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“Readiness Leaders” Will Help Implement BUworks

Point people in rebuilding technical infrastructure

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John Imbergamo, senior associate vice president for financial affairs and a University readiness leader. Photo by Vernon Doucette

Any massive infrastructure project needs coaches to help people navigate the new layout. And BUworks is the Big Gig: not just a remake of many gigabytes’ worth of finance, budgeting, payroll, procurement, and human resources systems, but also the standardizing of business processes to improve the way the University works.

Now, it has coaches.

Almost 70 senior managers at the University have been appointed “readiness leaders.” They will be liaisons to employees in BU’s colleges, schools, and administrative departments, helping answer questions and preparing workers for the new system. The leaders also will handpick co-workers with a talent for communication as “ambassadors”—go-to people to help spread information.

More than just sounding boards for questions, leaders will proactively meet with employees to share essential information about the software from SAP, the system BU has chosen to operate the University’s business side.

The Office of the Vice President, Chief Financial Officer, and Treasurer offers a good window on how the leaders will work. With 150-plus workers responsible for the University’s day-to-day financial management, the office performs a mission at the core of the BUworks updating initiative.

“We live and breathe this,” says John Imbergamo, senior associate vice president for financial affairs and one of the department’s six readiness leaders. “This is us.”

Imbergamo says the leaders will be scheduling meetings over the summer with workers who process transactions to get them ready for the SAP training they’ll receive next spring. He’s already working with accounts payable staffers on how vendors will be managed under the new system: how they’ll be added into the SAP system, who will add them, and similar decisions.

“SAP is a very complex system, and it’s very different from a lot of systems that are in use at the University,” says Tom Sterling, a consultant with BUworks. The job of readiness leaders is “helping their people understand what’s going to be different about this system, so that they’re prepared for training, which will prepare them for Go-Live.” Go-Live is the term for three progressive dates on which the old systems are turned off and the University switches to the new system. The first Go-Live date is next summer; the other two are scheduled for late 2011 and into 2012.

About 120 College of Arts & Sciences employees will use the new system regularly, and the two CAS readiness leaders are recruiting about 10 ambassadors, according to Juliana Walsh Kaiser, one of the leaders.

Kaiser, associate dean for finance and administration at CAS, says explanatory meetings there started in March. “We know that employees have concerns,” she says. “Many of the questions relate to how the transition to the new system will work, when will employees receive training, will financial historical records be accessible, and so forth.” On the plus side, she says, “One of the biggest advantages of the new system is that our departments will no longer need to keep their own duplicate financial systems.”

Leaders responsible for just a few employees may need only one meeting; others, with greater numbers of people to reach, may need several meetings.

Kaiser says she and her fellow readiness leader “have learned to juggle the additional duties with our regular jobs.”

The end result, says Roy Schorer, communications lead for BUworks, will catapult antiquated systems into the 21st century.

Rich Barlow can be reached at barlowr@bu.edu.

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