Alberta accountants plan migration and integration

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Alberta (ICAA) has more than its numbers in line these days as it prepares to overhaul its aging IT system.

Wayne Kauffman, associate executive director of the ICAA in Edmonton, said that the organization, which consists of 8,700 CA members and students, requires a dynamic database, and its 12-year-old system was no longer doing the trick.

“Twelve years ago we brought in DMR [now Fujitsu Consulting] to come up with a system to serve us into the future, and we made that switch. Now, 12 years later, we’re looking at that system again,” Kauffman said.

Despite its age, the ICAA’s current database is satisfactory in terms of serving the organization, but occasionally falls down in the areas of efficiency and effectiveness, Kauffman said. It also proved to be problematic as it was a patchwork of technologies.

“We wanted to go to a system-homogeneous shop. Now, every time we want to upgrade our technology, it doesn’t flow properly, and we wanted to make the delivery and support to staff and our members more effective. A system-wide migration was the logical choice, both from an operational and financial perspective,” he said.

According to Mark Ethier, an Edmonton-based consultant with Fujitsu Consulting, which will oversee the project, the migration process will move everything over to Microsoft Windows 2000, with workstations moving to Microsoft Windows XP Professional.

“The first step will be moving the whole network to the new environment – moving from Novell to Windows 2000. We have to move from GroupWise to Outlook and Exchange at the workstations and change the environment to Windows XP,” he said.

Major changes to in-house applications will be made using Visual Basic .Net, and this will be completed by May, Ethier said, but some SQL Windows code will still exist in areas where the business won’t change in the immediate future. The other changes will be made before the new year.

As with major change in any organization, the people-factor is key to having the migration succeed. According to Kauffman, Fujitsu Consulting worked closely with the ICAA to ensure that communication with the end users stayed open and that the staff was very involved in the entire process.

Ethier said that he’s as confident as he’s ever been on any project that this migration will go smoothly, partly due to the stressed importance of open communication.

“We’ve been careful about having regular discussions with the end users about what to expect and what negative things to expect, too,” he said, noting that some users are concerned with the fact that all old e-mail will not be transferred over. He explained that while it could have been salvaged, the decision was made to dispose of all e-mail in order to deal with some “packrats” within the organization.

While implementing an entire new system can be stressful, Kauffman is optimistic about both the process and the outcome.

“We’ve done our homework in getting proof of concepts done and, quite frankly, believe that the learning curve will be short. We’ve involved our people in the process and sent them to training – we’ve thought through these things thoroughly, and I’m touching wood that no major glitch will occur,” Kauffman said.