New Financial Software Out

nferris@govexec.com

A fast-growing supplier of packaged human resources and accounting software wants to sell its financial systems to federal agencies. PeopleSoft Inc. of Pleasanton, Calif., announced last week that it will customize its PeopleSoft Financials software for the federal environment and apply for a GSA schedule contract.

Agencies seeking to replace their core accounting systems must acquire them through GSA's Financial Management Systems Software schedule. Products on the schedule must carry out minimum functions specified by the Joint Financial Management Improvement Program (JFMIP). Nine companies currently hold schedule contracts.

Most of the 1997 schedule contractors are oriented more toward providing professional and technical services than packaged software. Jeffrey Carr, vice president for PeopleSoft Federal in Bethesda, Md., said his company would approach the federal market differently.

"Our goal is to deliver an 80 percent COTS solution," Carr said, referring to commercial off-the-shelf software that requires little modification for each customer's use. At the same time, PeopleSoft will meet federal needs such as Prompt Payment Act controls, appropriations tags, and interfaces with Treasury payment systems.

Unlike some of its competitors, Carr said, PeopleSoft does not charge customers extra for software upgrades if the customer buys a maintenance contract. Maintenance services are free with the first year's software license.

Andersen Consulting is PeopleSoft's partner in developing the federal package, which presents a Windows face to users and runs on several kinds of networks. It will come with add-ons to help agencies set up workflows, data connections and access controls.

Carr said PeopleSoft plans to show up on the 1998 GSA schedule. "The timing is perfect" for a new entrant into the federal market for financial systems, Carr said, because of federal management reforms such as the Government Performance and Results Act that are forcing agencies to strengthen the connections between their spending and their objectives and to improve financial reporting. PeopleSoft Financials, which already is on the market in a non-federal form, also is Year 2000-ready, unlike many of the mainframe-based systems agencies are using today, and it works with electronic commerce systems.

The PeopleSoft announcement came days before a high-visibility introduction of a new version of Oracle Corp.'s U.S. Federal Financials. This week, the database company is slated to unveil its product suite, which already has been certified for inclusion on the current FMSS schedule, company officials said.

Meanwhile, the Chief Financial Officers Council is weighing the report of a special task force that reviewed the financial systems schedule program. Created to consider widespread complaints about the program, the task force recommended that it be continued in a modifed form, and no longer be mandatory.

The Joint Systems Solutions Team's decision paper called for:

  • More frequent updates of the system requirements mandated by JFMIP.
  • More thorough and open testing of candidate software.
  • Streamlining the process for both agencies and vendors.
The team recommended that a program management office be established within JFMIP to ensure continuity and improve the effectiveness of the financial systems schedule program. It said the schedule should be changed to a task order contracting vehicle run by GSA.
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