From the CIO: Status of Labwide Budget Planning System
Chief Information Officer Rob Roser
I thought I would use this month’s column to discuss the status of the labwide Budget Planning System. BPS is currently our highest-priority project and one that will significantly change the way Fermilab plans and executes its budgeting process. While we talk about it as “our” project, BPS is really a joint effort by Computing and Finance, with Finance having ownership and ultimate responsibility of this system.
First, some background. As some of you know, Fermilab struggles when it comes to budget planning. Each division has its own tools and processes, and there is no single source of truth for the data, making scenario planning challenging. In addition, leadership lacks visibility into each other’s division or section budgets. Consequently, there is a lack of uniformity in how we calculate budgets and an inconsistent level of detail across organizations. The new BPS system is meant to address these issues and more.
The BPS project consists of three broad categories of work: integrating our various data sources into the tool; configuring the tool to follow our workflows; and managing organizational change, which includes creating documentation, conducting training and communicating to stakeholders. Along these lines, we broke the project into two releases. (There are potentially more releases in the future with additional categories of work, but none are planned today.)
Release 1, completed in February, loaded financial and HR data from FY14 to the present into the tool and enabled the Finance Office and senior field financial managers (FFMs) to run reports against this data. A new production process now loads new data into the system weekly. Release 2 will enable us to execute the budgeting process as “one lab,” loading all the large project data (Mu2E, LBNF/DUNE, CMS Upgrade...) into the system and completing its configuration for our workflows.
This project has taken longer than we had hoped and anticipated. We started with a charter and RFP in late 2014, selected a tool May 2015 and selected an integration partner in September 2015. We struggled with the tool because its cloud instance was not as mature as advertised, and we lost a lot of time debugging. However, the larger hurdle has been integrating and reconciling the data between the various data sources. We have spent significant effort between Computing and Finance doing data validation, understanding the cause of inconsistencies and fixing the data.
While we finish project implementation, our current plan is to move forward with the 2018 budgeting process using our already established methods. We are now projecting that we will complete Release 2 in early 2018. This date includes significant contingency for data validation and user acceptance testing. Once Release 2 is complete, a focused effort will be made to load the FY18 budget in BPS and then use it to manage the budget throughout FY18.
While this situation is less than ideal, we have a solid plan and are progressing towards the end goal. Thank you to everyone on the project team for your hard work.