Hogan's comments on the scattered nature of the Fire Service beg another question: change management — how hard a task was it drive the changes? Her answer, after a moment of consideration, is that the key was to get the business units involved and demonstrate the benefits the new software would provide. When it came to the financials, that wasn't too difficult. For starters, all the financial management had been centralised in the past. That meant the fire stations never got to see their individual summaries — sent to them on paper — until the end of each month. As Hogan says, by that time the summaries were old news. Fire station managers had to go through the central finance team to access information in a hurry — a situation they could hardly be expected to favour.
“What has changed most is that we have now got the information in front of the person who needs it, when they need it," says Hogan. “The new system has given them access to information they always wanted but had never been able to access directly. We used to print out reams of paper every month and send them out to our volunteers. Paid stations especially were having problems with visibility. They needed to be able to manage trends and review information a lot more quickly."
Interestingly, Hogan says the Fire Service is not using JD Edwards' business intelligence tools. The tools favoured by the development team were developed by a company called SwissWin, which had presented its Olap capabilities in partnership with the vendor. JD Edwards now has an appropriate toolset but at the time the decision was made to go with SwissWin, using a SQL Server and creating Olap cubes.
“At the moment we have only got financials in production," says Hogan. “We are implementing maintenance, plant purchasing and job costing. It's all drag and drop on the screen. Double-click on it, and there you go — you've got your information."
This ease of use meant that Hogan's team had few problems with training. The financial, ledger and enquiry cube, known as Flic, was introduced at the same time the portal went online. That meant that users could be trained in the use of the JD Edwards environment and learn how to use Flic at the same time. Users can save their analysis for personal or public use and create their own graphs in Microsoft Excel. “Regional managers are using it all the time," says Hogan.
As for training in the JD Edwards environment, Hogan says this was necessary because of the many levels of detail involved. Besides, the training provided a good opportunity to get people together in one room and explain financial concepts to them. It also provided an opportunity to get a renewed grounding in best practice. Managers could explain what hadn't been working for them and what could be improved, enabling the developers to get to work on new improvements.
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