The implementation of a new financial system for Stellenbosch University, SUNFin, is one of the largest projects that the institution has undertaken. The new system is replacing the University's 32-year-old financial legacy system, a system that has been customized over the years to meet the unique needs of the University. SUNFin is an all-new cloud-based system based on global best practices and processes using leading-edge technology.
"This kind of radical transformation in an institution like ours cannot happen in isolation," says Manie Lombard, Chief Director Finance. "Structures, policies, procedures and working practices, established over time to serve the legacy system, need to be aligned to optimise the benefits that this new system will provide. We believe Oracle® Cloud Financials (OCF) will streamline SU's financial processes, increase productivity and provide access to real-time financial data and multidimensional analytics and reporting to improve our business decisions in future."
The SUNFin project was launched on 9 April 2019, and despite the impact of the pandemic, work continued on the project.
“We have reached a pivotal point on the SUNFin project. During the past few months, the project team completed an extensive detailed replanning exercise. On 28 September, the Rectorate approved the SUNFin steering committee's revised approach, timeline, and associated budget for SU's new financial system to go live in June 2023."
"The project team had discussions with two universities – Baylor and Vanderbilt – where OCF has been implemented successfully. The team also learned from KPMG, who shared their high-level finance function design models for service delivery used in cloud financial solutions," says Lombard.
Information Technology developed a SUNxxx Support Framework to effectively support the cloud implementations for SUNFin and SUNStudent. These are both Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions. The reorganisation of the Finance Division is aligned to this new SUNxxx Support Framework and to global best practice processes, workflows, and optimal service delivery.
Lombard says the recommended changes to the Finance Division only include changes to the reporting lines of specific sub-divisions and will not impact on post levels and the current responsibilities of the Finance staff members. A Peromnes job evaluation exercise for all the positions in the Finance division will be conducted during 2023.
A few changes in the Finance Division's structure have already been implemented, namely:
- Brendon Grindlay-Whieldon is now appointed as the Business Owner of the SUNFin project to establish a SUNFin support centre (SFC) as a sub-division of the Finance Division. He will be responsible for the development and management of the SUNFin support division with key responsibilities during and after OCF's implementation. The Financial and Management Systems (FMS) sub-division will form part of the SFC going forward.
- The Accounts Receivable (AR) sub-division (6 positions) moved to the Financial Planning and Budgeting sub-division to focus on the data clean-up required for SUNFin. This placement aligns with the principles of OCF where all income needs to flow through AR, which is closely aligned to the Projects and Grants module of OCF.
The following structural changes in the Finance Division will be implemented in a phased approach before SUNFin will go live.
- Undergraduate Bursaries and Loans sub-division will merge with Student Fees to provide a comprehensive and effective student financial services experience. This will also ensure a specific focus on effective management of student finance enquiries on student fees and financial support.
- The Accounts Payable (AP) sub-division will move from Financial and Management Systems sub-division to the Procurement sub-division. The foreign payment's function will move from Financial Services to Procurement. The payment of all SU creditors (flowing from Accounts Payable, Expenses, HR and Student Fees) will still be managed within Treasury (part of Fund and Asset Management sub-division).
- The Fund and Asset Management sub-division (7 positions) will move to the Financial Services sub-division. The Financial Services sub-division will include all financial reporting, investments and asset management (including insurance) as well as Tax expertise.
Current status of the SUNFin project
The SUNFin project team continues to focus on the business delivery work by unpacking and mapping the details of the business processes, determining how the system will be tested and the end-users trained. The team is also determining the appropriate system and security access levels required for end-users to use OCF in the most effective way.
Work on the Accounts Receivable and Expenses processes has been signed off. Work continues on Accounts Payable, Budgetary Control, Cash Management and Inventory
The ICT Integration and Architecture teams continue to build the required integrations from the SU legacy systems to OCF and plan the most effective way of cutting over from SU's financial legacy system to OCF when the system goes live.
A big focus is being placed on cleaning up all the legacy data to ensure that the data extraction and migration processes run seamlessly at the cutover from the legacy system to OCF at go live in June 2023.
As with all large projects, there is always a movement of project resources. Several new business analysts have recently joined the Business Delivery team and project team roles have been realigned. Visions Consulting has also added new resources to support the Visions' Subject Matter Experts (SME's).
Linda Keating from Visions Consulting has been appointed as the SUNFin Overall Project Manager and will be working very closely with Brendon Grindlay-Whieldon to manage the SUNFin project deliverables.
“With the approval of the revised approach, timeline and budget and identified roles filled, we look forward to furthering good progress towards achieving the project goals. I would like to thank each project team member for their continued support and commitment to the SUNFin project. The team has made great progress under very difficult conditions," says Lombard.