On time, on budget and in scope! How often do you hear those words about large complex projects?
Earlier this year, the Ontario government upgraded its enterprise-wide financial management application, the Integrated Financial Information System (IFIS). IFIS is one of North America’s largest installations of Oracle’s eBusiness Suite, and is used to run the province’s financial operations and critical reporting functions.
It supports up to 50,000 users, and last year facilitated $97 billion in payments to 34,000 transfer payment organizations such as schools, hospitals, and social services organizations, and processed approximately four million citizen payments. IFIS also supports the development of key government documents such as the Budget and Public Accounts.
The project, led by the Enterprise Financial Services and Systems division of Ontario Shared Services at the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services, in partnership with the Office of the Provincial Controller division, was a major undertaking. It involved upgrading the Oracle eBusiness Suite to Release 12, and implementing Hyperion Planning to replace Oracle Financial Analyzer, a product retired by Oracle.
On May 21, the IFIS renewal launch went smoothly. It was business as usual from the first log in, with less than 250 calls to the contact centre the first week, dropping to pre-upgrade levels by the second week. The new system is more stable, more secure and has the necessary foundation for future enhancements to support improved financial management and business transformation across the Ontario Public Service (OPS).
“The success of the project was based on three key factors,” said Angela Coke, Associate Deputy Minister, Ontario Shared Services. “We had comprehensive planning and project management discipline. We had a very talented and diverse team. And we engaged our partners and stakeholders early and often through the change process.”
The IFIS Renewal Project Management Office was established in February 2013 to coordinate the seven different streams of work. For example, the IT development stream team analyzed the R12 application, identified the gaps, developed the required code and applied a strict testing regime to ensure the functionality would perform as expected when it went live. This also meant addressing security and information management concerns, given the often-sensitive nature of the information that IFIS contains.
The IT application administration streams worked with internal OPS partners to ensure the IT infrastructure at the Guelph Data Centre was designed and ready to host the new IFIS R12. As well, by December 2014, work will be completed on a failover site for the IFIS application, ensuring uninterrupted operations regardless of hardware or network issues.
The business streams within the project were responsible for application functional design and testing. This work was completed in collaboration with a wide variety of financial managers, end-users and payment processing and revenue management subject matter experts. The link, systems acceptance and user-acceptance testing were carefully planned and executed.
Most organizations the size of the OPS would have hired an external systems integrator to perform a major upgrade like this. However, the bulk of this enterprise-wide project was completed by staff. Where required, some external resources were hired for very focused, specialized tasks. And because expertise was not available in-house for the new Hyperion Planning product, a systems integrator was hired for this portion of the project.
“I knew our staff possessed the talent and dedication to take on this challenge and deliver successfully,” said Tricia Ireland, the executive project director. “Designing and managing the upgrade ourselves reduced our costs and ensured R12 knowledge and skills gained during the project remain in the organization and can be leveraged for future enhancements.”
The project team worked closely with representatives from every ministry from the outset to assess the impact of the system changes on ministry business processes. A detailed ministry-by-ministry rollout impact assessment led to change-management plans that included transition support, communications and training for all users. And at each stage of the project, ministry stakeholders were kept informed, involved in numerous workshops, and trained to prepare for the changes.
“This project has set a new standard for how large application technology upgrades are planned and executed in the OPS. The IFIS Renewal Project Team did an outstanding job,” said David Nicholl, corporate chief information officer for the government of Ontario.