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PFM Knowledge Sharing, Part 5: IFMIS Implementation Practices and Project Management


March 9, 2009

This is part 5 of the 9 part series on PFM knowledge sharing.

FreeBalance provides a Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) IFMIS suite that is used in many countries around the world. We hope that the following is sufficiently objective to be of value to you.

Updated: June 2009

 IFMIS Implementation

Project Management and people management was mentioned by many speakers and key to success during PFM conferences. There was much discussion about the political nature of these projects and the need for government commitment. Any large project requires good management skills.

There are some lessons learned specific to implementing IFMIS projects in government. The most frequently cited practice was government control or “ownership” over the process. Governments can increase the likelihood of success by managing donors and implementers. An IFMIS project that is funded by a donor and implemented by a vendor is not free money. Governments can set the agenda for reform and ensure that the implementation meets the country context.

A dedicated team of civil servants managing the implementation was described as a good practice. Experts believe that the project should be led by financial management experts, not Information Technology (IT) experts. However, there were no IT experts presenting at these conferences! 

View more presentations from icgfmconference. (tags: world reform)

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3


Project Management

  • Many government IT projects have cost billions of dollars and have been unsuccessful. Clients are accountability for the effectiveness of their systems. Processes come first, technology second. (Job).
  • Changes rules and structures do not change behaviour. Understanding the problem defines the range of instruments required for reform. Formulaic reforms are not calibrated to the country context. He warned that behavioural change requires a longer commitment than the donor attention span. He further described how technical assistance can fail to meet government needs. (Ruffner)
  • Project management has many problems that cannot be described in 15 minutes. (Thuy)
  • A project management committee with 5 coordination committees and ad-hoc task forces. Have created a common working structure for the government and the contractor. Participation by the government on day to day activities is required. Government commitment is huge. (Thuy)
  • Human resources: project reaches as many as 80 people in the project team from the government. (Thuy)

5 Critical Factors (Thuy)

  • Continued support and commitment from MOF Senior Management and other stakeholders
  • Develop and implement standard processes that can be rolled out efficiently and provide consistency to users
  • Build and maintain a dedicated team at all levels to deliver the project goals
  • Facilitate and optimize transfer of knowledge and skills from supplier to MOF core and extended team members.
  • Ensure users are engaged, trained and committed to support the new system and solution.

Need to examine and understand the Total Cost of Ownership or ‘TCO’ (Job)

Software costs can often be a small factor of the entire IT costs. Key principles for successful planning include:

  • Development of Government and departmental strategic IT plans.
  • Creation of Investment plans for IT with an oversight committee.
  • Good practices in strategic planning includes a 3 to 5 year plan  with clear performance measurement.
  • Finance managers have a value for money perspective, so the strategic plan must demonstrate what will be needed to achieve success.

Government Ownership

  • Should not have the view that it is the World Bank’s money. (Osler)
  • Consultants will sell you stuff, the government needs to be in control. (Osler)
  • Need to have dedicated people from the government on the project. (Osler)
  • Can reduce the costs of the implementation from suppliers if you guarantee 100% dedicated resources from the government. (Vickland)
  • Need to define everything you can get out of the system. Need to classify the budget and integrate with COA. (Parry)
  • Separate tenders for hardware tend to be problematic. RFPs should be for turnkey systems. The government testing responsibility needs to be thorough. (Parry)
  • There is often not an enthusiasm for rigid project management methodologies by governments. However, the implementation must be managed by the government, not the supplier. Need for a small committee empowered to make decisions. (Parry)
  • Ownership is the most important determinant for success. It is the “buzz word” of the moment. He pointed out that real ownership by the government is the exception (Ruffner)
  • Government should own reform agenda (Kelly)
  • Start small – no big bang. Give incentives to people to go along. (Sottie)  

Implementation Challenges (Sottie)

  • Too much demand after gaining civilian rule.
  • Tried to do everything at once.
  • Infrastructure required – set up wireless, did not work under bad weather. People lost interest.
  • Tried to do too much. People stopped using it.
  • Re-looked at it a few years ago. Set up in a few core ministries. Has cost so much money. Now pruned it down to 8 ministries and is now working and only using budget, cash, GL, payment modules right now. This year extending it to all 36 ministries. By next year will hit most regional capitals.

Planning and Benchmarks

  • Need to develop a common mission, project mission and vision. (Osler)
  • Project charter showing risks is needed. (Farooq)
  • Should adhere to the plan with benchmarks, but flexibility, with approval by project governance structure, for adjustments. (Myers)
  • Objectives can minimize objectives, set expectations and determine what will be achieved. (Osler)
  • Anticipate change management. (Myers)
  • Need for periodic reviews of project and plan. (Myers)
  • Execute the project with clear priorities, opportune decisions, fast resolution, eliminated barriers, fast execution, orderly and clear process flow. (Acosta)
  • Need to manage expectations. (Seed)


  • The human dimension is the most difficult. (Farooq)
  • Need to have a governance structure to monitor business benefits. (Farooq)
  • Requirements for project team may change during project. (Seed)
  • Project manager should be a senior official from the functional side with stature within bureaucracy with adequate financial and administrative powers. (Myers)
  • Project cannot be down “operationally” by people who have standard responsibilities. Needs to be project-based. (Farooq)
  • Core team should be trained professionals and representatives of major stakeholders. (Myers)
  • Project secretariat would have specialist IT staff. (Myers)
  • Need to align human resources policies (career, rewards) with the project. (Farooq)
  • Experienced providers are needed – not just people who know the software, but have gone through IFMIS projects before. (Osler)

Consultants should be used to supplements skills and should have: (Seed)

  • Extensive PFM experience
  • Government accounting, budgetary and financial management systems and computerization
  • Country context
  • Management and operations of computerized government systems
  • HR, organizational and project management
  • Specific technical area such as security

Role of Information Technology (IT)

  • This is a user project and users should control it, not IT. (Osler)
  • IT and IT solutions cannot overcome problems in human capacity. (Dorotinsky)
  • IT should follow, not lead. (Peterson)
  • Financial systems must be owned by the functional users, not Information Technology personnel. (Job)


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Doug Hadden

Doug Hadden

Executive Vice President, Innovation at FreeBalance
Doug is responsible for identifying new global markets, new technologies and trends, and new and enhanced internal processes. Doug leads a cross-functional international team that is responsible for developing product prototypes and innovative go-to-market strategies.

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