[Currents header

October 7, 1996

Inaugural fiscal close with SCT Banner termed a success

Imagine documenting a year's worth of your household purchases, down to every last vending-machine snack. Not an easy task, right? Now imagine tackling that task for all your friends, with a computer program that you're still learning how to use--and that's still being tinkered with.

A number of UCSC staff lived such a scenario this past summer as they documented the campus's finances for the 1995-96 fiscal year, the first year with the SCT Banner Financial Information System (FIS). With a combination of teamwork, humor, and dogged determination, these employees made the first "fiscal close" under the new system a success.

"We not only came out of it, we came out of it well," says Pat Le Cuyer, director of applications development and support for Communications and Technology Services. "We were up against very tight deadlines," says Le Cuyer, who served as the interim manager for the new financial information systems unit during fiscal close.

Le Cuyer was part of a 20-member team that identified and scheduled the steps necessary to produce the more than 80 financial reports required by the Office of the President, the campus itself, and state and local governments for fiscal close. The cross-functional team also designed the reports, produced them, and distributed them--addressing hardware and software problems during the process.

For the information in these reports, they relied on approximately 175 employees in campus service centers who prepared transaction information, reconciled ledgers, and input data into Banner.

By early August, the team had produced the final ledger for UCSC and sent it to the Office of the President. The reports were issued on time--a significant accomplishment, especially considering the Office of the President moved the reporting schedule up two weeks from the previous year.

"I've been impressed with the attitude of the campus and with their perseverance through a very difficult time," said Kirk Lew, who joined UCSC in July as the financial information systems manager. "It's a tribute to the campus community that through the sheer force of will they made the FIS system work."

The campus turned to SCT Banner in July 1995 as an alternative to the outdated, paper-intensive batch-processing system it had used for nearly three decades. A computerized system, Banner allows service center staff to enter financial transactions into a central database and receive up-to-the-minute financial information for units they serve, as compared to monthly updates from the old system.

As with any large-scale change, UCSC's switch to Banner wasn't trouble-free. The Banner team tackled a number of challenges in the past year: It established a process for issuing reports to service centers in a timely manner, assisted units in data clean-up, and solved software and hardware performance problems.

It also started providing financial information to authorized staff through the Data Warehouse--an electronic storage facility for data "captured" by Banner at specific intervals from offices around campus.

To ensure that lessons learned this past year are not forgotten, team leader Vicki Gutzwiller developed a blueprint for a successful fiscal close. The eleven-page document details all the steps central office staff must take to complete processes and produce reports.

"We have a map that shows step by step the basic elements that we would need to consider in planning for the next year-end," said team member Laura Martin. "Now we'll make adjustments to it to improve processes next year."

This fiscal year, the FIS unit plans to focus on implementing more distributed processes, expanding the quantity of data, and improving how Banner functions, said Lew.

--Francine Tyler