Parallel financial systems derailed

"Parallel Operation of Software: Is It A Desirable Software System Transition Technique?"

Traditional wisdom held that agencies should operate two financial management systems at once: Keep the old system running in case there's a glitch in the new one.

In fact, the Joint Financial Management Improvement Program — the governmentwide body responsible for setting standards for agency financial management systems — promoted this dual approach in 1995.

But according to new JFMIP guidance, agencies need to move away from legacy systems as soon as possible as they work to implement new systems.

The new guidance, issued in a JFMIP white paper dated Oct. 24, "Parallel Operation of Software — Is it a Desirable Software Transition Technique?" says that operating two systems is expensive, ineffective and that it may even hinder an agency's ability to shift to a new system.

The earlier JFMIP guidance, contained in the 1995 document, "JFMIP Framework for Federal Financial Management Systems," suggested that running the new and existing systems in conjunction with each other helped reduce risk if the new system failed. Such parallel operations enable "operations to continue in the old system while errors are corrected in the new system," the older document suggested.

But times have changed, said Karen Cleary Alderman, JFMIP executive director.

In the past, agencies moved from one customized financial management system to another. But today, agencies are replacing stovepiped, legacy applications with commercial off-the-shelf packages that necessitate a more significant reorganization of business processes.

"The cost of parallel operations and the difficulty in reconciling old and new system results when business processes have been re-engineered generally make operations an undesirable risk-mitigation strategy," the document concludes.

JFMIP recommends agencies have a strong plan for testing the new financial management software that will help it mitigate the risks during planning and implementation of a new financial management system.

JFMIP is a policy group that includes the General Accounting Office, the Office of Management and Budget and the Treasury Department.

About the Author

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine,, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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