Practical Advice on Optimizing your GRP Project

Lessons Learned from FreeBalance Project Audits

Updated February 2022

This is part 2 of 3 posts:

  1. Why are GRP FMIS Implementations Different?
  2. What Does FreeBalance Do Differently?
  3. Practical Advice on Optimizing your GRP Project

FreeBalance conducts internal Financial Management Information System (FMIS) implementation audits. These occur at major project milestones. The process has improved over time with over 100 performance indicators. Some of these indicators are fully under company services controls, but most rely on FreeBalance teams working with government project teams. 

Many of the project audit performance indicators are predicated on the capabilities of Government Resource Planning (GRP) software designed exclusively for government, and the unique features of the FreeBalance Accountability Suite™.

This internal audit process helps FreeBalance to improve project successes and it helps governments who might lack experience in GRP implementations.

GRP Thinking vs. Conventional Thinking

Many of the GRP Project Audit Performance Indicators are counter-intuitive to those versed in legacy project management approaches. That’s the point behind these Performance Indicators: the recognition that conventional thinking reduces implementation success rates.

Conventional project management approaches assume very little differences among:

  • Physical and virtual projects – process of building structures is highly predictable, while software can be done in many ways
  • Knowable and less knowable needs – some projects can start with an expectation of comprehensive understanding, while FMIS projects begin with gaps between tender requirements, and real requirements
  • Complicated and complex scope – some projects requires technical expertise to succeed, while FMIS projects are transformational and complex beyond technical to significant change, communications, and capacity characteristics

Everything You Need to Know For A Successful FMIS Implementation

Below is a breakdown of the critical success factors we have determined over almost four decades of implementing GRP systems in governments around the world.

Project Initiation Performance Indicators

  1. Common project understanding among government and implementation teams facilities decision-making, particularly when success factors and project outcomes are well-understood and agreed upon
  2. Dedicated government project teams are critical to communicating requirements, uncovering informal processes, and preparing for change
  3. Government project team product training helps eliminate unnecessary code customization by anchoring projects on how software meets objectives, and how unexpected functions can add value
  4. Agile project methods enables adjusting to public finance realities, while rigid waterfall processes introduces risk – including gaps between documented requirements and real needs that are exposed during the project 

Program Management Performance Indicators

  1. Governance structures must include the software manufacturer in the steering committee and the program management office to ensure commitment while leveraging lessons in similar circumstances
  2. Government project leadership for success must be driven by government professionals, rather than external consultants, and should include civil servants outside central agencies to provide insight on informal practices
  3. Scope should be managed through formal analysis, even in agile processes, to focus projects on public finance priorities
  4. Timely decisions from steering committees, program management offices, vendors, and government project teams are required to meet schedules and eliminate unnecessary lag times (a corollary to this is providing timely information rather than “at the last minute” because it takes time to evaluate and analyze)

Change and Capacity Management Performance Indicators

  1. Stakeholder engagement across the government (leadership, domain experts, users), donor funders, and civil society organizations reduces change resistance while uncovering deeper understanding of needs 
  2. Integral change processes in all project activities including the use of workshops, interviews, agile management, feedback mechanisms, and communications that demonstrates quick wins, and other accomplishments to generate project buy-in
  3. Localization of language, terminology, and documentation localization facilitates transition users to new systems, including support for the unique language variation used, unique national languages, unique government terminology, with help and documentation showing government processes and screens to leverage existing capabilities
  4. Expert mentoring by FreeBalance and any vendors who have GRP and PFM expertise in similar contexts, augmented by training that extends beyond products to PFM, project management, changes management, and ICT to build capacity (government 

Needs Analysis Performance Indicators

  1. Workshops using agile methods engages stakeholders to improve the quality of requirements, while iterative configurations demonstrate compliance with those needs, eliminating the need for extensive documentation except for code customization 
  2. Eliminate unnecessary functions from “as-is” processes that reflect deficiencies or unnecessary constrained in previous software including eliminating manual processes and controls through automation
  3. Prioritization should represent more than central concerns, because line ministry and regional needs should be accommodated
  4. Good practices approach reflecting the capacity and public finance history in governments should be used, rather than trying to impose inappropriate and complex “best practices” such as accrual accounting, result-based budgeting, or performance appraisal, except in governments with capacity

Public Financial Management Approach Performance Indicators

  1. Government context should be used to determine which functions have the most positive impact on public finances for prioritization
  2. Progressive activation phases should be used to transition from good to better practices over time as capacity is built (leveraging GRP configuration capabilities)
  3. Commitment controls should be implemented because that is what makes PFM different from private sector accounting, and ensures legal spending supporting budget laws (this can be progressively activated, beginning with simple controls at the purchase order level before adding more controls, and adding controls at the purchase requisition level)
  4. Aggregate budget control is considered a good practice, while line-item controls is considered a poor practice, because of the need to make budget transfers that are not material to the budget or the budget law (line-item warnings could be implemented in lower-capacity governments)

ICT Approach Performance Indicators

  1. Effective IT practices are required for managing data centres hosting GRP applications including defined systems management procedures including monitoring, maintenance, and patch management to ensure system availability, performance, and scalability
  2. Information security processes are particularly important in government data centres including segregation of duties, physical security measures, antivirus, firewalls, intrusion detection, cybersecurity user training, and audits to prevent manipulation or release of classified information
  3. Good integration practices between GRP systems and other financial subsystems should be leveraged including use of web services and the management of the API lifecycle, while poor practices such as manual uploads, direct database calls, stored procedures, and flat files should be avoided
  4. Separated testing helps accelerate implementations, with configuration sign-offs through demonstrations, reports tested individually, integration tested separately, before full User Acceptance Testing that including configuration, custom reports, integration, and any product code customization

For a personal discussion on how FreeBalance could assist with your FMIS implementation please get in touch.

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