Financial Management Systems
roles and responsibilities
FMS is part of the Financial Vice President’s organization, acting as a liaison between the finance departments within the FVP area and the Information Technology Services (ITS) department in resolving technical issues related to financial applications and assisting with implementation of new applications or functionality when needed particularly the PeopleSoft Financial application. FMS consists of five fulltime staff members.
FMS oversees the day-to-day operations of numerous systems that are vital to the financial operations of the University. Major functions performed by the staff include:
-Supporting (daily, weekly, monthly, yearly) processes for Finance to:
- ensure applications are up and processing
- ensure validity of data
- ensure internal controls
- monitor automated processes
- troubleshoot issues
- update security
- manage year-end activities
- Answering end users support calls
- incident calls (issues with existing data or processes)
- requests (implementing enhancements and new functionality, such as creating/modifying reports)
- Developing and delivering end user training programs
- oversee projects and project reporting
- introduce, educate, design and implement new functionality which increases user experience
- analyze needs and develop requirements
- perform unit testing
- develop documentation and oversee user acceptance testing
- liaison with ITS
The FMS team provides functional support to:
- General Accounting
- Cash Services
- Budgeting and Planning
- Procurement Services (Purchasing, Accounts Payable and Expenses)
- OSP (Grants & Contracts, Billing, Accounts Receivable)
- Plant Fund (Fixed Assets, Projects, Billing, Accounts Receivable)
- All other users of the financial systems at Boston College
The FMS team acknowledges in its Self-Study Report that they are constantly challenged to keep up with their workload. Based on estimates provided by the team, approximately 3 FTE of the team’s bandwidth is devoted to system support, leaving approximately 2 FTE to work on projects. While the FMS team works hard, our opinion is that they are simply trying to do too much with their existing resources. A broader question exists, however, as to what the mission/role of the FMS team ought to be. Confusion over this topic was voiced by many of the stakeholders we interviewed and it was oft-cited as a source of tension between FMS and other groups that appear to provide complementary, or, in some cases, competing services to the University community.
Two general paths forward for the group appear to exist:
- Re-affirm that the primary role of the group is help desk, production support (including interfaces, batch monitoring, etc.), and user training. There is likely an opportunity if this path is chosen to have the FMS team be the administrators of the integrated planning and prioritization effort described in Recommendation 3. What does not appear to be feasible, however, is to have the five-person FMS team perform the functions listed above and serve as a team of project managers and business analysts.
- Pursue an expanded role for the group in which the FMS team is tasked with primary responsibility for coordinating new projects and production support. In such a model, additional staffing would be required. While we cannot identify a precise number of new staff needed based on our short review, we feel that there are many strong candidates internal to the University (e.g., several of the P1s, the more systems-focused staff in the FVP offices) that could fulfill these positions. Clearly, an organizational change of this kind would require careful planning. It is likely that the internal candidates to join an FMS team mentioned above would need to be replaced in their existing roles, although perhaps with less senior staff in some cases. There might exist other creative staffing mechanisms to afford such an expanded role for the FMS function. For example, many institutions (including Northwestern and Syracuse) utilize student employees as the initial line of help desk support. A separate idea voiced during our review was to move some of the training function into the ITS area, where we are told a training team is already in place.
These two options are but two of what are likely to be many more permutations. We escalate this issue to Boston College’s attention in part because it may provide resolution to short term needs (e.g., additional cross-training, clarity about roles and responsibilities) and also because it may provide a structure that allows the University to tackle major projects such as the upgrade and data warehouse with less risk and less need for external consulting assistance.