Durham rolls out PeopleSoft 8.8 for finance operations

Over the years, the IT staff for the Region of Durham, Ont., have logged a lot of miles implementing and upgrading its PeopleSoft applications on client PCs and servers. That’s history, though.

The 2,500 sq. km

region, which comprises Pickering, Ajax, Whitby, Oshawa, Clarington, Brock and Scugog, is going live Monday with PeopleSoft 8.8, a browser-based version of the vendor’s financials application.

The region is the first public sector user to roll out the application and was one of only five customers accepted into PeopleSoft’s early success program. About 455 users will have access to it.

“”We have 56 different locations we support and all those departments use the applications to do online purchase requisitions and purchase orders,”” said Don Beaton, director of financial information management services for the region’s finance department.

“”In version 6 and not so much in 7.5, there had to be an installed client on the PC, so we needed to have servers out there that could run this and we had to have separate programs that could run a 95 machine, a 2000 machine or an NT machine,”” he said. “”That’s eliminated with 8.8, so from a core perspective it’s easier on our IT support.””

The limited number of platforms the earlier versions supported also made it difficult for some of the region’s departments to upgrade their operating systems, he adds.

According to Beaton, the region, which is a long-time PeopleSoft user, has been working on the implementation since December.

The key benefit of the financials upgrade, he said, is that it will allow users to track purchase orders from beginning to end.

“”As a department you can track that through the system — you can inquire as to where your purchase is, if the purchase order has been approved, dispatched, etc., and you can check the number of receipts against the purchase order,”” he said. “”That allows the departmental reps to do that as well as the corporate client services or accounting divisions.””

The region is also one of the first organizations in North America to use PeopleSoft’s Human Capital Management application. According to Beaton, Durham had been using a number of standalone legacy application for things like payroll and other human resource-related tasks.

It moved to a PeopleSoft ERP application in 1997 and has progressively updated to the 8.8 version, which has enabled it to bring together six standalone applications into one.

“”We’ve eliminated duplication of entry, we’ve got automated interfaces between the Region of Durham and our benefits carrier, and we have a combined data source for all of our data,”” said Beaton.

As well, the region’s employees, including police services, can now log onto a portal, using single sign-on, where they can see their pay cheques online, along with the number of sick days they’ve used and accrued and their banked overtime.

“”Nowhere did we have that corporate visibility prior to going live with HCM,”” Beaton said.

In addition to the increased functionality, the region has been able to retire five servers from a production environment, for a cost savings of $30,000 to $40,000 a year.

Chris Saniga, client executive for PeopleSoft global services, said PeopleSoft wanted to have a public sector customer for its 8.8 early success program.

Participating in it works to both sides’ advantage, he said: the customer gets 200 hours of free consultation as well as access to development and an early look at the hosted beta, while PeopleSoft gets a hand developing the upgrade scripts.

“”The idea of the early success program is we need to do work in the field to get our people ready and we also need to do work to get the upgrade scripts developed, so we’re asking the customers to contribute to that, and for that they get free access to development and consulting hours,”” he said. “”They have to be willing to tell people about their experience and share with other customers, and they have to be someone who we believe has good team.””

Saniga said the region is also the only customer that has bought PeopleSoft’s user productivity kit, which allows them to automate training development materials required to teach users how to get the most out of the new system.

“”They bought it in March and developed all their training materials prior to go-live of their financials and they’ve been using that to train users through this period, so it was an extremely fast way to automate their training,”” said Saniga. “”Even a user who doesn’t know how to enter a voucher or put in a journal entry in the new system has this new online tool that walks them through the process specific to their application.””

Saniga estimated it will save the region at least half the amount of time it would have taken to develop the materials manually.

“”They would have to have in class training, develop manuals and hire trainers — all that type of stuff,”” he said.

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