Complexity slows FAA Delphi rollout

The Federal Aviation Administration's installation of a new financial system has created a steep learning curve for its users.

Getting users up to speed has slowed system usability and resulted in a backlog of transactions, such as paying bills and billing customers, FAA chief financial officer Ramesh Punwani said. The agency is implementing Delphi, a financial system being adopted across the Transportation Department.

Like many financial systems being brought online in government, Delphi is designed to produce comprehensive data faster than older systems to meet accelerated reporting and cost management requirements from the Office of Management and Budget.

The flight agency's unique requirements for the system have created challenges for users and technical staff members alike.

FAA also has implemented a new electronic purchasing system known as Prism that is integrated with Delphi. Delphi, which uses Oracle Corp. financial software, is more complex than FAA's legacy system, Punwani said.

The new system will let FAA employees access databases for information that they can customize and use to create reports. 'I think the degree of difficulty was a little more than what we had anticipated,' Punwani said.

Only two of Transportation's 15 agencies have had problems implementing Delphi, said Tom Park, the department's deputy CFO, who agreed that FAA's problems came from rolling out Delphi and Prism at the same time.

Two migrations

FAA is 'the first agency that's really migrated to two major new systems at one time,' he said. 'They've been working through those, and now it's a matter of catching up.'

The financial services staff has had to learn to use both the Delphi and Prism systems and respond to tighter deadlines for annual financial reports, in addition to conducting transactions such as billing customers and paying bills.

FAA implemented both systems at the same time because it was not practical to have the old purchasing system tied into Delphi.

'During the transition, we found as we were training people to use the system, we started building up backlogs,' Punwani said. This summer, the finance office created a team to address the backlog and other accounting issues that could impede the accelerated closing. FAA has significantly reduced the transaction backlog.

FAA has also started initiatives to support accelerated reporting and business process re-engineering, for example, to make future contracts with suppliers easier to handle in Prism and Delphi, Punwani said.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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