Berkeley accounting moves into the 21st Century
BFS conversion gives campus access to real-time financial information

By D. Lyn Hunter, Public Affairs

16 AUGUST 00 | To those implementing the second phase of the Berkeley Financial System, the final switch-over to a new general ledger and budget and staffing system felt like the eve of Y2K all over again.

But on the evening of July 4, anxiety gave way to jubilation as the system successfully kicked in, giving the campus its first new accounting system in more than 30 years.

Though converting the campus to this new system took nearly four years -- presenting many challenges along the way -- many on campus feel it was worth the wait.

"I really like it," Donna Huang, a financial administrator in the College of Engineering, said of the new program. "It's definitely an improvement. Departments now have more control over what they're doing."

"BFS has helped to expedite processing and payment procedures," said Yvonne Rosby, an administrative assistant in Near Eastern Studies.

"The old system was not giving us what we needed," said Horace Mitchell, Vice Chancellor -- Business and Administrative Services, who provided executive leadership for BFS throughout its implementation. "Newer technology was required to provide timely, accurate and in-depth financial information." Jim Hyatt, Vice Chancellor of Budget and Finance and Chief Financial Officer, co-directed the BFS conversion with Mitchell for the last six months.

BFS is part of the Berkeley Administrative Initiatives program, a set of goals for long-range system improvements. Another major BAI component is the Human Resources Management System, which is now in development.

The first phase of the BFS system -- the accounts payable and purchasing modules -- was implemented in March, 1999. With the recent addition of the general ledger, a new chart of accounts and the budget and staffing system, the package is now complete.

One of the most anticipated features of the newly added programs is the BAI Reporting System, or BAIRS. Managers can look online at records updated every 24 hours, instead of waiting for end-of-month reports to be printed and mailed.

Currently, BAIRS offers more than 10 standardized financial reports, with more being added over the next two months. In December, BAIRS will be upgraded to a Web interface system that allows more ad hoc queries and customized reports.

"With the second phase of BAIRS, departments can further refine their reports," said Elaine Meckenstock, BFS project coordinator "The user will be able to determine what kind of information they receive and in what form, depending on their needs."

Part of the monumental task of creating a new financial system for the campus was training staff to use the new protocol.

The BFS Training Team, the Managers Task Force for BFS Solutions and the BFS Focus Group worked with the implementation team to prepare managers, supervisors and staff throughout campus.

"After the roll out of the first BFS phase, it was clear that departments needed more support," said Diane Leite, MSO for Integrative Biology and communications coordinator for the Berkeley Administrative Initiatives. "Campus leadership learned some valuable lessons from the initial installment and was determined to make the second phase proceed more smoothly."

These groups put together a series of workshops and forums to prepare staff for using the new financial system. In four months, from last February to May, more than 1,500 employees were trained for the new chart of accounts and budget and staffing systems.

Though the BFS conversion is largely complete, said Leite, departmental support will continue in a number of ways.

One venue is the BFS Web site ( Here, users can get updated news and information on the conversion and implementation. A special feature of the site is a "Performance Benchmarks" page that allows departments to compare their workflow with other units on campus. The page also includes a weekly-updated table that tracks the number of days it takes for central business services units to process transactions, such as reimbursements or vendor payments.

A help desk, staffed by experts in the areas of disbursements, payroll, purchasing, accounting, budget and reporting, is also available by calling 642-6800.

For departments experiencing ongoing trouble with a specific issue, a group of BFS experts, known as a "Tiger Team," can be called out for an on-site evaluation of the situation.

Weekly walk-in sessions are also available for staff with questions or concerns. For times and locations, visit the following Web site:(

The implementation of the BFS system, said Meckenstock, is a great opportunity for departments to re-evaluate how they do business.

"Instead of just tweaking their operations to accommodate BFS and BAIRS, this is a chance for units to streamline their business processes and take full advantage of the new technologies," she said, adding that she and other project team members are available to consult with departments on setting up new business systems.

Departments interested in such consultation or the Tiger Team evaluation may contact Meckenstock at 642-3491.



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