Arkansas nears IT overhaul launch

Nearly two years after it began planning an overhaul of its purchasing, finance and human resources information system, Arkansas state government is poised to go live with the project July 2.

More than 3,000 state workers are being trained in the browser-based Arkansas Administrative Statewide Information System (AASIS) (aasis.dfa.state.ar.us), which officials say is one of the largest such information technology projects in state government history.

The $30 million statewide system, developed in conjunction with SAP America Inc., is expected to streamline administrative functions, eliminate duplicate data, automate manual functions and provide greater accountability. According to Mike Kemp, spokesman for the state finance and administration department, expected benefits include:

  • A reduction in the number of participating agencies' bank accounts, from 700 to 65.
  • Fewer steps from requisition of a service to its payment, from 42 to 7.
  • One federal employment identification number for the state instead of the current 200.
  • Practically instantaneous and round-the-clock access to information and better reporting capabilities, a process that currently takes up to several days.

The state, which has more than 24,000 workers, conducted a successful test run of the system and will conduct another two, Kemp said. If something goes wrong, the state has contingency plans to pay workers.

Of the 200 or so state agencies, including state colleges and universities, about 150 are participating in AASIS. The remainder will use the system's reporting capabilities, said Ron Hopper, AASIS project manager. During the next two years, the system will be expanded to include training and events, recruitment, performance-based budgeting and advanced procurement programs.

"We're just scratching the surface," he said. "It's a humongous process to get this rolled out."

Planning for the system also has changed the way the government operates.

Hopper said the government purposely included representatives from various state agencies to participate in the development even before a request for proposals was issued in late 1999. Business processes were examined step by step and then improved upon, he said.

The new system might be daunting to state workers at first, but most have been supportive and eager to learn its terminology and applications. It will become as valuable to them as when they switched from typewriters to computer terminals, he said.

"Two years from now, they'll want to shoot you if you want to take the system away from them," Hopper said.

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