Big deal, new strategy
- By John Monroe
- Sep 03, 2001
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
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to replace their outdated business systems so they could do a better job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."