Big deal, new strategy

Connecticut leaves nothing to chance with its core system award

When it came time to replace their core financial and administrative systems,

Connecticut officials unveiled the plan with a certain amount of fanfare,

and Gov. John Rowland and State Comptroller Nancy Wyman joined in giving

the project their top-level bipartisan support.

But when visibility is high, so are the stakes. State officials did

not want the project, dubbed Core-CT, to fall off schedule or go over budget,

as big projects often do. And the risk is certainly there: They have proposed

that agencies' financial management, human resources management and payroll

systems all be replaced with software from People.Soft Inc.

As their counterparts in other states have done, Connecticut officials

hired consultants to help with the acquisition and make sure they bought

software that met their requirements. But they took it a step further. As

part of the consulting contract awarded to Accenture, Connecticut officials

retained the option of keeping the company on to help bring the new systems

online.

It may be unusual, but it is logical, said Jim Shumway, director of

information technology for the Office of the Comptroller, which is the lead

sponsor of the Core-CT project. Typically, states hire someone to work on

defining requirements as part of an acquisition, then "all that time and

knowledge invested in them goes out the door," he said.

Connecticut officials realized that having consultants familiar with

their operations could help them jump-start the process of getting those

systems up and running.

"We think our chances of success are better because we have built the

knowledge base with the consultants," Shumway said.

'Skin in the Game'

Connecticut announced the project in February 2000 and signed the deal

with Accenture in October. From the outset, state officials knew they needed

to replace their outdated business systems so they could do a better job

of keeping their books and managing programs and staff.

Accenture's job was to help them translate that vision into specific

requirements that could be written into a request for proposals. Shumway

described it as the difference between "business knowledge" and "process

knowledge" state workers understand the work that needs to be done, while

Accenture consultants understand how to apply technology to do it.

Experience plays a big part. Accenture has worked on numerous proj.ects

of a similar nature, so the company has "built quite a knowledge base that

we can share with our clients, [in terms of] defining requirements and looking

at processes," said Rick Hegwood, an associate partner for Accenture and

the firm's project director for Core-CT.

Likewise, once they received the proposals, the consultants' job was

to help state officials understand what the vendors were proposing, as well

as provide them with market research on the various products.

Having worked on the first two phases of the project put Accenture in

a favorable position once the state picked the winning vendor.

Connecticut signed a contract with PeopleSoft in June, and in July,

Connecticut and Accenture staff members began conducting a pilot project

to test how the software meshes with the normal flow of business in the

state's agencies so they can decide what software changes might be needed.

"We've been able to establish a partnership with the state from the

very beginning," Hegwood said. "We helped them through their requirements

without even having a software package in mind. To be able to move into

how that fits with the software, we have a big leg up."

Rather than treat Accenture staff members as outsiders, Connecticut

officials integrated them into their staff. The project office has put together

a series of teams to oversee the work on different components of the software

with staff members from Connecticut agencies, Accenture and now People.Soft,

with their software expertise, represented on each team.

"We try to think of the entire team as one team, to the point that it's

difficult to tell who works for each organization," said Jon Gearhart, PeopleSoft's

industry director for the public sector. "There is very much a knowledge

transfer process going on."

Accenture staff members brought depth of knowledge and experience to

the procurement process, and it makes sense to keep them on, Gear.hart said.

Shumway "did a very creative thing in terms of letting the contract

for helping with the implementation," he said. "It's a level of skin in

the game that I often don't see."

A Matter of Time

Connecticut officials are pleased with how their management strategy

has worked. Eighteen months after announcing the project, they remain on

track to have the human resources and payroll applications fully rolled

out by Jan. 1, 2003, and the financial software six months later.

Accenture's involvement throughout the process has helped the state

stay on course, Shumway said. "We think our chances of success are better

because we have built the knowledge base with the consultants. We have been

able to pretty much keep on schedule."

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