Colorado gets a fresh lease on its financial system

Colorado gets a fresh lease on its financial system

State's budget and payroll system is demystified, thanks to a custom-built program financial managers can run from their Web browsers

BY TRUDY WALSH | GCN STAFF

Colorado's Public Safety Department is using software tools and a little ingenuity to keep coins in the state coffers.

The state's budget and payroll system, the Colorado Financial Reporting System (COFRS), runs on a Hitachi Data Systems Corp. mainframe, said Dan Frelund, controller of the Public Safety Department. Each state department puts its financial data on the system.

The Public Safety Department has a yearly budget of $200 million. It employs 1,200 and comprises four divisions: State Patrol, Colorado Bureau of Investigation, Criminal Justice and Fire Safety.

Every month, COFRS produced standard financial reports, Frelund said. 'But I wanted to get ahold of the data myself,' he said, 'to sort, slice and dice it.'


'We didn't even have to give people training on it. We just gave them the Web address, and they started creating reports.'
'DAN FRELUND, PUBLIC SAFETY DEPARTMENT CONTROLLER
State employees would get a screen print of their department budgets off the mainframe, Frelund said. Then they would rekey the data in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. 'One lady spent two days every month doing that,' Frelund said.

Frelund wanted to find a way to demystify financial information. 'People get confused. Department staff have to have someone else'an auditor, an accountant'tell them what's going on financially.'

Frelund wrote a program that loads the COFRS data into a Microsoft SQL Server 7.0 database that managers can run from their Web browsers daily.

The SQL database works with WebFocus, an information management tool from Information Builders Inc. of New York. Users can pull up their department budget information in Internet Explorer, click on 'total expenditures' and get detailed information about financial transactions.

'It's dramatically improved our financial management,' Frelund said. 'I can tell what's going on in the whole department financially in about half an hour.'

Another perk of the SQL-WebFocus system is that the deployment was speedy, Frelund said. 'We didn't even have to give people training on it,' he said. 'We just gave them the Web address, and they started creating reports.'

Frelund showed the financial reporting model to officials in the state controller's office. They were so impressed that they decided to extend the system throughout all state departments. Already the Natural Resources Department has adopted Frelund's system.

Before Frelund met with officials in the state controller's office, they were talking about buying an entirely new financial system. 'But nobody wants to fork over $50 million for a new mainframe system,' Frelund said.

'We've gone from waiting six weeks for an expenditure report to getting daily reports,' he said. 'We've extended the life of the system we have significantly, at just a fraction of the cost. You don't have to wait six weeks to see if a vendor got paid. You can see it tomorrow.'

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