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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.