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From Statewise, Winter 2009

ERP is off and running
For Phase One project managers, it's full speed ahead

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) co-project managers, Sandra Woodruff and J.P. Wardle, are more than a little busy these days. With decades of experience working with state financial and payroll/personnel systems between them, it was a natural next step for both to be leading the ERP effort as it moves forward.

The parts make up the whole

"You might say we are the liaisons between the project directors and the ERP project teams," says Woodruff, who is section manager for Fiscal Projects and Operations in the Fiscal Management Division. "For ERP, I'm on the functional side, and J.P. is on the technical side."

Besides ERP project directors, managers and staff at the Comptroller's office, ERP involves many other contributors, including:

  • The vendor providing project management services.
  • The vendor in charge of implementation services.
  • Oracle. It licenses the PeopleSoft software serving as the base product upon which the systems solutions are built.
  • Several functional workgroups that include representatives from the eight initial participating agencies charged with ensuring their agencies' business needs are met.

All must be focused on clear, common goals, and Woodruff and Wardle are there to make sure things move steadily forward within the scope of their timelines and project budget.

Experience counts

What makes these two individuals such a good fit for their roles with ERP? "I've been at the Comptroller's office for over 22 years, starting in one of the tax divisions, then moving to a newly formed area to implement the Uniform Statewide Accounting System (USAS) project. The project originally encompassed all of the statewide systems, not just the USAS system we know today. My work focused on the Human Resource Information System (HRIS), back when it was originally for both state agencies and higher education," says Woodruff.

"Since then, I've worked primarily on the payroll/personnel systems, including as project manager for the development of the Standard Payroll/Personnel Reporting System (SPRS). Now, I'm working with the ERP team. It's really a natural progression as my focus has been on the statewide financial systems," says Woodruff.

J.P. Wardle brings over 27 years of state information technology (IT) experience to his role as project manager of the IT-side of ERP. His is currently the area manager for Integrated Statewide Administrative System (ISAS) support.

The ISAS group was formed at the Comptroller's office in 1997, applying a collective interagency approach toward customizing PeopleSoft's Financials for Education and Government software to support accounting, inventory, asset management, purchasing and accounts payables functions.

ISAS started with the PeopleSoft base application, then modified it to address state agency requirements that work across multiple agencies, resulting in a Web-based interface that interacts with the USAS, State Property Accounting (SPA) and Texas Identification Number (TINS) statewide systems. The ISAS group provides the software to other agencies, including the Health and Human Services (HHS) agencies participating in this initial phase of ERP.

The birth of statewide ERP

If ISAS sounds a lot like the beginnings of statewide ERP, you're on target.

"We always thought statewide implementation was where we were going. ERP was born out of these early solutions," says Wardle. "Whereas this initial phase of ERP addresses both financials and payroll/personnel functionality, ISAS is just the financials."

"Also, ERP is a leap forward that looks ahead to a single, integrated system that provides for the full range of a given agency's functionality, rather than the ISAS model that involves several interfaced systems communicating with one another. ERP will eventually encompass all administrative functions: accounting, human resources, assets, procurement — anything that an entity does to function at an enterprise level."

Mini-ERP

Wardle's long IT journey to ERP began in 1982, while he was a student at the University of Texas at Austin and needed a night job where he could still go to school, study and pay the bills.

"My initial background was with the Legislative Council. I worked my way through network control, running cables, fixing PCs, to managing a Help Desk system, to programming and then managing programs," says Wardle.

"One of the programs I managed was a payroll system. I did it for six agencies — Legislative Council, Legislative Reference Library, Legislative Budget Board, House of Representatives, Senate and Sunset Commission. I didn't know it at the time, but this was a seed for things to come, building a payroll system for multiple agencies."

"Before coming on board with the Comptroller's office in 1992, I was on the evaluation/selection committee to help the agency select a new statewide payroll system, based on my previous experience. That system became USPS," says Wardle.

Up the ladder

Wardle's rise through the state IT ranks continued steadily from there.

"From 1992 on, I was on the USPS team. We implemented USPS for over 100 agencies as their internal payroll/personnel system. So, that's my background in HR/payroll. I went on to become an IT manager for all the financial systems — TINS, SPA, PaySubs, SPRS and finally USAS," says Wardle.

"Eventually, an opening came up in the ISAS realm," Wardle continues. "They asked me to be on the team based on my background with financials and HR/payroll. I didn't have much of a background in PeopleSoft, but I learned it. That was six to seven years ago. Then I became a manager over the ISAS developers."

"Most recently, they pulled all the mainframe systems back under my management. I guess I was a good fit for ERP since I already managed all the statewide financial systems."

Win-win

Though the taking on of ERP is a monumental task, Woodruff and Wardle are excited and energized by the benefits to the state ERP will provide.

"Knowing this could be a solution that meets so many needs of the agencies really fuels my enthusiasm for this project," says Woodruff.

"I like contributing to systems that help a lot of people and improve the way they get things done. The parameters of these systems also adhere to the rules and regulations agencies are required to abide by. If we can build systems that help agencies follow the necessary rules and give them all the functionality they need, that's a great thing."

Go team, go

"The other thing that really motivates me is the wonderful group of people I work with," says Woodruff.

"I try hard to form good teams. This being a high-priority, high-visibility project, we know it's going to take a lot to get it done. So we have to be efficient and effective for this to be successful. I have a team that is very capable, knowledgeable and excited about doing this," says Woodruff.

"They want to make a difference, too, and they know that we can. That very much excites me because each individual on the team is a great resource for this project."

Doing the right thing

"Yes, this is big," says Wardle. "USPS was a big project — and I was a member more than a leader of that project — but now with the experience I have I think I can bring a lot to the table. For me, this is fun. More than that, this is good technology. It's the right thing for the state of Texas."

"Though ERP is a big project that's not going to be undertaken overnight, we can get there," says Wardle. "Best of all, we're not starting from scratch. We're leveraging what we have today, which is a huge plus. Many other states undertaking this do not have this luxury."

With co-project managers Woodruff and Wardle at the helm, it's full steam ahead for ERP. Welcome aboard!