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CGIAR One Corporate System (OCS) Newsletter June 2017 vol 4

posted Jun 21, 2017, 5:59 AM by Caroline Nzui

Editorial: Business World On Spring 2016 Upgrade

Congratulations to WorldFish, World Agroforestry Centre, AfricaRice, ICARDA and the System Management Office who have now upgraded to Business World On Spring 2016 (milestone 6). Half the OCS members have now completed the upgrade and they will be closely followed by the 5 remaining Centres. By upgrading, users are now benefiting from the latest, easy to use, web interface that provides access to almost all the functionality provided by Business World.

In the latest version there are a wide range of new features made available through capability packs that Centres can choose to implement to improve productivity, from enhanced travel expenses and absence modules to the new budget books, requisitions and appraisals.

The future development of Unit4’s Business World ERP will make use of Artificial Intelligence and predictive technologies which Unit4 showcased at the Ambassadors Connect conference at the beginning of May. The first example of this technology in use will be when Unit4’s Digital Assistant, Wanda, starts to chat with us with the release of Business World Spring 2017 edition. Read More here. As a member of Unit4’s customer Advisory Council, CGIAR was invited to the conference and met with the CEO and other senior leaders of Unit4 to recommend the improvements and new features we would like to see in the product going forward.

One Corporate SystemCGIAR and Unit4 Business World moving towards a food-secure future (VIDEO)

Unit4’s Enterprise Resource and Planning (ERP) solution, Business World, is helping CGIAR to manage the Centres’ finance, human resource (HR) and logistics operations. It can also be used to manage the research process from inception of a concept, through the planning and development of a proposal to monitoring and reporting on grants and research projects.

Here, Ian Moore (Head, OCS Operations Support Unit) explains how Unit4 Business World (UBW) could assist CGIAR in realizing its vision. (VIDEO)


CIP to grow potatoes on Mars

By Ton Dobbe (Unit4), Carlos Varela (CIP) and Joel Ranck (CIP)
Carlos Varela (Chief Information Officer) and Joel Ranck (Head of Communications) from the International Potato Center (CIP) had the pleasure of being interviewed by Unit4 about their vision for making a potato the first living organism on Mars, and the role that OCS is playing in realizing that dream.
The project #PotatoesOnMars, which is being executed in partnership with NASA, has become big news and raised the profile of CIP and its cause worldwide with a media reach of more than 2 billion. The project is led by a team of world-class scientists who aim to grow potatoes under Martian conditions in a bid to save millions of lives on earth.

So how exactly does OCS come in? The system, through UNIT4’s Elastic Foundation, will be able to capture every single relevant detail and aspect of the business at a level of granularity unmatched in the industry.

“This capability allows us to link any transaction to a purpose, that is, a scientific activity and the project it belongs to. This way scientists, project managers and business managers across the organization can be 100% accountable for anything they do or spend and have real-time insight into burn-rates to take instant action to make improvements,” explained Carlos Varela.

Read the full interview here: Just imagine: growing potatoes on Mars....

Continued Enhancement at WorldFish

By Patric Lim
WorldFish Head Office conducted a Finance Leadership Workshop on 9-12 August 2016 with a focus on financial management and capacity building for managers. The OCS team was invited to brief the staff on system functionality and processes including: Travel, Fixed Assets, Exchange Rate Enquiry, Procurement, Invoice, Sales Order, Journals, and Project Lifecycle Management. 

Participants pose for a group photo

During these sessions, the participants were given an opportunity to discuss system process enhancements with the OCS experts. One of the major requests was to simplify the existing system workflows which required multiple layers of approval before transactions could proceed to the next stage. Also raised was the issue of seemingly over-engineered and redundant reports that were too complicated and confusing for the users. The Director of Finance and Operations, Jamie Craig, (who is also the current Chair of the WorldFish OCS Governance Board) has agreed to set both these areas as the improvement priorities for the OCS team in 2017.

OCS and Finance team members share a meal

Additionally, a revised Project Lifecycle Management (PLM) process was introduced during the fourth quarter of 2016. Before implementation, users tended to skip several mandatory system processes before an agreement was signed by the donor. This has raised issues on data accuracy in OCS and had a negative effect on decision-making processes. To resolve this, the OCS team, together with the Research Support Hub, have introduced a simplified process which now incorporates the missing steps. Using the OCS “forms” functionality, more comprehensive information can be presented to the correct approvers from the beginning of the lifecycle. In addition, by automating record creation, the effort required by users to complete each stage of the cycle has been reduced.

In November 2016, WorldFish Business Experts gathered together to test OCS Milestone 6 – Web. Overall response was positive, though several show stoppers were identified. The team is already working on these and the plan is to go live with Milestone 6 in the first quarter of 2017.

Business intelligence at IRRI

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.

ICARDA implements request for system change in OCS

By Ahmad Al-Mously

Just like the other Centres, the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) OCS technical team receive different requests for support which include report development, access granting, and change in parameters of processes. Although the Centre had implemented a helpdesk system, which is working fine and already contains thousands of support tickets, there was need to make sure that certain support requests go through the proper channels of approvals in order to:
1- Obtain the approvals of the supervisor(s) of the requestor (usually key business users).

2- Obtain the approvals of other stakeholders in the system (such as ITU head, or Director of Corporate Services).

3- Follow a proper system development lifecycle where a business user presents requirements that are reviewed, implemented and confirmed by the requestor.

4- Make sure that all members of the OCS technical team are aware of the change.

5- Generate reports of requests by category.

6- Centralize all requests with approvals for audit purposes.

The OCS technical team achieved all the above by creating a Request for System Change in UBW using forms and applying a workflow. The form has a collection of required fields in order to categorize the request, explain the need, and add comments by different workflow approvers.

The technical team implemented this in June 2016, and the form has successfully captured about 70 requests so far. 

The graphs below show the distribution of requests by area and by module. The majority of requests were related to financial reporting.

Distribution of requests by module and area

CGIAR One Corporate System (OCS) Newsletter September 2016 vol 3

posted Oct 6, 2016, 4:49 AM by Caroline Nzui   [ updated Oct 6, 2016, 5:01 AM ]

Biannual newsletter for the One corporate system (OCS)

CGIAR OCS wins an award!

In April 2016 Unit4 held its Connect Conference, their first ever global user conference in Amsterdam. During the event, 12 organizations were recognized for their implementation of Unit4 products in six categories. CGIAR was nominated and came runner up to UNOPS in the category dubbed “Special Achievement”.

The Operational Support Unit (OSU) had submitted an application at the request of Nick Gibson, the CGIAR Account Manager at Unit 4. The submission mainly covered the achievements of the OCS project and the challenges faced. This award was meant to recognize 10 independent, but allied, organizations who had proved that they could work together to implement a core client of the same product hosted in a single cloud location.

More than 1,000 delegates attended the Unit4 Connect 2016 in Amsterdam. Event sponsors comprised Microsoft, BearingPoint, Capgemini, EVRY and Systems Accountants. This year’s winners in the various categories are as follows:

Best in Class: YouSure
Business Innovation: Aberdeen University
Time to Value: Screwfix
Growth Champion: Alten
Best for People: WSP Management Services
Special Achievement: The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS)

OCS Direction of Travel

By Brendan Fagan

Delegates at the Unit4 Connect Conference were treated to a fascinating presentation on the direction of travel Unit4 is taking with our beloved One Corporate System (OCS). Once the upbeat music died down and the pictures of unfeasibly happy users faded from the screen the sober facts emerged. The number of users affected by the changes Unit4 is now putting in place is numbered in the millions and pretty much every organization which uses UBW (Unit4 Business World – what the rest of the CGIAR world calls OCS) is under financial pressure.

From the education sectors, to the non-governmental, local government, health care, logistics, professional services – all areas where UBW has a strong presence – budgets are under pressure. It is not just us at CGIAR feeling the pinch. Shareholders are demanding more value, governments are implementing austerity measures and – as we know – donors are demanding more value and greater visibility of how their funds are spent.

Against this background of increasing pressure on the budgets of all organizations which use any type of ERP system we have the perception of users that when compared to the myriad of systems which people use in their private lives – on phones, tablets and PCs – the most unpleasant, unfriendly, unnecessarily complicated and old fashioned systems they use in their daily lives are always in the corporate environment. After all, we do not need training to order goods over Amazon, we can do our personal banking on our phones without the need for a user manual and personal communications across a wide range of apps and media can be picked up by anyone.
The reason why corporate systems lag behind those in other areas lies partly in their genesis. They all began as accounting systems for use by finance personnel for whom the interface of indifferently presented rows of numbers was acceptable.

The title of this article is apt because the metaphor employed by Unit4 to describe the direction in which they are taking their product is “self-driving software”. Consider the way cars used to be – and many still are. Everything was manual and the driver had lots to do. Remember the choke lever anybody? Now we have automatic gearbox, cruise control, sat-nav, starter buttons, auto wipers and headlights. Even now there are self-driving cars being tested in California and elsewhere with their introduction being mooted within the next decade.

So the same is happening with OCS. In Manchester we were treated to a demonstration of the Unit4 bot called Wanda. A voice-activated personal assistant, Wanda integrates with UBW back office processes and gets its language processing tech from Microsoft’s Bot Framework. It responds to language inputs and is currently interfaced with timesheets and purchasing. Its reach throughout the ERP system is set to grow and grow. The following is typical of the way in which Wanda will be used. Please bear in mind that the following transaction is done by voice only using a phone app and there is no keyboard action.

Things went very quiet in the hall when this was first presented. We have also seen it used to raise a requisition for a laptop – again using voice only. Want to know how many leave days you have left? Just ask Wanda.

It is just possible that some people reading this will respond with a certain justifiable skepticism. Wanda – an interesting experiment of little practical value to be released at some point in the far distant future? Well no actually. Wanda is due to be released in early 2017. It’s also worth pointing out that Advent International paid US$1.6 billion for Unit4 in 2014 so there are others out there who believe that this is a technology with a future.

Exciting times for the future of ERP? Possibly, for the first time we can respond with a genuine affirmative. Corporate systems will no longer be the poor relation in comparison with our personal tech. We will no longer need a training course just to enter a requisition.
"The best user interface is no interface at all."

News from the Centres

OCS Mobile applications in CIP

By Carlos Varela
In 2015 over 25 percent of the world’s population were using smartphones. That number is expected to grow by 10 percent by 2019. More and more of our work can be done using smartphone apps, and in keeping with this trend, CIP, the International Potato Centre, is leading initiatives to do just this.

As part of its 2016 IT strategy, CIP will roll out a suite of mobile applications that make completing tasks more convenient. This includes Unit4 Business World Tasks 4.0, an OCS application for managers to approve timesheets, purchase requisitions and absence requests. 

“This app fulfills a real need,” says CIP Head of IT, Carlos Varela. “In the past, we had some important requisitions that were not being filled because an approver was travelling or might not have had convenient access to their computer, much less the Internet. Today, that requisition can be approved by the manager on the way to the airport.” 

Officially launched on 17 March 2016, Unit4 Business World Tasks is now the preferred approval medium at CIP. “I like it because I don’t have to log in to approve timesheets,” says CIP Chief Operating Officer, Michael Gerba. “I open the app and it tells me if I have any tasks pending and with a swipe of my finger I can review and approve them. Easy!” 

According to Varela, “We’ve known for years that our farmers have smartphones and they are using them to improve their food security. It only makes sense that we move some of our work to mobile devices. It’s where people are and if we can make tasks more convenient for them to complete, then we become more productive.” 

CIP plans to launch other mobile apps such as Timesheet and Reports, and others not directly related to OCS including the Office 365 app suite, mobile support and video conferencing. 
Pending Task.
Approval Screen.
Task Approved

CIAT moves to the next stage in OCS 
By Sylvia Maria Pineda

Since 2013, a dedicated OCS team made up of IT specialists and other experts have been working hard at the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) to implement the new business platform that is based on Unit4 Business World. In January 2015, CIAT went live with several key modules such as finance, logistics and travel. Throughout that year the OCS development team worked to enhance these modules, rolled them out to the region and country offices and worked on the configuration of new modules scheduled for implementation in 2016. 

By January 2016 we were ready to go live with the human resource module comprising 12 sub-modules.
This was the signal for the OCS project to transition from an implementation project to operations and continual improvement. The OCS team was then disbanded, with the technical IT specialists rejoining the IT Unit and the subject specialists returning to their Units to become champions of OCS in their respective areas of finance, supplies and human resource management.

From the beginning of 2016 the IT Unit acquired full control of the operations and enhancement of OCS across the whole institute. Staff are receiving all the necessary training and the service desk is fully operational, handling all support requests from head office and the regions. Enhancements and new requirements are being developed by a small team within the IT Unit.

OCS regional training in ICRAF

By Betty Rabar and Isaac Ochieng
The OCS training for East and Southern Africa and Latin America was held from Monday 4th April 2016 to Wednesday, 20th April 2016. There were a total of 13 participants drawn from Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda Tanzania, Peru, Uganda and Malawi. During the training weeks, participants were first taken through the four common modules: Introduction to UBW, Requisition, Leave and Travel. The different groups then went into more detail and covered modules such as General Ledger, Procurement, Applicant Tracking, Accounts Payable and Receivable, among others. They were also joined by administrators from HQ during the first week when covering the Human Resource modules on Contract Management, Applicant Tracker and Request for Personnel.

During the closing session on 20th April 2016, participants had an opportunity to interact with Key Business Users (KBUs), System Builders and Process Experts. They sought clarification on areas that they had not understood well. They were then confirmed as Champions and KBUs in their respective areas and are now involved in training staff based in their respective countries.

The training team then moved on to the last stop, West and Central Africa (WCA) in June 2016. Participants were drawn from Cameroon, Mali, Côte d'Ivoire and other WCA site offices. There are a total of 129 trainees, out of whom 21 are key business users (KBUs).

So far, a total of 454 ICRAF staff have been trained on the system, and we have 70 key business users located in all countries where the organization works.

Training on the Project Management module will be launched in Nairobi in the next few months, before it is rolled out to the regions. This training will cover sub-processes such as donor intelligence; call for proposals, ideas, concept notes and proposal development; agreements, sub-agreements and memoranda of understanding (MoUs).

Operational Support Unit News Desk

UNIT4 Advisory Council for non-profit organizations

CGIAR attended the inaugural Advisory Council meeting for non-profit customers. Unit4 has set up four Advisory Councils based on vertical sectors of their customer base. The other councils comprise Professional Services, Public Services, and Education and Research. Five customers from a sector make up each Advisory Council. In addition to the CG, the other non-profit members are Action Contre La Faim (ACF), Norwegian Red Cross, Save the Children, The Salvation Army and UNOPS.

The objective of the Advisory Council is to build a long-term relationship between the customer and Unit4 and establish a sounding board for the Unit4 Business World solution and business development going forward. Members will provide ideas and strategic input into the future requirements of the sector and in return will receive early release of new versions for testing and to provide feedback.

During the first meeting we received more detailed insight into the changes made to all parts of Unit4 and discussed new requirements and improvements to the product including: providing development tools and more information to speed up implementation of updates and upgrades, provision of 24/7 support, new modules for grant management (Unit4 are working on designs for Macmillan Cancer Support) and fundraising (connectors to CRM products such as MS Dynamics and SalesForce), and more interactive feedback options for donor reporting by providing access to published reports, project photos, videos and other information that document progress on a project.

The Education Sector discussed the requirement for a module related to or linking to research outputs such as publications and data which would also be useful to OCS members.

The next Advisory Council meeting will be held in 6 months’ time. It will be hosted by UNOPS. 

CGIAR relationship with Unit4
In the past 18 months Unit4 has made huge organizational changes within the company. They have moved from country-based silos to a global structure organized around products. CGIAR now has access to executives in the global structure and is no longer reliant on Unit4 UK.

OCS Operational Support Unit (OSU) met with Paul Marriner, Global Head of the Non-Profit Advisory and explained the challenges OCS members had in their relationship with Unit4 during the implementation. As an initial starting point to repairing those relations and improving our current implementation, Unit4 have offered to carry out a review of the OCS implementation. The review will concentrate on features of the product where OCS members have indicated there are issues or where the product doesn’t provide the required features. These will include: commitment accounting and funds checking; travel; dashboards; missing workflows; and the re-engineering of the Project and Agreement implementation that is preventing us from using new project-related features of Business World.

The review started in May and will be carried out by Phil Beaumont, an experienced global pre-sales consultant and a solution architect yet to be named. 


Group photo of Head of OSU Ian Moore (back left) with ICRAF Regional OCS trainees displaying the award.

Group photo of the participants from Latin America and East and Southern Africa

Eric Mutinda takes the participants through the session on leave application in Cameroon

To read more in this issue. Find the full copy in high resolution here.


Vol 1 Issue 2 March 2016

posted Mar 31, 2016, 4:40 AM by Caroline Nzui   [ updated Oct 6, 2016, 5:01 AM ]

Biannual newsletter for the One corporate system (OCS)

Letter from OCS Steering Committee

Michael Gerba, CIP
Chief Operating Officer

We have had an incredibly busy time in the few months since Issue 1 of our newsletter was produced, and we can proudly say that all 10 members of the OCS initiative have gone live. We have definitely passed a crucial milestone.

For many Centres, 31st December marked the first year-end in OCS. Anyone from a finance background understands that in finance departments everywhere this can be a tense time. Brand new procedures are invoked – all the General Ledger entries for the year are totalled, rolled forward, reported on, assets depreciated, accruals and prepayments calculated, accounts reconciled, and the list goes on and on. The potential for a calamity is always there in the background. If anything major is to go wrong with an ERP system then the chances are that it will happen at year-end. If there were any faults in the system set-up – a box left unticked or a table not updated, this is where the flaws will be cruelly exposed.  

So the year-end has come and gone and while there are have been some issues that needed to be resolved it has been a relatively calm and orderly year-end close.

The fact is that this has been achieved is no small feat; teams of dedicated and committed staff have been “burning the midnight oil”, taking decision after decision, sometimes without much support or recognition, and leveraging years of experience and expertise to achieve this outcome. You know who you are, and at this point we think a metaphorical pat on the back is in order.

Now, we know that an ERP system such as OCS is more than just a finance system. Several Centres have forged ahead and already implemented modules for HR (and all its many sub-components), logistics, project management, planner, timesheets, travel expenses, fixed assets, reporting and dashboards. The list goes on, and you can read about them in the user stories in this newsletter. Other Centres have included many of these modules in their 2016 work plans.

Another priority Centres have set for 2016 is to ensure that OCS is rolled out to all their regional and country offices. This will provide real-time reporting on the complete set of a Centre’s activities and mitigate against some of the risks linked with small offices and segregation of duties.

To assist with the process of continual improvement and development of OCS, Brendan Fagan, an expert systems architect and project manager has been recruited to lead the common developments. Brendan brings many years of experience working with ERP systems, and in particular Unit4 Business World, to the team.

Much remains to be done. To steal a quote from Nadia Kazmi in Africa Rice “ERP system development continues until the last user is dead.” Well, perhaps that is a little strong but you get the point…

Latest from the centers.

OCS at goes LIVE at ILRI!

By Ewen LeBorgne

OCS went live at ILRI on 21st September 2015 with logistics and 12thOctober 2015 with finance, people and organizational development (HR), planner, project costing and billing, research and time registration.

It’s been a long journey from the system definition stages in 2012 to go-live in September 2015. The ILRI OCS team, led by the Project Manager Isaac Kihara, have worked amidst several challenges. It was because of these challenges that the ILRI OCS steering committee made the difficult decision, in the final quarter of 2014, to postpone go-live to the second half of 2015. This saw them work on a very good set of building blocks, both in terms of the modules developed, data cleaning and preparations identified and initiated, consultancy partners (GCON4), communication activities planned and governance of the OCS project sorted out.


In the past few months, together with the experience and expertise of GCON4, Isaac and the OCS team have been able to:

  • Work on the various OCS modules that ILRI will run;
  • Prepare data cleaning and undertake thorough connectivity stress tests in the Nairobi (Headquarters) and Addis Ababa campuses;
  • Hold bi-weekly (and now weekly) steering committee meetings to ensure that the project is on the right track and that no major issue is overlooked;
  • Undertake a series of communication activities to engage staff and various types of users around OCS.

The main challenges and opportunities of OCS at ILRI

The big challenges that ILRI has gone through, and mostly turned into opportunities have been:

  • Getting buy-in from the management of ILRI to really support and be seen to support OCS. This is now secure and embodied by the high-level representation at OCS steering committee meetings;
  • Identifying Unit4 consultants to assist the ILRI OCS team had proven nerve-wracking.

Among the technical operations, data transformation and mapping also proved difficult, but the biggest issue was redefining business processes. Various ILRI work processes were previously not very clear, but the OCS workflow necessitated that these be articulated very clearly. This business process re-engineering took major efforts but eventually proved extremely useful. However, it has not been entirely finalized as ILRI has the peculiarity of owning two major campuses (headquarters in Nairobi and another major campus in Addis Ababa) where business processes and requirements are not always the same.
Managing expectations of the leadership and staff was another area of concern throughout the project. It was really tempting to go live in 2014, especially to cover up the slow progress in developing the system. However, the whole team resisted this and instead put emphasis in all communication materials that OCS would aim to improve processes in the organization, but would definitely not be perfect. It would require inputs from everyone to improve functionalities.
Lastly, the regions (and country offices) in which ILRI is operating, beyond Nairobi and Addis Ababa, will not be served in 2015, but will have to be part of the next bandwagon.

The next frontier for OCS at ILRI

ILRI is on the final sprint before releasing all modules live. Procurement is already live and all others will follow by mid-October (2015).
Then, as is the case with any system roll-out project, the real work starts; this involves collection of additional feedback from live practice, and identify the next frontier and improvements that need to be added to the system. Already the ‘people and budget planner’ module and other P&OD functionalities are planned for 2016.

Communicating about OCS – carefully and consistently

Since 2014, the OCS team, with the help of the communication and knowledge management (CKM) team of ILRI put together a communication strategy, a website (http://ilri-ocs.wikispaces.com/), a question and answer email address (AskILRIocs@cgiar.org) and a series of communication activities to ensure that all staff and various types of users understand, appreciate and are confident using OCS modules. Among the communication activities put in place:
  • At ILRI TownHalls (general meetings bringing the whole institute together physically or virtually), Director General Jimmy Smith has provided regular updates on OCS and what is planned;
  • Specifically when the training was in full swing and focusing on the issue of timesheets/time registration, a video of Jimmy Smith was recorded and shared with all staff to explain what is at stake with OCS time registration for ILRI;
  • Every week there has been updates in the ‘Week ahead email’ as well as on the digital signage screens on both ILRI campuses, with short news about what is happening in relation with OCS every week;
  • Misja Brandenburg has written a monthly update about OCS shared by email and on the ILRI Announcements blog to give a more comprehensive overview of what is happening;
  • An ‘OCS open day’ was organized in Addis Ababa and then in Nairobi to engage all staff;
  • At special meetings (Board meetings, Management team meetings), the OCS team has regularly organized a briefing on OCS progress and important issues to keep the leadership of the organization aware of progress and of its possible role in promoting OCS;
  • A series of posters (a general poster and some thematic module posters) and a flyer were developed, partly building upon the example of ICRAF);
  • An OCS website has been set up. It contains information about each module, the process and plan, the issues that people are putting forward on time registration or otherwise; it also explains who is behind OCS and keeps tracks of all the meeting minutes of steering committees.


By Hashem Abed.
On 13 April 2015, ICARDA went live with the One Corporate System after years of hard work and collaboration with other CG Centres. Representatives of ICARDA’s senior management and the OCS team witnessed the first transactions processed through the ICARDA UBW System. 

ICARDA’s goal has been to effectively implement OCS in all its locations worldwide to support decentralization. The organization’s biggest challenge was not so much on changing technology or creating new business processes, but motivating staff to adapt to the change.


ICARDA considers OCS an opportunity to re-engineer and enhance its business processes in addition to building the capacity and skills of its staff. All staff at ICARDA were involved and trained on the use of the system. Training is a key component in accelerating performance and developing skills and abilities of staff on the use of the system.

The real return on investment following implementation of a new system takes time. There are still some teething problems that have arisen, but the benefits gained far outweigh the costs and difficulties.
ICARDA plans to implement additional modules in order to strengthen and streamline its business processes.

Updates from ICRAF

OCS training in Bogor.


By Isaac Ochieng

The ICRAF OCS team travelled to Bogor, Indonesia to conduct User Acceptance Training (UAT) for staff from Southeast Asia, South Asia, and East and Central Asia. Participants from the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, India and China, as well as field staff from Sulawesi in Indonesia, converged at CIFOR where the Southeast Asia Regional as well as the Indonesia Country Offices are hosted, from the 24 August to 14 September 2015. 
During the first week, participants went through the common modules which comprised Introduction to UBW, Leave Application, Travel and Requisition. While participating in the training workshop, Dr. Ujjwal Pradhan, the Regional Coordinator for Southeast Asia expressed strong support for the One Corporate System initiative that is anticipated to enhance internal controls and cut across all participating CG Centres. Acknowledging that OCS, if well implemented, would provide uniform and efficient access to valuable resources required for both technical and financial reporting, Dr Pradhan noted that ICRAF SEA would remain in the forefront in ensuring co-ownership of the system by providing all the support required for trainers, both from the region and HQ. After the training, the Southeast Asia, South Asia and East and Central Asia teams formed specific expert groups and are communicating on Whatsapp and other social media accounts to share experiences, concerns and seek clarification.
From Southeast Asia the ICRAF OCS training team will move on to the East and Southern Africa, West and Central Africa and Latin America Regions.

OCS Open Day
  By Betty Rabar
ICRAF held its first open day on 16 October 2015. The main aim of the event was to gather  feedback on the new system from various regions including Philippines, Indonesia, India, Vietnam, China, Malawi, Tanzania and Cameron. The sessions, facilitated by Hassan Mehmood – Head of Capacity Development, saw various issues raised, both positive and negative.
Some of the concerns raised were on the Procurement module. It was largely described as efficient, but members requested that purchase orders include terms and conditions for the suppliers and that fonts on supplier details be standardised. Users were urged to ensure that they select the correct classification when making requisitions.



A number of issues arose on the Citrix system and it was resolved that OSU would work on these. It was however pointed out that some maintenance had been recently conducted and this would help in resolving some of the problems.
Other modules that were extensively discussed were Leave, Travel Authorization and Travel Expense Claim. On travel, it was also proposed that an option be included in the system to initiate cancellation of a TA in case one’s travel is cancelled.
On the Finance modules, it was noted that the commitment slide for financial reports would be improved, journals were now working much better with the new templates and that on accounts payable, both the originator and approver would be clearly indicated for each transaction to ensure accountability.
The issue of the funds checking function also came up. It is currently available but not enabled. The technical team would continue to work on this. The OCS team would also share the new budget codes with administrators.
Training for other regions would begin with East and Southern Africa and Latin America before moving to West and Central Africa.

OCS Operational Support Unit (OSU) News board.

A lot has been happening on the OCS front. Here are some the latest additions to the environment for value addition. 

Amazon Workspaces for the OCS Environment.

The OCS Operational Support Unit has released the Amazon Workspaces for OCS users. Amazon WorkSpaces is a managed desktop computing service inthe cloud that allows customers to easily provision cloud-based desktops that allow end-users to access the documents, applications and resources they need with the device of their choice, including laptops, iPad, Kindle Fire, Android tablets, and zero clients.  

This enables OCS users to access published applications on the OCS environment, and is particularly useful for users who are either travelling or working from home. Some of the benefits realized in using Amazon WorkSpaces include:
  1. Easy to use – Users will be provided with a link to the Amazon WorkSpace client, where they can log into the OCS eminent using the credentials provided by OSU support.
  2. Secure – When users are using Amazon WorkSpaces, data is not sent to or stored in end-user devices. This offers a secure, high quality experience between users’ devices and their WorkSpaces. Amazon WorkSpaces incorporates PCoIP technology from Teradici which compresses, encrypts, and encodes the users’ desktop computing experience and transmits ‘pixels only’ across any standard IP network to users’ stateless zero clients, PCs, laptops and mobile devices.
  3. Desktop and mobile compatibility – Amazon WorkSpaces clients are available for both Windows and Mac computers, for iPad, Kindle Fire and Android tablets, as well as for zero clients. When WorkSpaces are provisioned for users, they will receive an email containing details on how they can download the clients. The WorkSpaces PC or Mac client provides users with full access to their desktop and includes support for multiple monitors, audio and video.
  4. Flexible payment structure – Amazon offers a pay-as-you-go model with no long-term commitment. This means that Centres will only be charged for what they use. This is a unique feature that distinguishes Amazon Workspaces from other cloud virtual desktop providers, such as Citrix.  

Web Application Firewall.
Security has always been a main concern with cloud systems and therefore OSU has to keep abreast with the latest security systems in the market. One such system that has been tested for implementation is Incapsula.

Incapsula’s content delivery network (CDN) comprises data centres located at strategic points on the Internet (e.g., close to ISPs). These locations enhance global coverage for our clients, while also allowing them to comply with regional content and privacy regulations. Incapsula’s CDN runs on top of major Tier 1 provider networks, ensuring the highest quality of service, maximum throughput and minimum latency. 

Leveraging Incapsula’s proven security expertise, our PCI-certified web application firewall and advanced bot protection capabilities secure any website against known and emerging threats. It thwarts all OWASP threats—from bots, scrapers, and spammers to sophisticated injection and XSS attacks. All network and application DDoS attacks are also mitigated, as are application-level attacks.
Meanwhile, outgoing traffic is both accelerated and optimized by Incapsula’s caching and optimization techniques, ensuring optimal pass-through speed for welcome visitors.


OCS finance training at ILRI Nairobi in March 2015.

OCS Open Day in ILRI Addis Ababa in 13 August 2015.

ICARDA OCS team “Smiley faces at the first system transaction”

OCS Project Manager, Linus Kabutha and Faith Murigi ICRAF MIS assistant assisting approvers on the approval process and substitute assignment.

Some of the participants from ICRAF OCS open day in Nairobi


To read more in this issue. Find the full copy in high resolution here.

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Vol 1 Issue 1 June 2015

posted Jun 15, 2015, 2:50 AM by Caroline Nzui   [ updated Jun 17, 2015, 2:39 AM ]

Biannual newsletter for the One corporate system (OCS)

Letter from OCS Steering Committee

We are excited to launch our first newsletter, which is specifically designed to share experiences of the CGIAR centres participating in the One Corporate System (OCS) initiative. We plan to keep you updated on the progress of OCS through our bi-annual newsletters. The focus is directed towards you; the scientist, administrator, student and how the system can work for you, your success stories and the future plans that we have in store for OCS.
We want this newsletter to be valuable to you so please don’t hesitateto share your feedback and suggestions to help us improve.

One Corporate System

How it all started

Did you know that the concept of more integrated business systems of CGIAR Centres were proposed as far back as October 1999? The current proposal started to take shape in the form of the One Corporate System when in 2008 a culmination of drivers, including the replacement of outdated, unsupported, noncompliant or expensive systems,led several CGIAR Centres to investigate the option of a new corporate business system.

With an urgent need for change in some cases, the Corporate Service Executives saw the potential benefits and added efficiencies from working together to implement the One Corporate System (OCS). Read More.

The OCS Project.

The One Corporate System project was jump-started with 10 members signing the agreement to implement Unit4 Business World software from UNIT4.The implementation was to be rolled out in three phases. CIP, IRRI and WorldFish in the first phase, the Consortium Office, AfricaRice and ICARDA in phase 2 and Bioversity, ICRAF, ILRI and CIAT in phase 3. Read More.

OCS Success Stories

OCS at IRRI: Gone live but the work is not done

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.” Read More.

CIP’s Journey

International Potato Center (CIP) has been live with OCS for more than 20 months that have been full of interesting challenges and encouraging results. From the initial apprehension of transitioning to a new system to realizing the benefits of a central repository for key operational information followed by a major upgrade to Milestone 4 that has received positive reviews, OCS has proven itself to be a rewarding experience. Read More.

The Alexander Sapega Story; OCS Bioversity International

The G41-42 room is spilling over with anxious HQ staff, as well as Heads of Corporate Services and Human Resources. Alexander Sapega marks the highly anticipated moment; with the help of the OCS project team, he logs into Agresso.
“I didn’t feel nervous, because Dario Valori, the IT Manager & OCS Project Manager, and the project team were there,” says Sapega. “For me the entry was simple and natural.” Read More.

OCS Operational Support Unit

The Operational Support Unit (OSU) was created to manage the common OCS hosting environment, the contracts and otherOCS administrative tasks. It’s role quickly expanded to include allcommon aspects of the OCS project including providing application support, facilitating information sharing between Centres and coordinating the design and development of future improvements to the system. A 5-year business plan has been developed that will guide the future initiatives of the project with support from OSU. Read More.

From the Team: Employee spotlight

Ian Moore.
Head of OCS Operational Support Unit (OSU)

Can you tell us which quick-wins OCS has brought to the Centres who 
are already using it?
As an ERP it incorporates Finance, HR, Logistics and Research Management functions that were previously managed through separate systems. This integration allows Centres to
move away from the functional silos that had been built, and they are now improving their workflows and processes to take advantage of this integration leading to more efficiency, faster processing and more
accuracy in their work.
Read More.

Center Updates


The Budgeting and Forecasting versions have been completed and implemented on OCS. The module will enable the Centre to lock away and report on originally approved budgets at the start of the year and to dynamically report on how much is expected and spent
against each budget at the end of the year. Read More.

International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)
CIAT began 2015 with the good news that the Unit4 Business World platform was officially launched on 5th January. The uncertainties associated with such an important event are gradually being resolved, while already yielding significant benefits for the Centre in Human Resource Management and Travel Modules which will correspond with the needs of the regions, and provide new training schedules. Read More.

ICRAF goes live in Nairobi

On 31st March 2015, ICRAF Nairobi was awash with bright green and orange, the official colours of the One Corporate System. Screens throughout the campus were lit with OCS messages. ICRAF was finally going live after years of hard work. Read More.

To read more in this issue. Find the full copy in high resolution here.

  • Letter from the OCS steering committee
  • One Corporate System
  • OCS success stories
  • Editor’s pick: Five posts you should read this quarter.
  • OCS Operational Support Unit
  • From the team: Employee spotlight
  • Press releases
  • Pictorial

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