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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University July 19, 2004 | Vol. 33 No. 40
HopkinsOne Ramps Up to Design Phase

Lori Norman and Lynne Lochte, HopkinsOne program directors, in the Mt. Washington offices, the project's home since November 2003.

Final shape and scope of system to be five months in planning

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

Following 18 months of vital ground-laying work, the HopkinsOne project, a massive effort to re-engineer all the Johns Hopkins University's and Health System's financial and administrative processes, has reached the critical operating model design stage. The five-month period, which will involve about 100 dedicated staff and extensive Johns Hopkins community participation, will determine the ultimate shape and scope of things to come.

A project begun in January 2003, HopkinsOne will effectively tie together and streamline selected Johns Hopkins business functions, including purchasing, accounts payable, payroll, sponsored projects, finance, materials management and human resources. The integrated Web-based system will replace a mish-mash of aging financial and administrative systems that are considered unnecessarily unwieldy and not cost-efficient.

Stephen Golding, HopkinsOne's executive project director, said that the implementation of such an enterprise resource planning system is "an incredibly complex endeavor," especially given the size of the Johns Hopkins enterprise. In fact, HopkinsOne will require an army of personnel. Currently, the project team includes 70 Johns Hopkins staff and 30 outside consultants who work on the project full time. At its peak in the coming year, the project will require nearly 250 full-time staff, in addition to the hundreds of Johns Hopkins faculty and staff who will participate in various working groups and training exercises.

In November 2003, the project set up headquarters in dedicated space at the university's Mt. Washington campus. When the space is fully occupied, HopkinsOne will encompass roughly 45,000 square feet of space in the campus's Davis East-West Building.

To identify a software vendor for the project, HopkinsOne conducted an elaborate request-for-proposal process that involved hundreds of Johns Hopkins employees who participated in product demonstrations. In April, Hopkins selected SAP, a world leader in developing software for enterprise resource planning, or ERP. BearingPoint, a consulting firm, has been selected to be the ERP system's integrator, in order to help HopkinsOne bridge business processes and software functionalities.

Golding said that the immense scale of the project reflects the pressing need to overhaul the existing business system infrastructure.

"When it comes to education, research and patient care, Johns Hopkins is at or near the top in all of those fundamental missions. However, when it comes to business processes, we are frankly nowhere near the top," said Golding, executive director for financial affairs at the School of Medicine. "Our performance has been severely hampered by a number of factors, not the least of which is that as we have grown our primary missions, we have not grown in terms of the technology or in terms of the human resources support that we need to sustain the business side of things."

The overarching goal of HopkinsOne is to simplify how business gets done.

As an example, Golding points to procedures in payroll processing. He said that while Johns Hopkins has made strides in recent years to improve efficiency, too much of the current process relies on shuffling paper between offices.

"Someone has to initiate a form, sign off on it, and then it gets walked to another office to get re-signed some more. One form might get walked all over campus," he said. "It could be weeks, even months, before these payroll forms get processed. Someone might not get their retroactive pay for months because we are spending all this time moving these paper forms around."

Similarly, the process for preparing research grant proposals relies heavily on manual tasks and paperwork. Support staff are frequently pulled off other jobs to help faculty meet deadlines, Golding said, and the manual process creates the potential for errors.

Lynne Lochte, HopkinsOne program director, said that accounts payable is another area that needs addressing.

"At Johns Hopkins, bills are paid when they are submitted by the departments. In some instances, unfortunately, bills do not get submitted until a person leaves his or her current position, and an invoice is found in the bottom of a desk drawer," she said. "This can be costly. Payment discounts are foregone, and Hopkins also develops a poor reputation with vendors as a slow pay. We need a system that is up-to-date and automated so that invoices can be entered into the system when the goods are received and then paid in a timely manner."

And then there is the intricate quilt of existing business systems, which as of April 2004 totaled more than 1,000. Golding said that it's expensive to integrate this number of disparate systems, which lend themselves to the unnecessary duplication of data.

"Too much information needs to be re-entered into separate department, divisional systems, which may or may not talk to each other," he said. "We have run into numerous occasions where the information is different on separate systems because it is extracted from different sources."

The new Web-based system will be fully integrated, with a consistent look and feel throughout the various applications. The objective is to make business-related processes more efficient and, where applicable, standardized. The project's scope will not include student information systems or patient and clinical billing, although the ERP system will interface heavily with these systems. The only Hopkins institutions not affected by the planned changes are the Applied Physics Laboratory and Howard County General Hospital, both of which have already developed their own integrated administrative systems.

Golding said that HopkinsOne is not just about installing new software and hardware but will require Johns Hopkins to adopt a fundamental change in the way it does business.

"SAP will provide us with a tool that will enable us to do what we need to do more efficiently and effectively, but we are going to have to make some pretty significant business process changes to do it," he said. "You can't just buy the software, put it in and don't do the other, which is to train and educate people."

In May, HopkinsOne officials embarked on the operating model design phase of the project, which will end in September. To that end, HopkinsOne staff will conduct more than 60 workshops in the coming months to look at specific functional areas, such as recruiting, budgets and purchasing.

"More or less, we'll be meeting with hundreds of users to determine how we do a process now and how we think we can do it better," Lochte said.

Following the operating model design phase, a blueprint phase will take place between October 2004 and February 2005.

All core components of the new ERP system are scheduled to go live in July 2006.

The final product? Golding said that it would likely be a single, configurable portal through which users can access all business functions.

The system's first users will be the thousands of Hopkins staff with administrative functions — those who use human resources, purchasing, finance, supply chain and sponsored-research systems. Sometime in July 2007, the broader Johns Hopkins population will be able to access W-2 forms and payroll, benefits enrollment and personal information through the new system.

Lochte said that the ongoing work of the HopkinsOne team will be transparent and inclusive, with monthly progress reported on its Web site,

"Our objective is to keep people informed as we move forward. We will not be the Wizard behind the curtain here," Lochte said. "We need to reach out to the user community to help us and to get involved. This will be their system, their future. They will decide what it will ultimately become."

The cost of the project through fiscal year 2008 is $186 million, plus a $14 million contingency. The cost will be paid one-third by the Johns Hopkins Health System, one-third by the School of Medicine and one-third by the remaining divisions of the university.


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