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Business intelligence at IRRI

posted Jun 21, 2017, 6:03 AM by Caroline Nzui   [ updated Jun 21, 2017, 6:09 AM ]

By Marco Vanderberg

There is a growing demand for business analytics and data visualizations from OCS. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) began evaluating third party data visualization tools, and selected Qlik Sense during the first half of 2016. The tool allows rapid development and deployment of dashboards and graphic reports from OCS. It provides the organization’s management with an overall view of financial, human resources and grants portfolios, and enables deeper analyses of data from its ERP system. 

Some of the reports and dashboards that have been developed are grant execution, CRP and Window 1+2 budget and expenditure, expense by location, ending grants vs pipeline and funding opportunity dashboard, among others.
Below are some visualization screenshots.

Expenditure Dashboard

Grant Execution Dashboard

Funding opportunity dashboard

CRP budget and expenditure

Qlik Sense BI is not only used in OCS as a complementary system, but also serves existing systems such as the Helpdesk. IRRI’s implementation of Qlik Sense is extensible and can accommodate other data sources. The Management Information Systems Unit is collaborating with other IRRI users and developers outside the Information, Knowledge and Systems office to promote the use of Qlik Sense BI in research and other research support areas in the institute. For more information on Qlik Sense BI and its implementation at IRRI, you can contact Marco van den Berg at m.vandenberg@irri.org.

New online IRRI Directory now available

posted Jul 3, 2015, 12:16 AM by Unknown user   [ updated Jul 3, 2015, 12:21 AM ]

With the newly released IRRI Directory, an online resource powered by the One Corporate System (OCS),  staff members of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) can now find updated contact details, including email address, of colleagues from  different departments  or country offices.  This paperless directory can help connect staff at headquarters and country offices more efficiently.  

The new directory features a searchable database of IRRI employees , services,  and other useful numbers  (e.g., restaurants, schools, and banks) in alphabetical order. Other basic search filters in the IRRI Directory includes department and country.  If  you want to contact a colleague in Indonesia but have forgotten his or her email address, the IRRI Directory might help you remember by clicking on “Indonesia” under the country tab to display a list of names and contact information of colleagues in that particular location. It also works as a “reverse” directory as you can look up the owners of an extension number.

Data in the IRRI Directory is coming straight out of OCS, which means only active employees are displayed in the list. Active staff members can also update their key data in  OCS by following a few steps (see document on how to edit). All other data are maintained by HRS.

The IRRI directory is accessible to staff members only.

Gone live but the work is not done

posted Jun 22, 2015, 11:10 PM by Unknown user   [ updated Jun 22, 2015, 11:13 PM ]

About 18 months after implementation, the International Rice 
Research Institute (IRRI) OCS team continues to improve processes, making business transactions simpler, faster and ensuring that project information is more accessible across the organization and other Centres.

“We must be able to monitor our expenses in real time. OCS is a tool that can do just that,”noted IRRI’s Director General Robert Zeigler.“We don’t want to go back to the old, fragmented systems,”he adds.“OCS gives us something to build on, toward an even more responsive and flexible system.”

Launched in October 2013, OCS has allowed staff to manage projects, finances, expenditures, staff involvement, and reports in one coherent and integrated system. Unconnected files and heavily customized legacy software systems such as Middleware, Great Plains, Epicor, IRRI Dashboard and SOCE have been replaced. Immediate efficiency gains occurred due to more extensive on line approvals, improved financial reporting, automated HR processes and internal trading. Fixes and improvements based on user feedback have been incorporated since the first version of OCS was launched. For example, low risk transactions such as short duration leave and small purchases are approved on a no objection basis following a system alert sent to the relevant manager. 

This represents a major efficiency gain compared to the pre OCS workflows. In 2014, OCS was also launched in IRRI’s country offices in India, Bangladesh, Burundi and Myanmar. This has been a great advantage as staff based outside HQ are now able to access and use the same project, financial and human resources information as their colleagues in Los Baños.

Hiram Gomez, Head of Supply Chain Services, and the OCS process expert for procurement and internal trading, shares that before OCS, staff encoded purchase requests, forms and reports in numerous Excel sheets. “With OCS, managers can now view reports anywhere and approve requests within a day since the system is accessible from any location via the Internet. The turnaround time for requests is much faster than before,” says Gomez. He adds that Epicor, the previous financial software, required printing of purchase order forms and massive archiving. “Aside from saving time spent waiting for approvals, it’s a major driver in reducing our paper consumption by 200 reams per week (equivalent to 12 pine trees).”

Looking ahead
James Quilty, Head of the IRRI Experiment Station, sees a future in which OCS plays a significant role in consolidating and standardizing information and data on the farm. The Experiment Station (ES) team, with the support of Plant Breeding, Genetics and Biodiversity Division and Crop and Environmental Sciences Division are creating a user-friendly, geo-referenced database of soil properties, crop performance, and agronomic activity that will form the foundation of the IRRI data farm. “The spatial intensity of data collected from within ES is only matched in a few locations across the world. There is a lot of data being collected from the fields at IRRI and lot of information captured within OCS. 

Combining the OCS data with traditional research data resources will help improve efficiency and effectiveness of research at IRRI. Instead of having to maintain a spreadsheet of operations within a field, at the end of the season it should be possible for OCS to generate a report which reflects details of fertilizer and pesticides used, number of hours of manual labour used, and types of machinery operated in the field.”

Dr. Quilty is a member of the OCS User Advisory Group, working together with the OCS team to improve the system, and help maximize the benefits of the system for both administrative and research purposes.“For me, OCS is not necessarily just an administrative tool. It can be a research tool with the kind of information it can capture. It is a good thing to have a system that we can build on. As we go forward, I think OCS will become stronger and stronger,” says Quilty. 

IRRI upgrades OCS software: system interruptions expected

posted Oct 8, 2014, 6:23 PM by Unknown user

Launched in October 2013, the One Corporate System (OCS) is part of the International Rice Research Institute’s (IRRI) strategy to improve processes and partnerships within the CGIAR and help staff manage projects, human resources, finances, and other administrative functions more efficiently.  By 24 November IRRI is preparing to upgrade the OCS software to Milestone 4 (MS4) for improved capabilities and better user experience.  

In order to migrate to MS4, IRRI will implement a “blackout window” on 17-21 November. During the blackout window, OCS functionality will not be available.  According to IRRI-OCS Project Manager and IRRI Chief Information Officer Marco van den Berg the blackout may be disruptive, but there is no alternative way.  

"All staff need to ensure that leave requests, purchase requisitions, personnel requests, concept notes and proposals, etc., are up to date before the blackout period starts,” said Mr. van den Berg. “For critical unexpected events, such as sudden travel requirements during the blackout period, IRRI will provide workarounds to ensure business continuity."

In the initial announcement on the upgrade Mr. van den Berg issued  on 19 September,he mentioned that the new software  will give the  OCS system a “Facebook” look and fix  some bugs in the current version.

To ensure that the new version of OCS works for IRRI, testing of all existing functionality on a separate trial system is being conducted. "So far, the testing is going well.” he added. “ The experience with the new version has been quite positive. People like the fresh look and learned to use the new buttons easily. While we’ll never be able to make administrative software fun to use, but we do aim to make it easier to use."

Walk-in training sessions for staff members on the use of MS4 will be organized around the time the software will go live.

Important: IRRI prepares for an upgrade to MS4

posted Sep 23, 2014, 9:12 PM by Unknown user   [ updated Sep 25, 2014, 7:16 PM ]

By Marco van den Berg 

IRRI is preparing to upgrade the software behind the One Corporate System (OCS) to a new version, which is known as “Milestone 4” (MS4). It is  important to make this upgrade  because the vendor does not support old versions of the software. We expect to be ‘live’ with the new version on November 24, 2014.

About the upgrade 
The upgrade changes the ‘look and feel’ of the product to be more contemporary (some call it the Facebook look) and solves some bugs in the current version. In order to upgrade OCS to MS4 we need to make sure that the new version works for us. Therefore we’re testing all existing functionality on a separate trial system. So far, the testing is going well. Our experience with the new version has been quite positive. People like the fresh look and learned to use the new buttons easily. While we’ll never be able to make administrative software fun to use, but we do aim to make it easier to use!

The other two CGIAR Centers already using OCS (WorldFish and CIP) are upgrading to MS4 as well. The CGIAR Consortium Office already uses MS4 and six other Centers will go live with  MS4 over the next 6 months.

OCS availability 
In order to migrate to MS4, we need to implement a ‘blackout window’ in the week before the upgrade - November 17-21. During the blackout window, OCS functionality will not be available. We understand this may be disruptive but there is no alternative. We ask that you plan around the blackout window in terms of administrative processes.  Please ensure that your leave requests, purchase requisitions, personnel requests, concept notes and proposals, etc., are up to date before the blackout period starts. For critical unexpected events (e.g. a sudden travel requirement) during the blackout period, IRRI will provide workarounds to ensure business continuity.

Walk-in training sessions for staff members on the use of MS4 will be organized around the time the software will go live. 

OCS rolls out in IRRI India Office

posted Apr 28, 2014, 8:25 PM by Unknown user   [ updated Apr 28, 2014, 9:05 PM ]

One Corporate System (OCS) was introduced in the IRRI India Office in early April. 45 participants, including scientists and administrative staff, attended training. IRRI’s Corporate Service Manager Sonya McGuinness was the focal point. 

An OCS team from IRRI headquarters (Maria Liza Milante, Regina Armiendo, Marileth Agnes, Velinda Ilao and Hiram Gomez) conducted hands-on training of the HR modules, project management modules, finance module on general ledger, and procurement for partners in New Delhi,  Bubaneshwar (March 31- April 1), Odisha (April 3) and Hyderabad (April 4). 

Earlier this year in February, Luisa Urriza and Michelle Sison went to India to determine the requirements of IIO, to provide an overview and training on finance module with emphasis on General Ledger processes and to present the reports that can be generated particularly the Statement of Budget and Expenditures (SOBE) . Atul Singhal and Gopal Agarwal also visited IRRI headquarters from 31 March 31 to 4 April  for hands-on training on Finance related modules and processes.  

The roll-out received positive feedback from the participants. Dr. Takeshi Yamano, expressed his gratitude for finally being able to access essential financial, project and HR information easily. “I am no longer left outside of the IRRI administrative system. Instead of the former practice of sending out inquiries to the headquarters, I can access the system myself to find what I need. Thank you for setting up the OCS,” Dr. Yamano stated.

Most features available in OCS are now available to staff of the IRRI India office. “The system brings us up to the same platform, regardless of where we are posted. This seems fair to me, and I believe that many of our outposted colleagues will agree with me,” said Dr. Yamano. The roll-out in India is the first of the country offices OCS implementation. Plans to roll out OCS in Bangladesh, Burundi and Myanmar are underway. Russel Reinke (Korea) is now connected.  

OCS tweaked

posted Feb 19, 2014, 7:41 PM by Unknown user   [ updated Feb 20, 2014, 2:47 AM ]

In response to user feedback, a few improvements in OCS are now in place to enhance workflow efficiency. These include the new form functionalities, and user-friendly features to support Requests for Personnel. Drafts of requests can now be saved and approving supervisors can see comments posted from earlier forms in the workflow. Accept/Reject buttons are now available. 

By the way, the OCS Request for Personnel workflow has reduced the average length of the approval process from 12 days to 3 days. 

To reduce the number of system generated tasks assigned to supervisors, and to better align IRRI checks and balance with real risk levels, a few system tweaks have been implemented. In the parlance of auditors, we have replaced preventive controls (approvals) with detective controls (reports) on some low risk transactions. 

First, leave requests for a period of 8 hours or less no longer generate an OCS approval task for the staff member's supervisor. However, a system generated email is sent to the supervisor for their information and action if needed. . 

Second, purchases of $100 USD or less will be approved automatically (a.k.a. the ‘small fry’ project). This will speed up the  processing of small transactions and reduce the number of OCS approval tasks by about 30%. At any time, BUS owners can see these small transactions in a report called Small Fry Transactions Report by BUS Owner Report by following steps found in this Google document (document is visible to IRRI staff only) 

Steps on how to access the "Small Fry Transactions by BUS Owner Report"

BUS owners can take action should it be needed. In addition, there will be system generated reports pushed to BUS owners at month end.  

The OCS implementation is now underway in India. Members of the Finance team visited the IRRI India office on 10 – 14 February and the OCS HR team is in Delhi this week to prepare rollout activities such as training and process reviews. DRPC will do the needful in early March. Next up will be Bangladesh and then Burundi and Myanmar. 


OCS user shares experience

posted Nov 19, 2013, 7:17 AM by Unknown user   [ updated Nov 19, 2013, 7:25 AM ]

Marilyn Garcia-Belen of the Partnerships Office is an OCS power user, like several other IRRI staff. She logs onto OCS almost every day, unlike other users who have to do so only occasionally. Since the system went live, Marilyn has been asked for assistance by colleagues who are not as familiar with the new system. Marilyn has finished four online OCS courses and has attended OCS classroom sessions on human resources, project management, finance, and procurement and is thus considered an “OCS Flight crew” member. .

On the week that OCS launched at headquarters, Marilyn Belen, who serves both Partnerships and Communication offices as secretary, was surprised to get a call from the DG’s office to assist Bob Zeigler himself on using the OCS. She soon found herself standing beside Bob at his desk, guiding the DG step-by-step. “The DG needed to approve an air ticket request and I was of course excited about helping him out but also nervous.” She added that it was a pleasant surprise for her. She joined IRRI in 1987 and has served the Institute through six DGs, but helping Bob was the first opportunity she had to personally assist the DG with a task.” 

User feedback and update
“I like the OCS feature Funds Check Result. It lets me know the available budget under a certain agreement and BUS (basic unit of science) quick and easy.” 
The new system has been accessed by 690 staff, with more than 1,000 logins per work day since it went live, according to the system statistics as observed by Marco van den Berg, IRRI chief information officer and OCS project manager. “We’ve seen staff helping each other out, and we greatly appreciate it. It’s also been valuable for the OCS team to hear user feedback, and we have started to implement several valuable suggestions”

Training update
End-training (classroom) sessions on project management, finance, and procurement were concluded on 23 October 2013 with a total of 189 participants that includes country office staff. More than 100 colleagues attended sessions on the Human Resources module.

On 11-15 November, representatives from eight IRRI Country Offices (India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Burundi, Thailand, Iran, Indonesia, and Mozambique) attended a workshop at headquarters that included OCS orientation sessions. 

Members of the IRRI management committee attended an OCS  boot camp on 15 November to get more acquainted with the new system.  

Online sessions
All staff members at headquarters and country offices are encouraged to take advantage of online training courses that are designed for all users. Everyone can access this resource at https://ocs-training.cgiar.org. Some 340 IRRI staff members have accessed the learning management system (LMS). 

Encouraging users to keep on
We recognize that it will take time for everyone to learn to use a new and evolving tool, and we appreciate those who have given extra time and effort to make it work for others around them. We also recognize that the multiplier effect of end users, like Marilyn helping other users, will contribute to the overall success of the OCS implementation at IRRI.

For feedback, assistance, and inquiries on the OCS training, email m.c.dizon@irri.org.
For assistance and feedback on using OCS, email OCSHelpline@irri.org.

Country office reps and liaison scientists learn OCS at HQ

posted Oct 22, 2013, 7:14 AM by Unknown user   [ updated Oct 25, 2013, 11:53 PM ]

Liaison scientists and representatives from 13 countries gathered for the IRRI Country Office meeting, hosted by the office of the DDG-CP, on 15 October 2013 at IRRI headquarters to receive updates on recent management initiatives and issues and to learn about the One Corporate System (OCS).

Country office staff who attended the meeting were Nimal Dissanayake (Sri Lanka), Koumele Abbas Shahdi (Iran), Zulkifli Zaini (Indonesia), Bhaba Tripathi (Nepal), Abdul Rehman (Pakistan), Leo Sebastian (Vietnam/CCAFS), Dule Zhao (Cambodia), Joseph Bigirimana (Burundi), J.K. Ladha (India/Nepal), Russell Reinke (South Korea), Paul Fox (Bangladesh), Ben Samson (Laos), and Ohnmar Tun (Myanmar). 

During the meeting, DG Bob Zeigler warmly welcomed the participants and outlined how OCS will better support research needs.

“We are going through a very important growth spurt in our research and research-related activities, and now we are going through a corresponding growth spurt in building the support services required to ensure our research is effective in meeting our overall mission,” said Bob. “OCS is going to be a new process for all of us. We all have to make adjustments, myself included, in terms of how we handle routine actions between activities, and how we handle approvals. At the end of the day, OCS has been designed to integrate the country offices seamlessly with operations here at headquarters. We’re hopefully bringing the whole Institute into the 21st century in terms of support practices,” he added.

Norman Macdonald gave a brief overview of OCS and its current status. “OCS went live on 7 October 2013 at IRRI headquarters, and now we’ll be rolling out to country offices next. It had gone better than I thought so far. There’s still a lot of work to do, but it’s going well.”

Norm shared plans to roll out OCS at the country offices, starting with human resources in India and Myanmar in the coming weeks, and then project management and finance in India and Bangladesh.

An orientation and open forum on OCS operations were carried out by Corinta Guerta and the DRPC team, the HRS team, and the Finance team led by Sunil JhunJhunwala. Sunil presented on the finance aspect of OCS and gave the participants a walk-through on the Statement of Budget and Expenditures, or SOBE.

Update: end user training
Staff members have been attending the OCS end user training sessions. As of 22 October, 173 IRRI staff, including country office staff, had undertaken classroom training on projects, finance and procurement.  

Separate sessions on human resources have been offered to staff since the go-live date, and as of 18 October, 100 have attended these sessions. More training sessions on HR are scheduled on  24 - 25 October 2013, where 60 staff members are expected to attend. 

Meanwhile, all staff members are encouraged to take advantage of online training courses that are now updated and can be accessed at https://ocs-training.cgiar.org. For assistance and inquiries regarding the OCS training, email mc.dizon@irri.org.

For assistance on using OCS, email OCSHelpline@irri.org.



OCS goes live at HQ

posted Oct 16, 2013, 2:43 AM by Unknown user   [ updated Oct 16, 2013, 6:15 AM ]

The launch of the One Corporate System (OCS) on 7 October 2013 at headquarters went well. The OCS team is working hard to sort the minor issues raised by users thus far. The OCS team is committed to further improving the software over the next months, and rolling out to the country offices. 

Training and support
A compilation of basic courses, or the Learning Management System (LMS), is available to all staff online at https://ocs-training.cgiar.org. Classroom sessions are ongoing through to 25 October 2013, and invited staff members are urged to attend. It will take time to learn the new system so it is important to devote time in getting familiar with it.

Links to OCS information and resources, including FAQs, are available to all irri.org users at IRRI Apps and Links. Where does one find IRRI Apps and Links? Log in to your irri.org email account. On the upper menu bar, click on “More” and select IRRI Apps and Links. Before calling for help, make sure that your question is not already answered in the FAQs. 

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