November 18, 1999
It has been quietly in the works for more than a year. This month, it finally goes public. In anticipation of a July 1, 1999, launch date, the first round of training for the new Tulane Accounting Management Systems (TAMS) will begin later this month. TAMS, a package of seven Oracle Corp.-integrated financial applications, will replace the current Financial Reporting System (FRS) in tracking virtually every dollar to come through the university.
"It's going to be great," says controller Tim Russell. "We're going to have an accurate database and people are going to be able to get out the information that they need."
Since September 1997, a team of more than 40 Tulane employees and consultants has worked with Oracle consultants to build a new universitywide accounting system. The new system comprises seven functional modules: accounts receivable, cash management, fixed assets, general ledger, grants management, accounts payable and purchasing.
The FRS system, introduced in 1987, had in recent years become an anachronism in the world of accounting systems. Because of its non-interactive interface, pulling information from FRS often involved a difficult procedure.
By contrast, TAMS is a relational database, allowing users to easily draw information from all modules that affect a transaction. Just as important, it boasts a user-friendly, intuitive interface.
"It's much more interactive," says Elaine Dares, senior project analyst. "It looks like a Windows application." While the screens may look different, Dares says that the modules have been customized to fit Tulane's processes and the types of data collected will remain the same.
In September, Tulane contracted with Computer Management Sciences Inc. to help develop training materials to introduce the Tulane community to its new Y2K-compliant accounting system. The training will be conducted by Tulane employees. "When we've talked to other universities, they have always emphasized very strongly the amount of training that should be done and we've taken their comments to heart," Russell says. "We want to make sure that everybody is thoroughly trained and that they have ample opportunity to select a day that works with their schedule."
Later this month, the TAMS team will present a number of half-day overview sessions. "We'll give an in-depth overview," says Dares. "We'll talk about the applications and what you're going to see, we'll show you some screen prints and maybe do some live transactions."
All current FRS users, as well as deans, directors and department heads will be invited to the overview sessions. Dares says some sessions may be geared to particular user groups, such as a session for senior administrators rather than department end users, who are more accustomed to FRS screens and information. Specific dates and times were not finalized at press time.
In February, the TAMS group will survey deans, directors and department heads to find out who is currently using FRS, how they're using it and whether anyone else in their respective department should have access to TAMS. With the approval of those managers, the TAMS group will assign new responsibilities for TAMS users, and those individuals will then be contacted to attend a series of role-based training sessions.
Primary training is scheduled to begin in May and will be ongoing, Dares says. "We will probably be training fairly heavily in July and maybe into August."
For more information on the TAMS project, including monthly bulletins, see the TAMS Web site: http://www.tulane. edu/~tams.
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