Fixing ‘unmanageable’ Phoenix system will take roughly a year, says SAP

It’s unclear how tests for the federal government’s new HR and pay solution will be carried out, but one thing Bob Conlin, SAP Canada’s vice-president of public services, is certain about are the issues plaguing the current Phoenix pay system.

The error-plagued system has about 10 different interfaces to input payroll data and roughly 30 different HR programs, which brings with it its own serious issues, according to Conlin. The lack of integration between the current payroll and HR systems is a major flaw.


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“The lifecycle management alone of the multiple HR systems…being upgraded and tweaked and modified… all of those things happen in a sequence that is completely out of sync with each other. Because these are technologies that are often from the same company,” explained Conlin. “When you have a single integrated system or a very defined integrated system, you can manage the lifecycle much easier.”

Conlin confirmed that the initial planning to revamp the current system should begin by the end of this week. Though no official timelines have been provided by either SAP or Canada’s Treasury Board, Conlin did say he anticipates the testing and implementation of these solutions to happen much quicker than the usual timeline of two years; pointing to the one year mark as a reasonable target.

Updating and maintaining the systems require a tremendous effort, but Conlin also said simplifying the process of finding and fixing errors in the system when it is properly integrated is crucial.

“If there’s an error somewhere in their systems today, the root cause analysis takes an unbelievable amount of time, because you have to reverse engineer with whatever one of the 40 systems that gas contributed to the error. It’s completely unmanageable,” said Conlin. “So when you consider a single integrated system with standardized business processes and with a common data model, payroll becomes an assembly. And the root cause goes back into the process, ‘What slows down the process to cause this error?’ That’s a much more meaningful root cause analysis.”

The federal government says SAP’s work with the new HR and pay system will be the stepping stone to a more flexible procurement strategy for the future.

Bianca Healy, the manager of media relations for strategic communications and ministerial affairs, confirmed in an email that they will be working with SAP Canada’s team over the next few weeks to pilot the new solutions with the final goal of implementing those solutions incrementally across departments. Employees will be a big part of the testing and feedback process, she added.

“In the coming weeks and months, SAP will work with the NextGen team on a pilot which will test potential solutions against the real complexities of the government’s HR and pay requirements,” said Bianca Healy, the manager of media relations for strategic communications and ministerial affairs, said in the email. “Employees in the pilot department will continue to be paid through the Phoenix pay system. A department or departments have not yet been selected for the pilot. Learnings and results from the pilot will help inform and define the way forward.”



*Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that testing the current system was set to begin the same week this article went live. However, it’s just the initial planning that was set to begin during this time. IT World Canada apologizes for the error.

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Buckley Smith
Buckley Smith
Staff writer for IT World Canada. Covering the world of technology as it applies to business. Buckley is an avid sports fan who loves travel, food, and music. Can be contacted at [email protected] or 416-290-2000.

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