Tomorrow’s administration of higher education needs future-oriented business processes and, above all, the staff to master the processes. At seven institutions of higher education in Hamburg, SAP software enables users to perform administrative tasks effectively and securely with a few, simple mouse clicks. “People – Knowledge – Processes:” Angela Bottin, the chief project director of the SAP implementation at the Hamburg institutions of higher education uses this pithy formula to point out an essential success factor of the comprehensive software implementation. Beyond simply implementing software, institutions must be able to adapt to new organizational structures, while users must familiarize themselves with new procedures.
In November 2000, the six Hamburg institutions of higher education and the State and University Library formed a cooperative known by its acronym, HOCH<sup>7</sup>, to modernize administrative processes. Together with consulting firm IDS Scheer, HOCH<sup>7</sup> kicked off the project in May 2001.
From fiscal to commercial accounting
The conversion of a purely fiscal accounting system into a commercial accounting system was an essential element of the project. To meet this goal, HOCH<sup>7</sup> decided to implement SAP R/3 standard business software, which was already being used by the Hamburg government for administrative procedures. The goal was to implement a transparent and informative accounting system that would enhance the planning and monitoring of schools and enable the institutions to react flexibly to change – including changes in legal structure, restrictions imposed by the states, dwindling governmental financing, and the increasing competition between public colleges and universities.
When considering the design of an accounting system for today’s administration, several questions must be addressed: First of all, an organization needs to determine how to link the demands of budgetary accounting for double-entry bookkeeping with informative cost controlling. Secondly, should fiscal accounting or commercial accounting function as the standard system in a two-system design? State regulations still require many institutions to use fiscal accounting, which posed a dilemma to the HOCH<sup>7</sup> team. The Hamburg institutions were running both accounting systems in parallel. But as project director Bottin emphasizes, in this case, the commercial accounting system was given explicit priority.
Standard business processes
In the first phase of the project, the partners redesigned and mapped standard business processes that would be used for all participating institutions. The new platform comprised SAP R/3 application components for Financial Accounting (FI), Asset Accounting (FI-AA), Funds Management (PS-FM from SAP for Public Sector), Controlling (CO), Project System (PS) and Plant Maintenance (PM) to support real estate management. The team plans to make enhancements to the software once the initial implementation has been completed.
During the design phase, the team used the ARIS Toolset by IDS Scheer– which is process modeling software – to document its core business processes. This included functions such as “post invoice” or “distribute budget,” and in special cases involved detailing the fields utilized during the posting process. As a result, the team was able to define clearly the target business processes to be developed with SAP software.
Employee acceptance and understanding
The target business processes served as the basis for the reorganization process (change management) that ran in parallel to the implementation of the application components. Starting from the old organizational structure, the project team first defined new, SAP-based procedures, which were then assigned to organizational units, job categories, and persons within each organizational structure. Not without pride, Bottin reports that the development of a standard platform led to the optimization of administrative processes.
The team met with employees of the institutions to help them understand the demands of the new business processes and related tasks. The ARIS process model helped employees visualize the tasks and expedited their understanding.
At the same time, the team took note of potential efficiencies in the organizational design and integrated them into the reorganization process. “We especially targeted positive effects in the posting activities of accounting, where decentralized procedures were transferred to centrally structured business processes. Bundling know-how in larger teams fosters the development of knowledge and strengthens motivation,” says André Bösch, director of financial accounting and controlling at the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences (HAW).
A phased rollout proved beneficial. By first implementing SAP R/3 at a few of the institutions, the team gained valuable experience and knowledge regarding design and organizational issues. This enabled the project members to reduce the demand on internal resources for each subsequent rollout – and helped expedite the implementations.
Problem and process-related knowledge at the workplace
Conversion to SAP R/3 demanded much more from the employees than just getting used to new workflows and screen templates. In fact, changes in accounting procedures meant that employees had to learn new business content. “With SAP R/3, we not only implemented new software, but also had a more sophisticated and complicated accounting system than we had been used to,” says Doris Lewerenz, director of the financial subproject and director of finance and accounting at the University of Hamburg.
Against this background, at the start of production on January 6, 2003, HOCH<sup>7</sup> provided SAP users with support architecture and online resources to help them work efficiently and without errors.
The learning organization
The business processes modeled with the ARIS Toolset provided the backbone for the HOCH<sup>7</sup> support architecture. Users can now click the mouse to go from the Web-based version of the ARIS business process documentation directly into a concrete SAP transaction (or vice versa) – and perform the required workstep right away. The HOCH<sup>7</sup> support architecture links learning to concrete problem-solving.
“We’re on the right path by linking learning and support processes,” says Ralf Heib, IDS Scheer project director. “We have eased the workday of our employees and created an incentive for learning and discovery,” adds HOCH<sup>7</sup> project director Bottin.