Forman: Stop customizing core financial systems

Agencies need to adopt a core set of software standards for financial management, the former Office of Budget and Management administrator for e-government and IT said yesterday.

Mark Forman, in his first public speaking appearance since heading to industry two months ago, repeated his e-government mantra. He told a mostly federal audience that they must continue to eliminate redundant systems and change their business processes.

“The consolidation study we did at OMB showed $1.9 billion [spent on] redundant core financial systems,” Forman said at a Washington financial management forum sponsored by PeopleSoft Inc. of Pleasanton, Calif. “Agencies must focus on buying standardized core financial systems and not customizing those systems, because that is where the real waste occurs.”

Forman, now executive vice president of Cassatt Corp. of Menlo Park, Calif., continued to press for agencies and the Joint Financial Management Improvement Program to set standards for core financial systems and spend more resources to improve the feeder systems.

“Agencies do a lot of customization for standard reports when there are better ways,” he said. “They could use Extensible Markup Language schemas to transfer data from feeder systems so the core systems would not have to be customized to meet the feeder system requirements.”

Besides consolidation of financial systems, Forman said IT security continues to be a governmentwide problem. He said the General Accounting Office found 75 percent of the 25 agencies covered by the Chief Financial Officers Act have poor financial cybersecurity.

Forman recommended that agencies:

  • Better integrate their financial management and human resources systems

  • Measure system performance

  • Consider emerging technologies, including Extensible Business Reporting Language and Web services

  • Employ project or portfolio management tools.

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