Case Study for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Maitner, Robert E., Jr., Otero, Jorge, The Journal of Government Financial Management
The move from paper intensive, multi-source cost management system to integrated, paperless solution (Core Financial)
Within the past five years, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Langley Research Center has made a concerted push toward integrating its procurement and financial management systems through the agency's Integrated Financial Management Program (IFMP) initiative. The primary focus of this effort has been the implementation of key software modules, including Core Financial.
This study provides a clear example of how NASA is already reaping benefits from its implementation of Core Financial through improved cost management of vendor contracts. NASA Langley has moved from a legacy environment of multiple systems and supporting spreadsheets, to an integrated solution on one system made possible by the Core Financial environment.
The NASA Environment at Langley Leading up to the Core Financial Implementation
To supplement its financial management staff, NASA Langley-located in Hampton, VA-engaged contractor support from IBM Business Consulting Services to take over many of the daily duties of financial management staff who originally had been diverted to work exclusively on the IFMP initiative.
The contractor team assimilated itself into the financial management structure, working one-on-one with NASA team members. NASA Langley successfully integrated the contractor team members into the organizational hierarchy, and includes them in day-to-day operations and key decisions. The team provides accounting and financial analysis for Langley's monitored contracts, which make up the large majority of the center's contractor budget.
NASA's strategy of supplanting federal staff with contractors provided several advantages to the agency during this challenging time. First, the federal staff was freed from day-today duties to focus exclusively on preparing for the new system implementation, and learning about the system's capabilities. NASA was also able to document desk procedures with contractor support, thereby ensuring that baseline accounting services were well understood at transition and that key activities were not overlooked. The flexibility afforded by the contract enabled NASA to increase the level of effort during the most critical phases of the transition, and then quickly reduce the level of effort as the new system came online.
NASA Langley, Meeting the Mission of the Integrated Financial Management Program
The mission of the IFMP program is to:
Improve the financial, physical and human resources management processes throughout NASA. IFMP is reengineering NASA's business infrastructure and implementing enabling technology to provide better management information for decision-making.1
One of IFMP's key objectives is "consistent and real-time financial management information." This is where the Core Financial module comes in.
On June 23, 2003, NASA Langley "went live" on Core Financial (one of the last centers to do so, as part of the third wave of center implementations). This followed an accounting blackout period of nearly six weeks, and a 15-day marathon by its cost management team to map hundreds of Langley's contracts to the Core Financial classification structure and enter cost data from its legacy financial management system into Core Financial. After several months of operating under Core Financial, Langley's Financial Management office is starting, albeit slowly, to reap the benefits of working with one system. This has been especially true for Langley's cost management accounting team, which monitors the center's several million dollars worth of contracts with outside vendors.
Operating under the Core Financial environment has also meant many changes to business practices within financial management, which the center continues to test and refine with the help of its consultant staff. One area in particular that has undergone many changes and improvements is cost management. …