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FAQ

About the Project

What is Alpha Financials?

Alpha Financials is UC Merced’s program dedicated to updating our financial systems as part of our commitment to modernizing systems and processes. This includes implementing Oracle Financials Cloud and Oracle Enterprise Planning and Budget as well as redesigning our Full Accounting Unit to a Common Chart of Accounts.

The goal of Alpha Financials is to ensure UC Merced has the infrastructure in place to deliver high-value, reliable, and easy-to-access financial services that allow the campus to focus on our mission of teaching, research and public service.

To do this, Alpha Financials will cut ties to the legacy financial system hosted at UCLA and replace it with Oracle Cloud applications, as well as transform how we track spending, perform financial reporting, and improve auditability across the university to align with the UC system’s restructured Common Chart of Accounts (CCoA). The new CCoA will improve financial management at UC Merced and across the UC system.

The project team has completed the planning and initial discovery phase and is conducting design and build sessions for the system, which is scheduled to be production-ready in December 2020 and go live in January 2021.

Who manages and contributes to Alpha Financials?

We assembled a team to lead the Alpha Financials project that represents finance needs across UC Merced. The project Advisory Board includes representation from faculty, academic departments, administration, budget, finance, the Center of Institutional Effectiveness, and the Office of Information Technology. Within the project, a team of finance and budget subject experts is designing and configuring the system with our support contractor, Deloitte, bringing in campus stakeholders as their expertise is needed.

I heard there are consultants on Alpha Financials. Who are they and what are they doing?

UC Merced has partnered with Deloitte to assist with the implementation of the Oracle Applications Cloud. The company is providing functional and technical expertise for the implementation and integration of the new system, as well as supporting business process mapping and optimization, project management, change management, and training. UC Merced is responsible for the overall leadership of the project and for staffing each workstream with experts to advise the configuration of the cloud and to design the new business processes.

What is the timeline and schedule?

Alpha Financials project has adopted a Hybrid/Agile approach to planning, executing, and monitoring and controlling the project work with sprints of incremental delivery or iterative prototyping of design broken into three phases:

 

When will it go live?

The project team anticipates it will be production-ready in December 2020 for a go-live date in January in 2021 (following the campus holiday break, or curtailment).

There are pros and cons to performing a mid-fiscal year financial system cutover. Going live at fiscal close provides a clean break from the old to new system; a mid-year go-live requires additional planning related to conversion of balances, reconciliations, and financial reporting. Universities have successfully gone live with large financial enterprise resource planning systems at the fiscal close and at mid-year; both options are feasible. We believe the period during curtailment when systems are quiet provides additional opportunity to test and validate before business resumes in 2021. In regard to conversion, the Alpha Financials team plans to convert historical summarized General Ledger balance activity from July 1, 2018 through December 31, 2020. Historical detailed journal transactions will remain available for reference in the legacy UCLA-hosted General Ledger system.

Will there be a pilot phase?

No. We are targeting one rollout to the entire campus. No groups will get the system before others.

When will I see the Oracle Financials and Oracle Enterprise Planning and Budget Module?

We will select sample stakeholders from across campus from the Chief Administrators Officer (CAO) group to help us with User Acceptance Testing before the project goes live. If you are a CAO and would like to volunteer, please email us: alphafinancials@ucmerced.edu.

What is the benefits for campus?

The goal of Alpha Financials is to ensure UC Merced has the infrastructure in place to deliver high-value, reliable, and easy-to-access financial services that allow the campus to focus on our mission of teaching, research and public service. Alpha Financials benefits campus in several ways:

Campus will have one reliable, accessible source of truth for financial transactions, business process execution, and reporting; this reduces risk associated with data integrity, compliance, and information security.

By reducing manual work and automating key processes DFA will be better equipped to serve our campus customers resulting in reduced turn-around time, increased accuracy, and enhanced reporting ability.

Campus will see less duplication of effort and administrative tasks thanks to improved data integrity and improved quality of system output and reporting.

Why are we replacing our financial systems?

The simple answer is that our existing system does not meet the needs of our growing campus and key components will soon be phased out.

UC Merced’s financial systems date back to the early 1980s, when the operating environment was substantially less complex than it is today. It is comprised of a sub-unit in UCLA’s financial system and a suite of home-grown applications.

Because the existing system is not meeting the campus’ needs, there are numerous shadow systems being used to manage data. These unconnected systems lack standardized processes and controls, which contribute to risks to compliance and information security, as well as data integrity issues.

Additionally, UCLA is planning to sunset the existing system we depend on and switch to a Oracle Software as a Service (SaaS) based system; as a result, UC Merced will need to have a replacement financial system in place. Since 2017, UC Merced, in partnership with UCOP, has been evaluating various options to replace the university’s existing financial system. After due diligence, a decision was made in September 2018 to replace our financial system with an Oracle SaaS-based integrated financial system.

The implementation of Oracle Financials is a milestone for UC Merced’s financial management capability that aligns with UC’s Cloud First Strategy. It will modernize our financial systems and processes and lays the foundation for dramatically improving access to financial data. A modern financial system will deliver functionality that is currently distributed on shadow systems, meaning campus will have one reliable, accessible source of truth for financial transactions, business process execution, and reporting. This will reduce the administrative burden associated with conducting basic financial management activities. Finally, we will have the ability to transform how work is done in the future by converting manual processes to automated procedures that save time, increase accuracy, and enhance our reporting ability.

Technology

What is the Oracle Cloud?

Oracle Applications Cloud is a cloud-based Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. It is a modern, agile suite of integrated applications that undergo periodic updates automatically to improve functionality.

What processes will be affected by Alpha Financials?

UC Merced will go live with a number of Oracle Financials Cloud modules, which will broadly impact areas, including:

  • Procurement (BobCat Buy)
  • Accounts Payable
  • Expenses/Employee Reimbursements
  • Grants
  • Cash Management
  • Accounts Receivable
  • Equipment Assets 
  • General Ledger
  • Internal Billing/Recharges
  • Planning & Budgeting
  • Business Intelligence and Reporting
  • Gifts and Endowment
  • Budgeting
  • Capital Projects

 

What about the financial records stored in the UCLA legacy systems?

The UCLA Ascend team is working on the data archiving strategy for UC Merced for all financial records housed in UCLA system to ensure records retention requirements are achieved.

What about the UCLA systems I use now?

We are working to cease performing transactions in the UCLA financial systems. The Alpha Financials project team, Concur project team, UCLA's Ascend team and UCOP are working to ensure we are prepared for the transition to the UC Merced Oracle Cloud as well as exit from UCLA financial applications.

CURRENT SYSTEM

NEW SYSTEM

COMMENTS

BruinBuy/PAC

BobCat Buy, powered by Oracle Cloud

 

Corporate Financial System

Oracle Cloud

Oracle Cloud’s General Ledger Module will perform functions of these current systems: General Ledger, Financial Journal, TOF, Recharge, Encumbrance Voucher, and Memo-Lien Voucher.

Recharges

Oracle Cloud

 

Travel Express

Concur

Please see the Travel website for more information on Concur.

Pre-trip Authorization System

Concur

Please see the Travel website for more information on Concur.

Direct Bill Payment System

Concur

Please see the Travel website for more information on Concur.

Asset Management System (Equipment Management)

Oracle Cloud

 

QDB – Financials/Document Direct/CDW

Oracle data warehouse and application reporting tools

Note on data and records retention: The UCLA Ascend team is working on the data archiving strategy for UC Merced for all financial records housed in UCLA system to ensure required records are retained.

SLS

Oracle Enterprise Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service (EPBCS)

The Oracle EPBCS Module will house recurring and one-time budgets (referred to as Permanent Budget and Error Correction Systems in the current system).

W-9 Upload System

BobCat Buy, powered by Oracle Cloud - Supplier Portal

 

Procurement Card Receipt Management

Concur

Please see the Travel website for more information on Concur.

UCLA Vendor Self-Service

BobCat Buy, powered by Oracle Cloud - Supplier Portal

 

PAN

Oracle Cloud

 

TRS

TRS

The application will move to being hosted at UC Irvine; because of this, the URL link to TRS will change.

Glacier

Glacier

The vendor system (currently supported by UCOP) will move to being hosted by UC Merced; because of this, the URL link will change.

Effort Reporting System

Effort Reporting System

The application will move to being hosted at UCOP; because of this, the URL link will change.

Impacts to Departmental Accounting

What is a Common Chart of Accounts?

The Common Chart of Accounts, or CCoA, is the basic structure used to record the financial effects of transactions in Oracle Cloud. The future-state Chart of Accounts will:

  • Replace the current Full Accounting Unit (FAU) structure for recording financial transactions.
  • Organize UC Merced’s finances by segregating expenses, revenues, assets, liabilities, and equity to provide a clear understanding of the university’s financial status.
  • Organize and report data out of the financial system.
  • Support financial and management reporting by serving as the basis for the fiscal administration of UC Merced’s funds, programs, projects, organizations, and activities.
  • Serve as the common language for financial transactions whether they are created directly in the financial system, generated in another major university system, or created through a local third-party application. However, it may not support the detailed fiscal tracking of all institutional activities. Some detailed information currently stored in the FAU structure will instead be captured in other modules of the Oracle Cloud application.
Why are we updating the Full Accounting Unit?

A new Common Chart of Accounts (CCoA) is needed for the following reasons:

  • The current mainframe system no longer supports UC Merced’s financial needs and requires modernization. The current Full Accounting Unit (FAU) is not supported by Oracle Cloud and requires a redesign.
  • FAU segments are used inconsistently across campus. Defined fields (e.g., Cost Center) are often interpreted differently in each unit and used in a variety of ways; free-form fields (e.g., Project, Source), if used, are for a variety of unique purposes. This inconsistent use of fields makes meaningful reporting at the broader institutional level difficult. The fields in the new CCoA will be strictly defined and controlled to maintain institutional integrity.
  • Comingling of data in a single FAU field has led to duplication of values and inflexibility in reporting. These “nested” values prevent consistent departmental and institutional-level reporting.
  • Certain internal reporting capabilities are becoming more important (e.g., activity by interdisciplinary program), but UC Merced lacks the ability to determine this information with the current FAU structure.
Who is designing the new Common Chart of Accounts?

The Common Chart of Accounts (CCoA) is being thoughtfully designed through a collaborative and system-wide approach. The effort began in April 2019 under a committee of finance, accounting, and extramural funding experts (the CCoA Committee). The committee is validating and fleshing out the CCoA design by strategically engaging academic, administrative, and auxiliaries leadership. The CCoA will continue to be refined in response to these engagements. After working with leadership, the CCoA Committee will engage a wider audience to explain the update to the CCoA in detail as well as demonstrate the enhanced reporting and tracking capabilities campus will have thanks to increased transparency into and better organization of financial data.

How does the old FAU translate to the new CCoA?

The new Common Chart of Accounts differs from the current Full Accounting Unit in the following ways:

  • Unlike the Full Accounting Unit (FAU) structure, the CCoA has a multi-dimensional, or matrix-style, structure with multiple segments where each segment captures a specific attribute of the transaction.
  • Each core segment (Entity, Fund, Account, Financial Unit, Transaction Class, Program Project, Physical Location and Sub-Activity) has a single use with a clear and consistent definition. Currently, information is comingled in FAU segments – for example, the Account segment contains functional expense classifications and, in some cases, organizational information. The CCoA will have only defined value sets, unlike the current FAU structure, which has two free-form fields: Project and Source.
  • The Oracle Cloud financial system requires that each segment have a value when entering a transaction. For certain transactions, where not all segments are required, the system will auto-populate a default value. In the current mainframe system, the FAU recordings allow some fields to be left blank.
How will this change the way I enter transactions?

There are several meaningful changes to how financial transactions will be entered:

  • There will be a drop-down list for each segment that contains all valid values.
  • Users will be able to search for and select any value.
  • Users will be able to see a title for each value.
  • Cross-Validation Rules will systematically prevent users from entering an invalid Common Chart of Accounts string.

Transitions, Adoption and Training

When will I be able to learn more about how this affects me?

Alpha Financials will be a change for many campus stakeholders – new systems are both exciting in their possibilities but understandably can cause some uncertainty while the project team works to configure the system.

As we make progress across functional areas, we are reaching out to subject matter experts and stakeholders across campus to understand how they use the finance system today, and what they need in the future. Our goal is a system that works for campus now and is flexible enough to grow with us in the future.

We are excited to share more about the system once it’s configured! You can expect to hear more details beginning in spring 2020. If you have questions or concerns before then, please contact: alphafinancials@ucmerced.edu.

What will training look like?

Our team has been diligently gathering change impacts – the difference between what each of the Alpha Financials stakeholder groups do or see today, and what the future will be. We are working to validate those change impacts with Central Office Strategic Partners to refine and inform end user training. End users are everyone from the most technical finance accountants who will be living in the system every day, to campus department RAs who will occasionally need to find relevant finance data.

We are analyzing a crosswalk between all of our stakeholders (over 20 unique groups) and the functionality and reporting capability in the system to determine training personas. These personas will help us build a detailed training plan that will include appropriate amounts of instructor-led training, job aids, online tutorials, short videos, or quick references to prepare end users to operate in the system. Training will occur in fall 2020, with some stakeholder groups receiving training once the system is live.

Will the timing or duration of 2020 fiscal close be affected?

General Accounting is working with the campus to identify accounts that should be closed prior to conversion, which is generally part of the campus fiscal close process. You can anticipate reviews of your accounts and requests to review account statuses by the General Accounting team. With the Alpha Financials project timeline aligned to the beginning of the 2021 calendar year, we don’t foresee major impacts to the 2020 fiscal close process.

We do expect instituting a “pause” on financial transactions prior to go-live to allow for cutover of data and systems. Because of that and some dependencies between departments, fiscal close will look a little different this year. It will be a collaborative effort between departments, with each unit nominating a representative to work as a group to determine the order of operations for close, taking into account dependencies across units.

What is the cutover strategy?

Cutover will occur at the end of 2020, but the specific dates and details have not been finalized. System design and retrofitting analyses are in progress and will contribute to the detailed cutover plan that the project team will develop. We will share more information on the cutover strategy once it becomes available in early 2020.

How will faculty’s ability to pull reports be affected?

Reporting is one of biggest benefits of Alpha Financials that faculty will experience. Reporting will be vastly improved over what we have today. Faculty can expect more robust reporting, more on-demand (self-service) reporting capability and more standardization of reports. We will be providing detailed instructions and training to transition to the new reporting process as the project gets closer to go-live.

What is happening to Bobcat Buy?

Bobcat Buy is being integrated into the Oracle Cloud Financials system. This allows us to expand the catalog and ordering options for Bobcat Buy users and streamline workflows and invoicing behind the scenes.

Click here for more information.
 

ORED to DFA

Who are PPFM’s partners?

PPFM will work primarily in partnership with the Contract & Grant Administration (CGA) department, a business unit of the Office of Research and Economic Development (ORED), Office of External Relations, and key units within the Division of Finance and Administration (DFA), to support a variety of campus stakeholders, such as Faculty and Research Administrators (among others), involving a host of activities including, but not limited to: Contracts & Grants, faculty funding (e.g. faculty startup, research support, etc.), Gifts & Endowments, Capital Projects, and Institutional Projects.

Why create PPFM? Why do we need this new department?

There are a variety of benefits that the newly formed PPFM group, business unit within the Division of Finance and Administration (in partnership with others across campus) will deliver to UC Merced. Those anticipated benefits include;

  • Improved service to faculty in the Contracts & Grants lifecycle through development of a newly created communication and overall partnership framework with Contract & Grant Administration (CGA). That envisioned framework is partially included in diagram 1 below but is very much a work in progress as CGA and DFA develop a common vision of the future.
  • Better partnership with other DFA units by providing higher quality data in a timelier manner, seamlessly. This will help with standard monthly, quarterly and year-end close, as well as to better position the campus for current and future regulatory compliance at the local, county, state and federal levels
  • Creation of Faculty Portfolio View/Project Portfolio Reporting, including
    • having one reliable source for data through the Project Portfolio Module (PPM)
    • improving collaboration and transparency across multiple stakeholders
    • easier to use tools with built-in automation
    • single-click access to reports and dashboards including automatic monthly reporting to PIs on all awards (i.e. the comprehensive faculty portfolio view)
    • support for Monthly Close, reconciliation and reporting
    • management of awards from funding to closeout with control cost charges and the prevention of budgetary overspend, in line with sponsor/policy requirements

In addition to the many benefits above, the PPFM unit has been created out of a requirement to comply with UCOP policy, which mandates that the Accounting function must own the Oracle Project Portfolio Module (PPM) within the new system, and the related projects/grants tasks. More information regarding role-based policies can be found in diagram 2.

How does PPFM fit into the overall Contracts & Grants ecosystem?

Below is a high-level visual of the future state end-to-end Contracts/Grants journey – including touchpoints, realms of ownership, and areas of collaboration. Faculty will always initiate the Contracts/Grants process, where it’s then supported by groups within ORED (Note: ORED-CGA will continue to manage guidance, policy and non-financial post award functions from award setup- closeout through solid partnerships with DFA and established relationships with faculty and sponsors) with DFA managing the data within the financial system. From there, ongoing financial management (including regular reporting), compliance (including monitoring and notification of spend limits and allowable spend types) and eventual closeout of Contracts/Grants will be handled by PPFM.

It should be noted that the below diagram 1 represents the existing process; however, modifications to the proposal and awards process are currently being developed in order to increase the level of Faculty support provided. Further, all communications within the green bubble are system generated notices and automated communications from the new Oracle based Alpha Financial System designed to be automatically delivered to Faculty, Research Administrators, and ORED in order to support research.

How are the roles and responsibilities shared between ORED/CGA and PPFM/DFA?

ORED-CGA and PPFM/DFA have worked collaboratively to define their roles and responsibilities throughout the Contracts/Grants lifecycle. Below is a step-by-step guide demonstrating who between ORED/CGA and PPFM/DFA owns what action, including the corresponding policy guidance along the way.

When can I see a demo of the Faculty Portfolio View/Project Portfolio Reporting?

Live demo sessions on navigating the “ins and outs” of Faculty Portfolio View/Project Portfolio Reporting are being targeted for Fall 2020 depending on progress of data conversion for the Alpha project. The sessions will be geared towards Faculty and Research Administrators who will use the tool more regularly, though all are welcome to join. Additionally, formal training on the use of Faculty Portfolio View/Project Portfolio Reporting will be created by the Alpha Financials Project Training Team in preparation for Oracle Financials system Go-Live slated for January 2021. Stay tuned - more details to come!

What’s the timeline regarding transition of responsibilities and ownership from ORED to PPFM?

Working in partnership with ORED, we’ve been able to transition, over the last several weeks for general ledger activity going back to April 1, 2020 for the following activity:

 

  • Invoicing
  • Draws
  • Accounts Receivables
  • Cash Management

 

  • Financial reporting
  • N-Pear
  • Payroll
  • Cost Transfers

 

  • Budget Entries
  • Fund setup/Closeout
  • GL System Management/oversight
Who are the key contacts on the ORED-PPFM Transition Team?

Office of Research and Economic Development (ORED)

Questions related to Office of Research and Economic Development (ORED) can be sent to oredrequests@ucmerced.edu

 

Project Portfolio Financial Management (PPFM)

If you have any additional questions about PPFM you can email the PPFM Mailbox at ppfm@ucmerced.edu.