by Tara Swords
For 101 years, the Alameda County Water District (ACWD) in Fremont, California, has been providing water services to Southern Alameda County’s citizens. Today, the organization supplies water to a population of more than 340,000 in Fremont, Newark, and Union City while maintaining approximately 900 miles of water distribution pipe. It also operates two water treatment plants, a desalinization facility, and a blending facility that mixes hard well water with softer water before putting it into distribution.
Location: Fremont, California
Revenue: US$86.7 million in 2014
Oracle products: JD Edwards EnterpriseOne solutions, including JD Edwards EnterpriseOne One View Reporting, Oracle User Productivity Kits
Senior Business Analyst
Length of tenure: Two years
Education: BS in management information systems, California State University, Chico
Personal quote/mantra: “Strive to be the entire ocean in a drop, not a drop in the ocean.”
ACWD has always been an operations-focused organization. Its core mission is to provide clean, safe, and reliable drinking water at a reasonable price. To accomplish this, ACWD’s main business is water supply and treatment, engineering, conservation, and the management of big assets such as pipes, pumps, and tanks—not IT. But as the organization matured, IT became increasingly important to keeping the water flowing. As part of that effort, ACWD is adopting new enterprise software to improve efficiency and effectiveness, including Oracle’s JD Edwards EnterpriseOne 9.1.
“Our mission is to support the business,” says Ariz Naqvi, IT manager at ACWD. “My approach to IT is to be a service division that informs the business of new technologies, brings in new technologies, and provides excellent customer service.”
In 2002, ACWD’s leaders implemented the JD Edwards EnterpriseOne 8.0 enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution. But by 2013, support was expiring, processes were not standardized, the chart of accounts needed to be revised, not all modules were utilized and/or implemented, and access to the data was too restricted. Finance personnel were handling most data entry, even for processes outside of their department, because certain features had not been implemented such as requisition entry, and blanket purchase order releases.
Finance power users had the ability to create reports, leveraging significant customizations to the JD Edwards EnterpriseOne 8.0 environment, but the process of creating and managing these reports was too slow and time-consuming. “Power users were often using their own spreadsheets instead of JD Edwards. As a result, major processes were siloed,” says Jeenu Singh, senior business analyst at ACWD.
My approach to IT is to be a service organization that informs the business of new technologies, brings in new technologies, and provides excellent customer service.”–Ariz Naqvi, IT Manager, Alameda County Water District
To implement more-efficient processes, improve reporting capabilities, and better realize the value of an ERP system, ACWD’s Finance team decided it was time to upgrade the system. Partnering with ACWD’s IT team, and with the support of executive management, they chose JD Edwards EnterpriseOne 9.1. ACWD worked with Oracle Platinum Partner Grant Thornton for help with implementation. The result would be greater efficiency and cost-cutting at exactly the time ACWD would need them the most (see sidebar, “A Multitude of Drops”).Finding the Value
Due to the security restrictions and the limited scope of ACWD’s previous implementation, Finance executed most of the transactions within JD Edwards EnterpriseOne, even those that could have been performed by other departments. This resulted in a high level of centralization of functions within Finance.
“When it came to procurement, the purchasing person would get all the paper requisitions and enter all the information in the system for them,” Naqvi says. “Then there would be back and forth with the user if some of the information was not valid.”
Understanding the potential for improvements to organizational effectiveness, Naqvi and his team decided it was time to upgrade to JD Edwards EnterpriseOne 9.1. While it would be a technical upgrade—better navigation, cleaner menus, automation of paper-intensive processes, and new capabilities—it would also be a transformational upgrade for the organization, enabling it to decentralize certain functions by more fully utilizing JD Edwards EnterpriseOne functionality in a way that, up to now, had not been available to them.
With the implementation of JD Edwards EnterpriseOne 9.1, ACWD has access to a much wider array of functionality and with the appropriate security setup has been able to leverage that functionality to decentralize business functions where appropriate, streamlining many core business processes. Furthermore, these improvements have led to greater real-time transparency, significantly improving management’s ability to monitor key processes, ensuring compliance with ACWD’s policies and procedures.
“To really get value out of any ERP system, you need business-process owners from each area,” says Greg Davis, managing director of technology solutions at Grant Thornton. “When you have one group running things, you don’t produce sound ERP governance. More representation and participation translates into more accountability throughout the organization.”Sink or Swim
The substantive changes that the ACWD team was planning to enact would not only present significant technical challenges, but procedural and cultural challenges as well. Broad changes to an organization are demanding, and due to users’ previous software experiences, there was real skepticism about the likelihood of success in many areas of the organization.
To address this organizational resistance, Singh and her team hosted multiple training sessions to educate users, taking advantage of multimedia to record these sessions both as video and Oracle User Productivity Kits. Singh made sure to include key power users in Finance and the rest of the organization in developing and delivering both the message and the training, and ensured that both were delivered on multiple occasions as needed. Rounding out the transition to version 9.1, IT held regular weekly user support group meetings where employees could voice their concerns and get answers to questions, keeping the implementation on track.
“Before the upgrade, we went to many individual work groups and showed them how they were conducting certain processes then and what those processes would look like in the future,” Singh says. “We gave them a lot of concrete examples and got them involved and engaged in early user acceptance testing wherever possible.”Facts for Thought
|Population in the ACWD service area|
|Approximate number of miles of pipe ACWD maintains|
With users ready, ACWD rolled out the upgrade in mid-2014.Letting Processes Run Themselves
The project involved upgrading existing modules, but it also added several new modules. In the end, the upgrade brought new functionality to a number of organizations within ACWD: Finance, Human Resources, Procurement, and Asset and Inventory Management, among others. The team also added JD Edwards EnterpriseOne One View Reporting solutions and Oracle User Productivity Kits to help facilitate change, and improve training and onboarding functions.
The first benefit: Automation immediately began saving time. For example, in the past, employees would have to take expense report information from their credit card statements, type it into a spreadsheet, assign the appropriate accounts to the transactions, sign a paper document, walk that document to their supervisor for a signature, and then send this information with the receipts to Finance. Finance would then enter this information into JD Edwards EnterpriseOne and store the spreadsheets and receipts on the file server.
Now, that process takes place entirely in the JD Edwards EnterpriseOne Expense Management module. The credit card data is loaded directly from the bank; approvals are performed online; and the information and associated receipts are readily available for review, analysis, and auditing.
“Overall, adopting these automated processes using JD Edwards has reduced our dependency on paper-based processes, improved efficiency, made our data more accessible, and saved ACWD time and money,” Singh says. Additionally she states, “Transaction accuracy has been increased. For example, when Finance has to balance their invoices against a purchase order and has questions, all the data is available in the system for them to see, beginning to end, improving the accuracy and timeliness of the process.”
Faster, more transparent processes and significantly better data availability lead to a better-informed and more efficient organization.Information Flow
An important benefit to come out of the upgrade is the way JD Edwards EnterpriseOne One View Reporting solutions have changed how people view and use data, resulting in fewer requests for report generation. With robust reporting capabilities at their fingertips, users can now run their own reports without a request to Finance or IT to perform this function for them, enabling both Finance and IT to dedicate more time to their core missions.
“Taking advantage of the JD Edwards EnterpriseOne One View general ledger inquiry, Accounting has been successful in saving significant time every month by having this ability to run reports and queries,” says Linh Lam, accounting and treasury manager at ACWD.
With JD Edwards EnterpriseOne reporting, users can easily query data to take a deep dive into the information they need. Results are presented in user-friendly lists, charts, graphs, and tables. These features enable employees to access data quickly for analysis and decision-making, empowering them with more information to optimize their activities. For example, today, project managers can easily run reports to get real-time financial data on project budgets and outlays to adapt and plan accordingly. The same information is available to upper management so they can track where and how ACWD’s money is spent, both at the enterprise and the project level.
The robust reporting capability of JD Edwards EnterpriseOne 9.1 improves IT’s efficiency by reducing the demand for ad hoc reports and leaving more time available for other strategic, value-added tasks.
A critical component to making these reports readily available to users is role-based reporting, which enables each user to choose from a list of reports based on their particular role, rather than having to scroll through thousands of records or sift through every available report type. Before, this was possible only through complex customizations; with JD Edwards EnterpriseOne 9.1, it’s available out of the box. Everyone can design, create, run, and share their own reports—and quickly make business decisions based on the insights they uncover.
In addition, watch lists in JD Edwards EnterpriseOne provide proactive, strategic alerts relevant to individual users. For example, users can set alerts to be notified when a purchase order has not been approved for five days or for invoices that are 30 days outstanding, so they know exactly when to take action.
All of this change is adding up to a major transformation: ACWD is getting real value out of its ERP, and its customers are the beneficiaries.
“Asset Management is now an owner. Engineering is an owner. Procurement is an owner. Finance is an owner,” Davis says. “More process owners are governing the ERP, and they’re meeting on a regular basis to discuss priorities and initiatives instead of just letting the Finance organization make all the decisions. ACWD knows that ERP isn’t just an IT system; it’s a way of doing business.”
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