Issues of user-unfriendliness and inflexibility in an SAP implementation at Inland Revenue have been addressed with further products from the vendor.
IRD financial management IS manager Tim Rivett says the SAP R/3 4.0 financial suite installed in 1998 improved processes at the IRD, so achieving its central goal, but progress in other areas “has been patchy”.
Some who used the system but who didn’t access it on a regular basis found it inflexible and lacking in user-friendliness, Rivett says.
“It’s a recognised fact that SAP user-friendliness and reporting are an issue and an ongoing goal has been to make the system more user-friendly for those occasional users.”
Options such as getting web-based access and a portal were considered, but in the end SAP’s own SEM (strategic enterprise management) module was chosen.
Most SEM functions are accessible via the web and Microsoft Excel can be used as a front end, greatly increasing ease of use, Rivett says.
“SEM is also relatively open and can interface with other systems operated by Inland Revenue.”
Another attraction was that using SEM was an option under the IRD’s R/3 licence, so no extra costs were involved.
The IRD kicked off its SEM rollout with the SEM BPS (business planning and simulation) module.
The new system went live in March, when it was used for the department’s 2003-4 budget round.
The next budget round will also make use of SEM and it will then “be used routinely each month for internal reporting and forecasting”.
Possible future steps include using SAP’s BW (business warehousing) data integration product and installing more modules of SEM, which will require an upgrade of IRD’s present version of R/3.
SAP’s flagship ERP suite has been through mainframe and client-server incarnations, R/2 and R/3 respectively. The company is jockeying for position in what many believe is the next big step in computing, web services, with Net-Weaver, its application and integration server middleware platform.
NetWeaver supports ABAP, SAP’s own programming language, as well as J2EE, and is interoperable with Microsoft’s .Net and IBM’s WebSphere.
SAP Australia and New Zealand marketing director Len Augustine told last month’s Sapphire user conference in Sydney, “when you’re an independent vendor, you have to be independent”.
SAP intends to make Net-Weaver the backbone for all its applications.
Watson travelled to Sydney to attend Sapphire courtesy of SAP.