Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Overview | Schedule | Scope | User Engagement
| Planning | Time Entry | Cost Controls | Detailed System Questions

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Overview FAQs

What is F$M?
F$M = Financial Systems Modernization. This multi-year, multi-phased, Lab-wide project is addressing the Lab's current financial systems (people, processes, and technology), to more effectively provide data, analytical tools, and services for research management needs. For further detail, please see About F$M. Learn more >>
Why are we implementing F$M?
The Lab's current financial application was designed with a primary focus on meeting institutional (e.g., DOE, UCOP) requirements, over 16 years ago. Since then, the Lab has grown significantly, business models have changed, and we've developed a growing tangle of custom workarounds in the system to meet the Lab's needs. The result is a network of complex, manual, and duplicative processes, without the ability to leverage functionality in new releases of the system software, PeopleSoft. F$M is redesigning the structure of our financial systems to not only address the issues we have today, but to better serve the Lab in the future. Learn more >>
Who's working on F$M?
The F$M project team is a group of experienced Berkeley Lab staff and skilled Accenture staff, in partnership with diverse representation from across all of the Lab’s divisions. Learn more about the team's make-up and organization on The Team page. Learn more >>
What is meant by "Efficiency"? Doesn't it just mean doing more work with fewer people?
In the context of F$M, "Efficiency" is meant very broadly. F$M will transform how each of us execute our day-to-day work, and should make many tasks easier, faster, and more streamlined. The time savings will allow employees and Divisions to devote time to important, higher-level tasks and provide opportunities to learn new skills. It may also mean that employees who leave may not need to be replaced. Resource decisions will be continue to be made in the overall context of the Lab's organization, funding climate, and research management support needs.

Schedule FAQs

When will F$M happen?
The F$M Project is split into two overlapping phases: Phase II-A (01/07/2013 – 11/30/2014), which has a go-live date of 10/1/2014, and a potential Phase II-B (10/1/2014 – 11/30/2015). For more information, please see the Project Schedule. Learn more >>
Is the project on track for testing in April and Go Live in October?

Testing started mid-April, and User Acceptance Testing is on track to start in August. Build and Deploy stages are on track over all, Go-live is on track for October 1. Some parts of the process are more fluid and may shift. Learn more >>

Why are you planing Go-Live concurrent with Year-End Close?
Launching at the start of the fiscal year was determined to be the best option because it minimizes costly data conversions. We recognize that launching at year-end close will make training challenging, especially for our Resource Analysts. We are mitigating impacts in several ways, from providing early exposure to the test environment, to getting people familiar with the system and tools, to extending the major training period through post-launch, to meeting the needs of those whose schedules will not allow them to take training before year-end close.

Scope FAQs

What will change with the implementation of F$M?
The goal of the F$M project is to deliver integrated, streamlined, and improved financial service and information solutions. These will encompass all the OCFO end-to-end business process/service areas: DOE & General Accounting, Work for Others, Buying & Paying, Effort Accounting, Travel and Conferences, and Reporting. Consumers of these services will have a more consistent experience, reduced cycle times, and will have easier access to timely and accurate financial information. Although the look and feel of the financial systems will be essentially the same, as we will continue to use the PeopleSoft financial software, the improved systems will necessarily mean changes to how work will be executed, such as inputting and tracking proposals, closing out projects, and generating financial reports. Learn more >>
Why is the scope of F$M so big?  Why not implement a more phased approach?
F$M's scope actually has been broken into phases. Phase I began in 2011 and involved defining the problem and recommending solutions. Implementation has been split into Phases II-A and II-B. Since service areas are all very closely related, and modules highly integrated, there are efficiencies and synergies gained by, for example, doing all the design at once. Further phasing would have unnecessarily separated relevant pieces of the project and potentially delayed overall implementation. To provide more tracking and modularity to the project, we have built in multiple milestones to each Phase, and are following an EVMS methodology to track progress against scope, schedule, and cost. Please see the Project Schedule for more detail about what is covered in each Phase. Learn more >>
Is there contingency for requirements not captured during Design?
As part of testing and Go-live - we'll look for defects and business critical missed requirements; there is contingency to address those. Other new requirements will be reviewed after Phase IIA Go-Live using the governance structure, as part of system management.
What are the criteria for moving Phase IIB forward?
Executing Phase IIB as currently planned is contingent on Lab leadership’s prioritization of FY15 indirect budget formulation. Ultimately, we intend to do all of the Phase IIB scope. What might fluctuate is when we start, and duration, driven primarily by lab budget, and the smoothness of Phase IIA Deployment. Learn more >>

User Engagement FAQs

Why haven't I been hearing more about F$M?
During the initial stages of any project, the Communications team begins by analyzing stakeholder needs, organizational culture, and communications vehicles to create an effective communication and change management strategy. Central to this strategy, the F$M website is intended to be an efficient communication tool to reach the broader Berkeley Lab community. You can expect to receive more information as the F$M project progresses. You can stay "F$M current" by subscribing to the F$M website RSS feed. Learn more >>
How are you ensuring user involvement?
We are using top-down and bottom-up approaches, with stakeholder engagement at every level. In particular, our Stakeholder Committee and Working Groups are drawn from customers, process owners, and subject matter experts from across the Lab. Learn more >>
How can I participate in the F$M Project?
If you'd like to be involved, please contact a Service Area Team member from your Division/Area, or submit a comment through the F$M Website's Feedback Form. Learn more >>
How are you ensuring leadership support and engagement?
The project has a clearly articulated governance and decision-making framework. Lab Director Paul Alivisatos is the project's Executive Sponsor, and Chief Operating Officer Glenn Kubiak chairs the Steering Committee. In addition, the project team communicates regularly with Lab leadership at multiple levels. Learn more >>
What will be my role during testing? Will standard reporting tools be made available?
Testing will involve completing an assigned set of test scripts, after which additional ad-hoc testing can be done. Our goal is to have the new Data Warehouse (with demo data) available for testing during August User Acceptance Testing. We expect the most commonly-used reports to be available, but note that not all reports will be completed at the time of testing.
How will training be administered? What type of training will I receive? Will it include Reporting?
Training will be modular, based on role/tasks performed rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. Training will be through self-paced eLearning where possible, with scheduled classroom sessions reserved more complex, targeted training. Early training was made available to everyone in April on overview topics, e.g., 9.2 Navigation, new Project ID Structure, modified LETS interface. Comprehensive training will begin in July, including basic training on Reporting Tools. More will be posted under Training as available. Learn more >>
What kind of support will be available for system questions?
The F$M Team is developing a formal Support framework, including an F$M Helpdesk, F$M Experts, and Documentation. A higher level of support will be available in the weeks immediately following Go-live, with continued support thereafter. As more details are available, they will be posted. Learn more >>

Data/Structure FAQs

What is Financial Data Architecture (FDA)?
The Financial Data Architecture (FDA) is the overarching data structure that encompasses all of the information that we use for financial reporting and financial decision-making. It includes data fields and attributes, the chart of accounts, and work breakdown structure. F$M Phase II-A includes rebuilding the foundational FDA to improve and streamline the way we manage and report financial data. Learn more >>
Why are you changing the Financial Data Architecture (FDA)?
The existing FDA no longer meets the Lab's business needs, and getting the necessary information out of the financial systems is a costly process requiring a large number of financial staff to mine data. For example, the current system captures how things are purchased, but does not effectively capture what has been purchased. Also, there is no standard definition for a project, resulting in 25,000 active projects representing activities from multimillion-dollar research projects to small work orders. As a result, we cannot answer questions such as "how many research projects does the Lab have", or "how much did we spend on microscopes in FY12" without a lot of manual intervention.

The New Financial Data Architecture (FDA) will be restructured to provide a more robust chart of accounts, work breakdown structure, and standard data definitions and data models. These will allow us to manage and report in a more streamlined and efficient way. While implementing such a change in data structure will cause a short-term disruption, the benefits should be sustained. Learn more >>
How are systems like LETS changing? How will the new Project IDs work? When do I see what the new system "looks" like?
LETS, TREX, and other systems that accept Project IDs are not being replaced in Phase IIA, but will be modified to accept the new Project ID structure. This includes a New Project ID plus an Activity ID. Both of these numbers will be system generated and associated with a 30-character, Division-selected & editable name. Learn more by taking the eLearning. Learn more >>
Why do we need to change project IDs, when we can map them?
We are moving to a new structure which will require using both a project ID and activity ID. In addition, the mapping from old to new project IDs will not be 1:1 in every case. Learn more >>
How are systems like LETS changing? How will the new Project IDs work? When do I see what the new system "looks" like?
LETS, TREX, and other systems that accept Project IDs are not being replaced in Phase IIA, but will be modified to accept the new Project ID structure. This includes a New Project ID plus an Activity ID. Both of these numbers will be system generated and associated with a 30-character, Division-selected & editable name. You can see a Demo of the modified LETS screen under Demos (Training -> Demos). Learn more under Demos, Training, and Financial Data Architecture (What’s Happening -> FDA). Learn more >>
Why do we need to change project IDs, when we can map them?
We are moving to a new structure which will require using both a project ID and and activity ID. In addition, the mapping from old to new project IDs will not be 1:1 in every case. Learn more >>
Will historical data be available in the new system?
No, only open balances will be converted into the new system into the new Financial Data Architecture (new GL accounts, projects, activities, resources types, resource categories, etc.). Historical data will be available in the old data architecture in the old Financial and Data Warehouse systems, and ail be accessible. The plan is to build crosswalks between old and new data fields with inputs from divisions, to help make data analysis and reporting easier. Learn more >>

Planning FAQs

Will F$M fix the problems in the Planning System?
A wholesale redesign of the Planning System is not in scope for F$M. However, all of the inputs that the Planning System currently uses will change, including project structure, resource category structure, and burden calculation. We believe that improvements to these underlying structures will simplify and improve the user experience of the Planning System. Learn more >>
Will there be something that will help develop proposal budgets?

The changes that are being made to the system should make it easier to price proposals in the planning system. In addition, we will be rolling out some new quick pricing tools after we go live.

Time Entry FAQs

Are we going to weekly time reporting?
Some Divisions have expressed an interest in more frequent time reporting to better manage, for example, work orders. To try to address this need, the Lab will consider multiple strategies, including the option for more frequent time reporting for those Divisions who wish to use it. However, no proposal or decisions have been made. Note that time reporting changes are part of the Effort/Labor Accounting implementation, which is encompassed in Phase II-B of the F$M Project (scheduled to start in the Fall of 2014). Learn more >>
Will we be able to do time increments of less than .5 day?
This functionality is planned for in Phase IIB. Learn more >>

Cost Controls

Can you tell me about controls: who can charge to what project?
In Phase IIA we will be adding an approval step for purchases, so that a PI or PM can control who makes a purchase on their project. We will also be changing time entry so that time can’t be charged to a closed project. In Phase IIB we will be adding additional controls on time entry so that project owners can review who is charging their projects before time is released. Learn more >>
Will there be an improvement in phone and electricity pricing?
While a change in recharge pricing is not in scope for this project, there will be more upstream verification of information, which means less downstream clean up.

Detailed System FAQs

See system-specific questions from System Demos
System Demos