "Look at this project as a business project, not an IT project, because it determines how your business will operate," she advised. "You don't want your IT department to do the implementation, but you want them to be a part of it." At UAMS, the business experts made the blueprinting decisions, developed master data content and executed test scenarios on mySAP.
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