To be fully utilized, a system as complex as PeopleSoft Financials cannot just be implemented and then left alone. Rather, it must be continuously refined in order to increase usability and maintain relevance amongst the ever-evolving needs of its users. Luckily for TU, a dedicated advisory committee is working to make PeopleSoft Financials more intuitive for all campus users.
The PeopleSoft Financials User Advisory Committee was created in October 2009 after the dust from implementation had settled and internal procedures were developed to the point that external feedback was possible. After a year of work, the functional and technical PeopleSoft teams had gotten the system to a stable level, but they continued to receive requests and ideas from the system’s users.
“We were ready to go beyond our borders and get feedback from outside the functional team,” PeopleSoft Finance Functional Manager Karen Michalak said. “[Associate Vice President for Fiscal Planning and Services] Jim Williamson charged us with developing the committee, and that got the ball rolling.”
Jim reached out to university vice presidents and deans to obtain recommendations for individuals to serve on the committee. Within a few months the committee had a solid group of 19 members, including representatives from the PeopleSoft functional and technical teams as well as end users representing a cross-section of campus departments. Soon, the committee began meeting on a regular basis and elected a chair, Student Affairs Business Manager Bonnie Lingelbach. Now it was time to get to work.
“We started out with brainstorming sessions to find out what users were struggling with, what types of improvements we wanted, and what needed attention first,” Bonnie said. “We tried to have all the representatives share feedback and then discuss as a group to determine if it was an individual issue or something that needed to be resolved on a larger level.”
Prioritized feedback from the brainstorming sessions gave the PeopleSoft functional team the information needed to develop a list of core issues, which were then evaluated based on the the resources needed to solve the problem. The team also analyzed the list to find patterns and determine where clusters of issues could be resolved at the root, rather than patched over on a smaller level. Some issues required sub-committees to be created under the committee, while others were resolved by the PeopleSoft functional team, who would brainstorm solutions and then work with the committee to get them to a place where they delivered the most benefit. The first major issue resolved in this way related to nVision reporting.
One of the main ways that PeopleSoft users obtain information is through running set nVision reports, and yet when the committee first began meeting, many end users provided feedback that the output of the reports didn’t give them all of the information they needed. Instead, users said they had to run several reports and then pull pieces from each report to get the information they needed—a frustrating and time-consuming process. Based on the reporting feedback, the PeopleSoft functional team set out to revise six of the seven nVision reports—as well as some of the subreports—to better meet end user needs. The functional team worked with committee members to remove information they didn’t need, add information that was more useful, and reorganize the reports in a more intuitive manner. The redesign of the reports was a more than six-month undertaking, but Bonnie says that the result was more than worth the wait.
“We no longer have to run five reports to get the information we need,” Bonnie says. “It saves a lot of time.”
In addition to revising the nVision reports, feedback from the committee has also resulted in the development of a secured query capability, which allows users to pull information from the system based on specific criteria. Other improvements provided users with access to chartfield pages and attributes, and enabled users to see all of the reporting needs for a grant or project on a single page. These refinements have made the system a more effective application for campus users, and Karen believes that without the committee they would have never been uncovered, much less accomplished.
“I really think that without the committee many of the current improvements would not have been possible,” Karen said. “The user group came together and gave us feedback that allowed us to look at institutional, rather than individual, solutions to problems. Instead of helping one person at a time, we were able to help all users at once.”
The committee’s next task will be the assessment and review of PeopleSoft Financials version 9.1. The committee will assist the functional team in determining the campus’s need for the upgrade and exploring the potential impact of the upgrade on end users.