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System to Go Offline for Upgrade

If you’re planning to submit a travel authorization, revise your departmental budget or purchase office supplies, you’re going to have to do it soon or hold off until the afternoon of Monday, March 26. That’s when the university’s online financial system will be back in operation following a major software upgrade, which is scheduled to start at 2 p.m. Thursday, March 22.

This news shouldn’t come as a surprise to most faculty and staff. After all, the upgrade has involved staff in the Purchasing Department, Foundations Accounting and Investments, the Controller’s Office, Contracts and Grants, the Budget Office and the Office of Information Technology, not to mention more than 90 individuals across campus who helped test various components of the system.

Chances are someone in your unit or college has taken part in the training that’s been offered in recent weeks to help the system’s regular users navigate the new features and enhancements. If you missed out, don’t worry. More training sessions are on the way.

University Controller Charles Cansler says the purpose of the upgrade is to provide better customer service.

“We’re continually improving processes and reducing the administrative burden on our core missions of teaching, researching and extension,” he says. “We’re here to help, and this upgrade is a building block to gain more efficiency and make NC State’s core missions even more effective.”

Enormously Complicated

To understand the system upgrade, the Bulletin talked with Ron Reed, director of financial systems in Enterprise Application Services. It turns out that upgrading the university’s financial system is enormously more complicated than installing the latest version of a consumer software program like Microsoft Word.

Sure, it's a hassle going without the financial system for a couple of days. But if we didn't update the system every so often, we'd still be processing your budget requests like this. Photo courtesy NCSU Libraries/Historical State collection.

The system, which includes travel authorizations and Marketplace (the procurement program), is accessed via MyPack Portal and provides financial management applications for accounting, budgeting, contracts and grants and purchasing for the entire university.

Like NC State’s other enterprise applications for human resources and student information, the financial system is a customized version of Oracle’s PeopleSoft. Campus programmers have to customize the software to help the system run more efficiently and to meet the particular needs of NC State users.

“Oracle hands us a piece of vanilla software,” Reed explains. “We customize between 5 and 10 percent to benefit campus.”

New and Improved Features

In addition to electronic workflow improvements, the latest upgrade will make the system more compatible with current Web browsers and include a new asset management module to replace an outdated version. Users will also appreciate an updated surplus request system and a new chartfield request system which will eliminate paper request forms.

If you’re not familiar with any of these systems, rest assured that someone in your unit or college is. And if that person looks a little more relaxed in the coming weeks (and if your travel authorization sails through the approval process), you’ll know the upgrade of the financial system was worth the effort.

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