Valley, Hampshire’s best-kept secret, is arguably one of the most attractive
parts of England. The Borough has a thriving economy based on its vibrant
industrial and commercial communities, principally in and around the towns
of Andover and Romsey, and significant agricultural activity throughout the
other 55 parishes.
“Forte, from Cyberscience, was chosen
for our new Financial Management System after a rigorous selection exercise,
where price, functionality and quality were all evaluated”
- David Matthews, Head of Revenues
Out With the Old
Test Valley Borough Council took the decision to replace its existing Financial
Management System (FMS). Their ageing system, residing on an ICL mainframe
running Open VME, consisted of General Ledger, Creditors and Debtors.
Challenges for the New system
System The Council, in line with its objective to move off its mainframe by
April 2000, adopted an open system IT/IS strategy, based on Microsoft Windows
NT. As a result, all core financial systems had to meet the requirements of
the central departments, as well as those of the Council’s individual business
units, with their own devolved financial and budgetary requirements.
In With the New
“Forte, from Cyberscience, was chosen for our new Financial
Management System after a rigorous selection exercise, where price, functionality
and quality were all evaluated,” states David Matthews, Head of Revenues.
The new system encompassed General Ledger, Creditors, Debtors, Cashbook and
A Project Board, made up of senior Council Officers, was
established to take overall project responsibility. The Project Head, supported
by the appropriate technical and training resources, took the on-going project
Appointing the Key Players
The Council elected to use the Cyberscience Implementation Methodology. With
the aim of familiarising key users on how the system would operate and appear,
a programme of continuous parallel conversion of the year’s General Ledger transactional
data from the old system was initiated.
Early emphasis was placed on finalising the structure and
format of the chart-of-accounts and its code formats. Detailed attention
was paid to the form and structure of the General Ledger. Once defined,
conversion would then proceed automatically.
The Cyberscience team, directed by the Council
Officers, worked to develop the detailed requirements and specification
of some additional functionality requested by the Council. Raising the awareness
of the project amongst the Council’s staff was achieved through a series
of Awareness Seminars.
Working together, the teams from Cyberscience
and the Council headed towards two main implementation milestones – the
establishment of the General Ledger, the new Debtor invoicing and collection
environment. The bulk of the coding structures – the posting level codes
– were then populated automatically, by conversion of the existing code
files, using custom-built procedures developed by Cyberscience.
In a very short time the revised and rationalised coding structure had
been completed and provided complete traceability between old and new codes,
forming the basis for audit checks, data conversion and interim interfaces
to third-party systems, which might use the old code from time to time.
As planned, this formed an excellent basis for increasing user understanding
of the new system and the users quickly discovered new views of the data
through the comprehensive Forte enquiry screens.
Cyberscience provided a conversion of the existing Debtors file and a copy
was used to form the basis for training against a familiar environment.
Interfacing to Old Systems
A number of interfaces existed into and from
the old system, which needed to be replicated in the Forte installation.
By this method, interfaces where provided to and from the Academy Housing
Benefits System for payment by Forte, to and from Spectrum Cash Receipting
for debtors and sundry receipts, the Country payroll, ICL Council Tax &
Business Rate refunds and bank statement transactions.
A series of interfaces with First Software Housing System and the Contract
Services System were provided to provide comprehensive CSO reporting.
Improved and Timely Reporting
The Council was very keen to have improved and more timely
reporting. Forte enabled this through its Visual Cyberquery (VCQ) module.
With the Debtors system ready to be rolled out, attention turned to setting
up the Creditor environment. Supplier records were converted and cheque and
remittance formats were finalised.
In mid-March, in anticipation of going fully live, Debtors went live. All
April 1st invoices were prepared and debtors’ cash receipts immediately began
to be automatically updated daily. On April 1st 1998, on time and on budget,
the other scheduled modules – General Ledger and Creditors – went live. All
replacement interfaces were immediately active, housing benefit cheques were
produced on schedule and the first Creditor payments went out the next day
With payments and cash interfaces operational, the cashbook was automatically
live and active and, with the arrival of the first bank statement tape, the
bank reconciliation process was automatically applied.
The new interface to accept Council Tax and Business Rate refund details
and to produce the refund cheques on a ‘one-off’ basis within Forte was soon
operational. The more complex Job Cost Reporting system, fed from the various
CSO and Housing systems, became operational in September whilst reflecting
all data from the beginning of the Council’s year. Now that Forte is well
established and widely appreciated amongst its users, the next planned stage
– establishing Purchasing and Commitments and a roll-out to a wider devolved
user base – is looked forward to with confidence.
“Close professional co-operation between
ourselves and Cyberscience has resulted in a very successful implementation,”
explains David Matthews.