Mass. overhauling financial system

Massachusetts is overhauling its accounting and reporting system — built through a series of projects from the late 1980s to the early 1990s — with a Web-based makeover.

The state comptroller's office recently announced a $25.2 million deal with American Management Systems Inc. to develop the new Massachusetts Management, Accounting and Reporting System (MMARS). Fairfax, Va.-based AMS said it would be one of the largest statewide Web-based financial systems in the country.

George Mitchell, AMS vice president, said there was a general lack of appeal for the current mainframe "green screen" system (www.state.ma.us/osc/Homeview/Lesson/Mmars.htm), which has about 5,000 users throughout the commonwealth.

"Their principal concern in terms of the technology was the age of it, support, reliability and particularly the difficulty in costs associated with making the change or the time it took," he said, adding that the comptroller's office has been an AMS customer "on and off for more than 15 years."

Mitchell said the new Web-based system will enable payees, vendors and others to use self-service applications, such as check the status of their accounts or payments or registering with the commonwealth. "It's going to be much more streamlined and also [users will] have access to information," he said.

The new system, which is slated for a May 2004 launch, also will provide real-time interaction with the state portal (www.mass.gov), allowing users to move more easily between the systems.

Mitchell said work will be done in partnership with the state comptroller's office as well as the state's IT department in components such as training and software design.

About two years ago, the comptroller's office (www.state.ma.us/osc/overview.htm) started planning for the initiative with a task force composed of state agencies that wanted more functionality and less maintenance in a new technology platform, Mitchell said. After more research, the commonwealth decided it would do an upgrade with AMS, which helped develop part of the current system.

After detailed requirements analysis on hardware and software implementation and costs, the commonwealth added the project to a $300 million IT bond issue that passed in the spring of 2001. In the period before the contract was signed, the comptroller's office facilitated a business process improvement study, identifying 15 areas where there were good opportunities for improving practices, Mitchell said.

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