Academic journal article The Government Accountants Journal

How to Select Financial Management Systems Software

Academic journal article The Government Accountants Journal

How to Select Financial Management Systems Software

Article excerpt

An agency in the market for a financial management system faces a daunting task. All of the vendors on the Financial Management System Software (FMSS) schedule claim that their software meets Joint Financial Management Improvement Program UFMIP) Corerequirements. They point to their ability to successfully complete the General Service Administration's (GSA) Software Capability Verification as proof. Many claim that their software is the easiest to use because it embraces the latest technology.

In fact, all software packages on the FMSS schedule are not created equal. There are wide variations in functionality and technology. In spite of all the vendor claims, of all the software packages on the FMSS schedule, only one will come closest to meeting the agency's requirements. The challenge is to identify and select that software package. To achieve this goal, agency personnel must commit time and resources to the software selection process. A frequent question asked by those who decide to procure a new financial management system is, "Where do we begin?" This article outlines key steps agency staff should follow to ensure they identify and select the software package that best meets an agency's requirements and provides the greatest value.

Step One: Analyze the Agency's Business

A determination of the agency's line of business is a critical first step. An agency's line of business dictates the type of financial management system it needs. Are the agency's operations funded solely by direct appropriations, or is there a need to support revolving fund financial operations and track inventory, revenues and cost of sales? Is the agency government corporation akin to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Resolution Trust Corporation, etc.? Does the agency manufacture products for sale, as does the United States Mint? An individual who is knowledgeable about software packages on the FMSS schedule, after determining the agency's line of business, will be able to screen out those software packages that do not warrant further consideration. Additional considerations include geographic dispersion of agency operations. While some agencies centralize all financial management operations in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, other agencies, such as the State Department and the Agency for International Development, manage their finances all over the world.

Step Two: Identify Functional Requirements

After determining the agency's line of business, identify the agency's functional requirements. While the JFMIP Core requirements serve as a starting point for an agency's functional requirements, agencies must determine their own functional requirements for a number of reasons. The JFMIP Core requirements serve as a scoping document. The document does not specify the detail necessary to support a financial management system procurement effort. Furthermore, JFMIP Core requirements are formulated in general terms and are subject to interpretation. During this phase of the project, it is important to develop a numerical scheme to assign priorities to requirements identified. Along with a scoring plan to rate how well a software package meets the requirements, the software evaluation and selection effort should be well documented and provide a sound defense in case of protests. A sample scoring plan is shown above.

Software Evaluation Scoring Plan

The Software Evaluation Scoring Plan is made up of two components. The first component is the ageny's weighted financial management system requirements. All financial management system requirements should be categorized as being critical or noncritical. The two categories must be assigned appropriate weights. Care must be taken in assigning weights to ensure that a software package which does not meet many of the critical requirements cannot score higher than another package which meets many critical requirements but meets few of the non-critical requirements. …

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