How DoT and Oracle Went a Webbing

How DoT and Oracle Went a Webbing

by Jon William Toigo

The interest in enterprise resource planning systems is driven by more than lingering year 2000 concerns, according to industry and government officials. Many organizations see ERP as a vehicle for exploiting the business potential of the World Wide Web.

The rollout of the Federal Financials package from Oracle Corp. of Redwood Shores, Calif., for the 11 operating administrations of the Transportation Department is a case in point. The department's $15 million, two-year, ERP rollout effort cannot be considered separately from its e-commerce efforts, said David Kleinberg, deputy chief financial officer.

In addition to deploying Oracle Federal Financials, the department also has implemented Oracle's e-commerce product, iStore, to create a "Do-It-Yourself" (diy.dot.com) Web site that allows the department's agency customers to conduct business at their convenience and to pay online for a wide range of goods and services using credit cards.

The DIY site covers applications for motor carrier authorities, pipeline assessments, various fines and penalties, Freedom of Information Act request payments and even merchant marine medals. Eventually, Kleinberg expects the site to become a focal point for handling transactions covering every department function that involves a payment from the public.

The ERP and e-commerce efforts combine to help the Transportation Department "provide better service to the public, while simultaneously saving time and money," Kleinberg said. Oracle's Federal Financials package was selected in 1997 to begin setting the stage for these goals.

The Oracle ERP package first underwent trials in December 1997 as part of a proposed accounting solution for the Coast Guard, which comes under the Transportation Department. Not only did the package clear technical hurdles such as demonstrating compliance with the General Services Administration's Financial Management System Software schedule criteria, Oracle Federal Financials also performed well in 25 "super scenarios" that simulated the department's most complex business processes.

The result was the adoption of the product as a core component, not only of a Coast Guard solution but also of the departmentwide financial management modernization effort, dubbed the Delphi Program.

The choice was further validated in August 1999, when Oracle's Public Sector Financials successfully completed Joint Financial Management Improvement Program (JFMIP) testing and joined a short list of ERP and financial management products approved for use by government agencies.

JFMIP replaced Financial Management System Software as the administrative authority responsible for qualifying and authorizing financial management application software.

The rollout of the Oracle ERP package has since obeyed "three commandments," said Kleinberg. "We do not want to replicate the old system, we want to adapt to best practices embodied in the software, and we do not want to customize the ERP package."

On the last point, Kleinberg said the entire implementation team "took the pledge not to customize, and honored it." And most of the flexibility required for the Oracle product to meet Transportation Department requirements was already built into the screens and fields, he said. Where it was not, "we are changing our business processes to adapt to the software," he said.

Oscar Arjona, senior director within Oracle's Federal Civilian Consulting Practice, said the Oracle Federal Financials product provided the Transportation Department with a Web-based, end-to-end solution. It uses a Web browser as a client and integrates readily with Oracle's iStore, an e-commerce product the department also is implementing.

The 1998 selection of Oracle Federal Financials was followed by a six-month project development effort. That made way for a series of solution demonstration labs in which the product, configured to meet Transportation Department requirements, was demonstrated at each department operating administration "to test and confirm that it was in line with their business rules," Arjona said.

Three months subsequently were devoted to designing the interface of the Delphi system.

Rollout of the Federal Financials package was completed in early June in the Federal Railroad Administration, and efforts are under way to deploy the product in the Office of the Inspector General and within the Research and Special Programs Administration.

"More administrations will go live in January," said Arjona, who added that the project plan anticipated completing Oracle Federal Financials implementation efforts within all administrations by late 2001.

Concurrent with the delivery of financial management systems, the Transportation Department also has implemented the Oracle iStore product, according to Keith Ryland, another senior director within Oracle's public-sector consulting practice. The initial implementation of iStore, hosted on a number of Compaq Alpha servers located in a Transportation data center in Oklahoma City, took just four months.

As Federal Financials are implemented by department administrations, some of their business processes are being linked directly to the Do-It-Yourself Web site. Ryland said the use of online payment and data capture capabilities in iStore are streamlining processes that used to be performed manually, saving time and effort.

Kleinberg said he is excited by the new capability as well. "We didn't want heavy centralized administration or staff," he said. "The iStore product is configured like a department store, so it can be maintained by each administration itself."

He added that the Transportation DIY Web site was made possible after an arrangement was reached with the Treasury Department that provided "a broad grant of authority" for processing credit card transactions online.

The bottom line is that the combination of Web technology and ERP is allowing the Transportation Department to change the way it does business both in-house and with its customers.

Kleinberg said DIY "is not glitzy." It has been designed with little animation or special effects, attentive to the needs of customers equipped with slower modems.

"We don't want to create the perception that we are misusing money," he said. At the same time, the Web-enabled solution effectively eliminates "the patchwork of ways that people have had to use to connect with DoT."

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