Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1. 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$M. Learn more >>
2. Why haven't I been hearing more about F$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 >>
3. 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. Leran more >>
4. 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 >>
5. 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 >>
6. 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 >>
7. 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 >>
8. 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 >>
9. 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.
10. 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$M Phase II-A includes rebuilding the foundational FDA to improve and streamline the way we manage and report financial data. Learn more >>
11. Will historical data be available in the new system?
No, only open balances will be converted into the new system into the new Financial Data Architecture (new GL accounts, projects, activities, resources types, resource categories, etc.). Historical data will be available in the old data architecture in the old Financial and Data Warehouse systems, and ail be accessible. The plan is to build crosswalks between old and new data fields with inputs from divisions, to help make data analysis and reporting easier. Learn more >>
12. Will F$M fix the problems in the Planning System?
A wholesale redesign of the Planning System is not in scope for F$M. However, all of the inputs that the Planning System currently uses will change, including project structure, resource category structure, and burden calculation. We believe that improvements to these underlying structures will simplify and improve the user experience of the Planning System. Learn more >>
13. Are we going to weekly time reporting?
Some Divisions have expressed an interest in more frequent time reporting to better manage, for example, work orders. To try to address this need, the Lab will consider multiple strategies, including the option for more frequent time reporting for those Divisions who wish to use it. However, no proposal or decisions have been made. Note that time reporting changes are part of the Effort/Labor Accounting implementation, which is encompassed in Phase II-B of the F$M Project (scheduled to start in the Fall of 2014). Learn more >>
14. 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.
15. 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.
16. 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 >>
17. 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 >>