Why are GRP FMIS Implementations Different?

This is part 1 of 3 posts:

  1. Why are GRP FMIS Implementations Different
  2. How are FreeBalance GRP Implementation Different
  3. Practical Advice to Optimizing your FreeBalance GRP Project

Governments acquire, upgrade, and replace financial management software to support Public Financial Management (PFM) objectives. This includes reform and modernization programs. Government Financial Management Information Systems (FMIS) are considered core systems of record for public sector fiscal management.

Effective computerization, automation, and integration of FMIS, financial sub-systems, and good PFM practices support the effective allocation of budgets and revenue mobilization to support government strategies.

Governments have financial management choices ranging from custom-developed to Commercial-Off-The-Shelf applications to support public sector budget cycles. Software applications cover the entire government budget cycle, and the PFM component map.

Choices made by governments have a significant impact on project success and future financial sustainability. The purpose of this paper is to describe FMIS success factors for COTS Government Resource Planning (GRP) systems like the FreeBalance Accountability Suite.

What Financial Management Information System options do governments have?

Governments acquire custom-developed and COTS applications from many sources.

Custom-developed

  • In-House: developed by government professions, sometimes with the assistance of external consultants
  • External: developed by private sector companies and handed over to governments
  • Government Custom: developed for an individual government and refactored to support the unique needs of other governments

COTS

  • ERP: Enterprise Resource Planning software developed initially for the private sector, with add-on functionality to support government needs 
  • GRP: Government Resource Planning software developed exclusively for the public sector, with built-in PFM functionality and no unnecessary private sector functionality
  • GRP BoB: GRP Best-of-Breed software covering important financial sub-systems like tax administration, aid and debt management

How did the FreeBalance singular focus lead to a government-specific methodology?

Vendors who build custom-developed solutions or ERP software used for many industries often see the similarities among these “vertical markets”. The singular focus by FreeBalance on PFM resulted in seeing the wide functionality and methodology differences between the public and private sectors. The FreeBalance Accountability Suite, the first global GRP implemented at national and sub-national levels, is one result of this singular focus. FreeBalance government customers benefit from the public sector GRP design.

FreeBalance government customers also benefit from the PFM design of the A-i3+qM methodology.  Developed over three decades, A-i3+qM leverages capabilities of the FreeBalance Accountability Platform, the underlying technology of the FreeBalance Accountability Suite. 

FreeBalance is not a software vendor that focuses on government financials. Rather, FreeBalance is a PFM social enterprise that develops software. The company also provides advisory, implementation, and sustainability services globally.

Unlike most COTS vendors, FreeBalance is involved in every FreeBalance Accountability Suite implementation. FreeBalance is often the prime contractor or part of joint ventures. This ensures that the company learns from implementations to improve processes.

As a social enterprise, FreeBalance focuses on financial and reform sustainability. This “customers for life” vision covers product and methodology design to reduce implementation and maintenance costs while facilitating future reform. The result of this focus is a global practice leader in PFM.  The singular focus embeds FreeBalance in the global PFM community to inform strategy, and to question conventional thinking.

What is A-i3+qM?

The design of A-i3+qM is predicated on the notion that many so-called project “best practices” are not good. A-i3+qM challenges conventional thinking. 

The FreeBalance accelerated, integrated, iterative, implementation quality management methodology was designed exclusively for governments consisting of:

  • Accelerated by eliminating as many legacy waterfall processes that lead to project problems. This includes unnecessary documentation and detailed project plans, in favour of workshops and short process steps. Team sizes are kept small to enable client communications and reduce coordination overhead.
  • Integrated through a single methodology to support development and services implementation. This is integrated with customer requirements through the customer-centric processes. This provides transparency between the customer staff, the implementers, and the development team. Implementation and product development teams are integrated following DevOps practices.
  • Iterative to be responsive to customer and implementation changes using phases. The methodology leverages the best of proven “lean” software development and services methodologies with workshops, short iterations, user stories, milestones and the ability to show progress. These techniques are extended beyond the development organization to implementation services leveraging productivity gains and ability to react to customer requirements.
  • Implementation-focused with good practice templates and proven program management processes. This methodology is focused on the success of the customer implementation, rather than a software release that achieves internal or arbitrary goals. Implementation and product development are managed via a Program Management Office. 
  • Quality approach ensures that the software is released and supported meeting Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) good practices with unit, system, stress and regression testing. Quality is integrated with implementation where FreeBalance tests based on customer environments.

What Makes A-i3+qM Different?

A-i3+qM is part of the FreeBalance ISO-9001:2015 certification. It is a comprehensive methodology covering the entire PFM and FMIS lifecycle from prior to proposal development to customer sustainability. A-i3+qM consists of:

  • Repeatability through decomposing the PFM lifecycle to over 250 tools and templates
  • Government centric analytical and benchmarking tools to support PFM reform roadmaps
  • Good practices implementation approach with appropriate configurations meeting government context and capacity
  • Agile practices through staging proven scientific commercial practices that increase implementation success rates, overcome uncertainty, and improve communications
  • PFM practices developed over three decades of experience that reflect the unique characteristics of GRP implementations and customer engagement, including from the FreeBalance International Steering Committee
  • Proven tool leveraging commercially available and leading government methods adapted for GRP implementations
  • Integrated product and project methodology to accelerate delivery, enables adapting software to meet needs, and eliminates the problem of orphan code through fully commercially-supported customization
  • Product adaptation to facilitate implementations including localization, documentation, and configuration methods
  • Transformational focus with an emphasis on government capacity building and organizational change management

A-i3+qM tools, templates, canvases, and blueprints cover the PFM lifecycle: 

  1. Project Preparation to ensure a common understanding of objectives, success factors, scope, and resources
  2. Country and Government Analysis to determine appropriate good practices and support reform strategies
  3. Technology Analysis to identify technology needs, practices, upgrading, and integration needs
  4. Project Governance to support vendor and client accountability, project communications and decision-making
  5. Product Governance to enable configuration and customization decisions, including avoidance of poor practices and manual steps
  6. Sustainability to support future PFM reform, upgrading, capacity building, and knowledge management

What is Government Resource Planning?

GRP is COTS software designed exclusively for governments. Some GRP applications are designed for a single country, region, or government tier. 

GRP applications differ from ERP by having no unnecessary private sector functionality that impinges on government success rates. Some observers consider GRP as a version of ERP when solutions like the FreeBalance Accountability Suite represent systems of record, enterprise class scalability, multiple horizontal functionality like financials, procurement, and human resources. However, GRP is not implemented in multiple vertical markets or support private sector enterprises.

The most important distinction between GRP and ERP is the code customization footprint necessary to meet government requirements. Unlike businesses, governments cannot adopt many built-in ERP functions because these contradict government practices and legal codes. Many built-in ERP practices are overly complicated for governments, while many do not support sophisticated budget practices in the public sector. 

High levels of code customization is associated with high implementation failure rates and poor overall costs – the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). GRP software, like the FreeBalance Accountability Suite, are massively configurable with no-code parameter and validation settings, language, help, additional tables and fields, screens, Chart of Accounts, Chart of Goals; and low-code workflow. The focus on a single PFM “sub-vertical” enables GRP adaptability to government needs to avoid code customization.

Some observers believe that COTS stands for “Customized-Off-The-Shelf”. That is often the situation with software not originally designed for governments. This misunderstanding points to problems associated with attempting to use business software in the public sector.

Configuration and cloud support forms part of the 2013 Gartner Group definition of “postmodern” enterprise software that adapts easily to changing requirements. This configuration approach has been validated recently with numerous vendors building Low-Code/No-Code suites supporting Business Process Management (BPM) needs.

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