NASA rethinks biz plan

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"NASA's giant leap"

NASA is taking small steps, rather than giant leaps, as it changes the way

its research centers across the country do business and streamline operations.

NASA started rethinking its plans for an enterprisewide financial, travel

and human resources system early this year, after years of work with KPMG

LLP failed to produce the first piece of the so-called Integrated Financial

Management Program.

Eventually, IFMP will help NASA track transactions from start to finish,

whether it's hiring someone, buying a product or service, or managing technology

programs. It will also help NASA accurately report its finances and use

the information in its budget requests.

IFMP will also act as the "backbone" for the agency's eNASA initiative,

said Ken Stepka, an analyst responsible for electronic procurement programs

at NASA. The agency's procurement office and chief information officer's

office are now designing the framework for eNASA.

"Eventually, everything will plug into IFMP," Stepka said. The eNASA

concept is based on streamlining NASA's business with external customers,

whether it's buying products or providing information to the public. Technologies

such as IFMP and public-key infrastructure will be crucial to connecting

the agency electronically with its customers, he said.

In March, the IFMP staff began reworking its enterprise resource planning

program and redesigning its implementation plan. "We assumed one contractor

wouldn't be able to deliver all the functions," said Michael Mann, IFMP

program manager at NASA. Instead, the staff solicited proposals from the

pool of core financial software vendors that are certified to meet common

agency requirements.

Mann's team also dramatically changed the structure of the program,

which encompasses a total of 14 projects to be implemented at 10 NASA centers.

Each project, such as core financials and human resources, now has a steering

committee. In addition, each piece of IFMP will be implemented at a pilot

site first and then deployed to other NASA centers.

"Now, each center has their own financial systems," Mann said. "Some

are integrated. Some are not. Some are obsolete."

For its core financial software, the largest piece of IFMP, NASA chose

SAP Public Sector and Education Inc.'s mySAP.com package. NASA plans to

select its implementation service provider from competitors Andersen Consulting

and PricewaterhouseCoopers this month.

Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., is the pilot site

for the core financial piece, and NASA will move operations to a single

computing center at Marshall as it deploys the system to other NASA centers

by 2005, he said.

NASA's $6.67 million contract with SAP does not commit it to use only

SAP products, but the agency will look to see where SAP products fit, Mann

said.

"There is an ongoing intellectual battle in this town: best of breed

vs. ERP," said Philip Kiviat, president of The Kiviat Group, a consulting

firm. Whether to have just one integrated ERP system or to "mix and match

is very much a matter of personal preference and agency organi-zation,"

he said.

When choosing different software for each function, rather than a single

ERP package, an agency must have an integrator familiar with the software,

said Patrick Smith, executive director of the General Services Administration's

Financial Management Systems Services Center.

"The small- and midsize agencies all seem to be going with the best-of-breed

approach...as a result of the cost as well as needs, time frames and implementation

process," Smith said.

NASA also is looking at a series of human resources projects called

Pathfinder to improve recruiting, employee data management and travel management.

Pathfinder is part of IFMP, but for now it includes stand-alone projects

involving about 100 users.

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