Accounting 2.0: Leading WV into the oasis - Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

Accounting 2.0: Leading WV into the oasis

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A new accounting system for the state of West Virginia is looking to make life a little easier for a lot of state employees.

The system, wvOASIS, is the first such update in decades, streamlining nearly 100 state accounting systems into one.

In short, it’s all about integrating state agencies, making for smoother operations and less room for error. Oasis, Our Advance Solution with Integrated Systems, is meant to leverage enterprise resource planning, or ERP, technology to gain operational efficiencies and seamless integration across administrative business functions, according to

The ERP Board, which is made up of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, State Auditor Glen B. Gainer III and State Treasurer John D. Perdue, announced that the third phase of the project went live July 8. Both Gainer and Perdue processed and printed the first batch of state checks through the Oasis system, for a total of 4,422 checks totaling $1,739,234.61.

“By replacing nearly 100 different administrative systems with wvOASIS, we are ensuring that West Virginia remains a model of fiscal responsibility, financial stability, and accountability to our citizens,” Tomblin said July 8.

Gainer noted that while the wvOASIS system is set to save the state $200-$300 million over seven years, the new Vendor Self-Service module is already making the state a better business partner. Perdue said the program will help state workers become more efficient and allow for better access to consolidated data.

Standardization, accountability

Todd Childers, state project director with wvOASIS, said the system was the result of a legislative mandate to do a study on the previous one.

“It was determined the existing system did not meet the needs of users,” he said. “We’ve been in full-blown implementation of the project since 2012.”

Childers said the project can help the state be more transparent by letting the public know what the state is doing with funds.

“This project will certainly help that,” Childers said. “We’re going to have a much-improved transparency site up as a result of this system.”

With the state facing significant financial challenges and many state employees eligible for retirement, Childers said those left in state government will be expected to do more with less.

“I think this system is a platform that will allow us to do that,” he said.

Leaders of the charge for the consolidated system said wvOasis will enable greater efficiency and accountability in state government through the program’s multi-dimensional ability to “implement and integrate security and controls over access, procurement, spending, policy enforcement and payables.”

Charles O. Lorensen, former secretary of the Department of Revenue, said benefits of wvOasis include providing for significantly enhanced statewide reporting across state government. Core business processes are standardized in ways that improve access to information, Lorensen said, and aging, redundant administrative systems have been consolidated into one, integrated system.

The accounting system isn’t currently “standardized” throughout the state and is likely to force — at the least, he anticipates — the system will become more standardized and make the state more accountable.

Because the system was not previously standardized throughout state agencies, multiple programs needed to be maintained. This meant more work and money for the state to expend on both counts. Now, the system will be under one roof, with branches, allowing for easier access to information, Lorensen said.

From drop-down menus to the ability to click and use what looks like a modern-day web browser, Lorensen said state employees will benefit from the system in many ways.

“Better, more reliable information for citizens, decision makers, legislators and managers responsible for citizens receiving services from the state,” Lorensen listed as the system benefits.

Cost savings

The return on the investment for the state is also a significant savings Childers said would be seen fewer than eight years after the system fully launches.

“It’s a cost savings to the state, not having to maintain all Legacy systems,” Childers said.

Childers also said the system previously had a lot of necessary edits and departments in charge of entering the same information multiple times, but now there will be less frequent opportunities for mistakes or room for error.

The new system also has built-in efficiencies; for example, employees and business leaders can create templates for something that might occur the same time each month.

Rent is a great example of that, Childers said. If a state agency is renting a space, it can create a rent payment at the first of every month and establish a template for the payment to continue.

“This vendor on this day, set up so it triggers and does it automatically,” he said.

Childers said with the Phase C launch of the system, hundreds of users will be learning the ins and outs of the new system’s capabilities. He said with anything new, it’s likely there will be flaws and a little disruption to everyday life for state agencies.

Lorensen said they are extremely thankful for the state employees and others who are taking time out of their already busy work days to learn some new technology.

“We hope it will be a smooth transition, but people will (probably) be frustrated,” Lorensen said.

Hit the ground running

The phase that launched at the beginning of July involved state employees, and officials said it was arguably the largest part of launching the program.

Phase A was for budget development process and launched in August 2013, Phase B involving the Department of Transportation Asset Management went live January 2014. Phase C will deal with core finance and procurement, Phase D will be launched January 2015 and deal with Human Resources and payroll, while the last part, Phase E, will be remaining transportation, facilities and real estate.

The system is hoped to be completed by the end of Phase E, which is set to launch in January 2015 as well.

This new system, according to leaders, provides a common platform for enterprise data collection to “support performance dashboards and citizen transparency.”

Lorensen, who serves as Tomblin’s chief of staff, said the technology upgrade is necessary while being beneficial and cost effective.

“It will hold people and government more accountable,” he said of the program.

The Department of Health and Human Resources will be one of the state agencies putting the program to good use.

“With the transition to wvOASIS, the more than 6,000 employees of the Department of Health and Human Resources look forward to a product that will allow them to work more efficiently and have more information at their fingertips,” said DHHR Spokeswoman Allison Adler. “Many of our employees have been through the training and are excited to put the new, integrated system to use.”

Lisa Comer with wvOASIS said workshops would be set up at the West Virginia State University throughout the launch of the system. She said officials would gauge how long it will take to answer questions as well as prepare and work with people who have problems getting the hang of the new system.

“We’re prepared for workshops where they can bring their work in with them,” she added.

There were between 20 and 30 people in 14 rooms taking calls at West Virginia State University from state employees with questions on the first day of the system launch.

“They’re prepared to answer questions,” Childers said. “We’re trying to compile detailed metrics about the exact nature of a call.”

The calls varied in manner from questions about accounts payable and accounts receivable to treasury, budget and functional resources, Childers said on launch day. During the first two weeks of the system launch, call takers from various state agencies were answering questions.

During the system’s initial trial weeks, the system kicked users off at noon and again at 4 p.m. each day, so the technicians learned they could fix glitches daily — as they became aware of them.

“They see and know those two times a day we can apply fixes to the system without affecting anyone,” he said.