MIT's current reporting processes require substantial, redundant effort in order to provide timely and consistent information. Departments, laboratories, and centers often must keep separate databases, requiring additional data input in order to answer the most basic financial questions. With our current systems, the effort needed to satisfy government reporting regulations requires a great deal of reconciliation and classification of data. These steps will either be eliminated or reduced with the introduction of a new integrated software package called "SAP R/3," which is described below.
Eventually, people in all of MIT's departments, labs, and centers will use the new software for planning and budgeting, purchasing and requisitioning, initiating journal vouchers, billing, revenue accounting, tracking property, year-end close-outs, and labor distribution.
The first phase of this project focuses primarily on replacing the financial information systems at MIT. The new software package supports the original vision because it provides the correct information to the appropriate managers in a timely fashion. When complete, the total current effort associated with these processes will be significantly reduced and streamlined.
Beyond the elimination of unnecessary work, the goal is to provide better service and information, which in turn will help the Institute manage its financial operations more effectively. In an era of tight resources, accurate and timely information will help managers make the best use of MIT's resources.
SAP R/3 is an integrated "real time" financial system used by large and complex organizations. The package includes a variety of integrated "modules" and a centralized data base. R/3 provides for automated data flow across the modules, and the software can be customized to meet MIT's specific needs.
R/3 is structured so that budget, purchasing, and financial data can all be accessed in the same program. Budget, purchasing, and financial data are stored in different modules of R/3, but the same data can be accessed by the user from any module.
The R/3 package that MIT is currently implementing uses a client/server system and will function on PC, Mac, or Unix platforms. Real-time access to data, excellent "drill-down" capability, and especially the emphasis on business process flow make SAP an ideal tool for reaching the goal of an integrated financial system. ("Drill-down" capability means that users can easily move from general categories to extremely detailed information.)
Here are some features of the R/3 implementation:
This requires changes in current accounting practices, exploration of alternative solutions in order to provide the most effective use of SAP, and consistency with the goal of more integrated financial practices at MIT.
Part of the flexibility of the SAP R/3 system comes from the fact that it can be custom-configured at the client site to provide maximum functionality. In addition to the changes in MIT's chart of accounts, other members of the team have been configuring the system so that it can support new business processes in Buy-Pay (purchasing, accounts payable), accounts receivable, budgeting and planning. Members of the team are currently gathering data from a variety of areas so that departmental needs can be reflected in the baseline configuration of the system.
Training will be offered first to those in the central financial offices, which will begin to use the SAP system in the summer of 1996. Other staff will receive training beginning in the fall of 1996 as the system is "rolled out" to MIT's departments, labs, and centers. Comprehensive training will be provided in the form of workshops, self-help materials, and guides on the Web.
The team will provide "Demo Lab" events which display specific process designs and demonstrate early aspects of the R/3 capabilities. They will visit various departments to gather reporting data for the configuration team. The team will also continue to engage members of the community through various types of presentations.