System gives space agency an IT backbone

NASA's Integrated Financial Management Program will make data management consistent across the 10 NASA centers, IFMP director Michael Mann said at a recent symposium sponsored by SAP Public Services Inc. in Washington.

Before joining IFMP, Mann was deputy director of the space shuttle program, which he said 'shows the importance that NASA places' on financial improvement.

The space agency undertook financial modernization on its own, not because Congress told it to do so, Mann said. Up to 35 percent of NASA finance and human resources staffs had left over the last six years, Mann said, and finance and HR systems were getting disconnected.

For example, one accounting system gave accurate but 6-week-old data, and one NASA center had 50 separate accounting systems. An employee time-keeping system at Houston's Johnson Space Center still used punch cards.

After a couple of false starts, the agency decided to build an enterprisewide resource planning system based on five goals:
  • Making better business decisions

  • Improving accountability and cost management

  • Achieving efficiencies

  • Exchanging information with stakeholders

  • Attracting and retaining a strong work force.

Re-engineering all the business processes 'was a humbling thing because it's hard for NASA to say we don't have the expertise,' Mann said.

In September 2000 the agency chose SAP's Financials as the system backbone for a single agencywide process.

The IFMP steering council meets quarterly. Members oversee four active projects now'the core financial module, resume management, position description management and travel management'and another will go live soon.

Right stuff

Mann's home base, Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., began serving as the pilot center last year. The full financial module is being rolled out to NASA centers in three stages with completion set for June 2003.

Still to come are modules for budget formulation, integrated asset management and procurement management. The timeline for full implementation stretches out to fiscal 2008.
IFMP fits into NASA's overall strategy of changing its infrastructure to support e-government, Mann said, and 'we're putting together an IT backbone the agency has never had.'

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