Ministry of Social Development executives painted a bleak picture of their current financial management information system (FMIS) at a Wellington briefing last month, but also a vision for the future as the department seeks a new finance platform.
Bruce Simpson - MSD CFO - kicked off the event referencing a publication whose name he couldn't remember, "having a crack at us for not knowing what we want to do."
"This day is actually the culmination of quite a long journey for us," he said. "I've always said to any of you who know me and have spoken to me that MSD has gone through a period of really massive change."
That included the foundation of a separate child welfare agency, Oranga Tamariki, changes in housing policy, changes in governments as well as having to fight for funds off the back of the global financial crisis.
"The timing just hasn't been right for us to do anything about our financial management information system environment," he said. "Albeit that I know it's not the financial management information system environment that I want."
The Ministry has called for registrations of interest from vendors hoping to supply an "FMIS ecosystem". From these submissions a business case and short list of potential suppliers will be developed to replace a twenty-year-old legacy software.
Simpson said he's got fantastic people and is able to run a "reasonable" finance function, but that is being held back by the FMIS - that system is dubbed Kea and provided by DXC Eclipse which "had been a great partner over the years".
DXC delivers multiple FMIS and ERP systems acquired over the years - the FMIS used by MSD appears to be e5.
When MSD began looking for alternatives, it first looked at pure FMIS functionality such as general ledger and accounts payable. That changed, however, as the MSD team realised they needed something different - hence the addition of the term "ecosystem".
"It's not a term I've gotten from a dictionary that has any pure financial meaning or any pure IT meaning," Simpson said. "It's a term I use to describe what we are trying to move to."
The way Kea interacts with other systems is very manual, he said, requiring processing by accountants he would far prefer to be working on higher value activities.
There are functions in the requirements, such as a delegations register system, that are separate from the current package - Simpson said he wants them brought together.
MSD could also in the future look to retire its core Swiftt enterprise software. If that happens then some of its customer management functions could be moved to the Ministry's client management system, Curam.
The more pure finance-related parts could be moved to whoever delivers the FMIS ecosystem, Simpson said.
The ROI is a "big deal" because it is about finding a partner who will take MSD into the future.
"We don't have a good procurement application," Simpson said. "We do it with a collection spreadsheets and pieces of paper stuck to a desk. We keep it going and do our best, but that's something we'd like to move to in the future."
MSD also uses different reporting tools, but wants to fix and automate that through a more integrated environment.
Simpson said as much as he'd like to outsource the risk of the project, MSD will inevitably carry some risk because any new system will have to work in MSD's wider environment and meet its security and integration requirements.
Implementation and configuration will, therefore, be critical.
"Departments are realising that digital is at the heart of the service offerings and they are all looking at how they invest and create an IT environment that works," Simpson explained.
After talking to CIO David Habershon the finance team realised they were looking at a longer term deal than a traditional accounting system procurement.
"It could be big," said Simpson, before warning the collected vendors not to get over excited. "By our standards it could be big."
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