B.C. government schedules an IT update

More and more governments are getting technologically savvy. The B.C. Ministry of Finance is no exception – it is currently working to integrate the varied software processes of 35 different offices.

In 1999, the ministry began moving its financial processes from an IBM-based system to an Oracle Unix system. The Corporate Accounting System Initiative (CAS) had developed a system to process more than 3 million payments per year, encompassing the 35 government entities tied to the ministry.

Steve Wilson, leader of the ministry’s application management team, said that they quickly saw that Oracle’s built-in scheduler, Concurrent Manager, did not allow for the interdependencies needed to manage external applications.

“It’s not so much volume, but that we have to run a (payment) process and run it in 300 different ways. Each one has different parameters – whether the payment is in Canadian dollars or U.S. dollars – or however it needs to be processed.

“Inside each organization everyone has pretty much got those choices, so we run Oracle in a multi-organization environment for each organization or government ministry. There’s 10 jobs to run and we have around 35 ministries. Essentially you’re just running the same job over and over again, and you have to manage that. The Concurrent Manager stuff just wasn’t up to that and to make it work we would have had to write a lot of software,” Wilson explained.

Brent Iverson, an application developer for the ministry, said there was some pretty sophisticated processing that needed to be done while the ministry was bringing Oracle financials online.

“They knew the Oracle scheduler couldn’t work, so they did a search over the Internet and then phoned vendors and I think basically they thought AppWorx had the best product at the time,” Iverson said.

It helped that AppWorx Corp. – in Bellevue, Wash. -was close to the ministry geographically, he added.

“I think that it was almost a forced way of doing it. It was like, ‘Oh geez, we’ve got a problem and we have to deal with it right now.’ They said they could get it in and have it working quickly,” Iverson said.

AppWorx brought its Enterprise Scheduler to the Ministry of Finance. The product is used for job or event scheduling, as well as application automation.

“Back in [the old days] job scheduling was just ‘schedule this to run at this time on this day’. Now we live in a more dynamic computing environment and you need processes to launch based on events. For example, ‘If inventory decreases by a certain capacity, then launch this process,'” said Denise Villari, vice-president of marketing at AppWorx.

Villari said there are enterprise applications used in every organization, whether it’s Oracle for financials, PeopleSoft for HR or SAP for manufacturing. These applications all depend on one another for data. Often they will not work seamlessly with each other, but AppWorx overcomes that problem, she said, by speaking different languages and automating all applications.

She said the B.C. Ministry of Finance wanted to have one enterprise-wide financial system.

“Prior to that they had 35 different books they had to close and roll up into one ledger. To do that you have people monitoring the jobs, reviewing the jobs and starting new jobs. It was almost impossible to continue doing it manually.”

AppWorx has kept up with Oracle certification, and Iverson said it is often difficult to find tools that are Oracle-certified.

Wilson noted that they were originally using AppWorx for the payment program but that over the course of the Oracle implementation, they have used it to tie in automation for everything they do.

“We have a data warehouse and we use AppWorx to automate the processing there. It’s an integrated piece to how we do our processing. We like how it works,” he said.

Iverson said they are a pretty conservative bunch at the ministry, so they don’t push the product to the edge too much.

“We look forward to the ability to run lots of jobs at the same time – like hundreds or thousands of jobs at the same time,” he said. “We would like to see it be continually more robust in processing.”

Villari suggested that with the continued move to online government services, the ministry may eventually want to take note of Enterprise Scheduler’s latest version, with Java coding for Web-based scheduling.