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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.