The new Banner Payroll and Personal Data Enquiry System

by Kitty Mui (ESU)
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With the recent implementation of the new Banner Payroll and Personal Data Enquiry System, we have reached a major milestone in enhancing the user experience in accessing payroll and personal information as well as improving the inter-departmental workflow efficiency, such as the Human Resources Office (HRO) and Finance Office (FO), among others.

Prior to the implementation of this system, the HRO and FO were using separate standalone systems to satisfy their daily operation requirements. Some of the shortfalls of this approach were:

  1. Data redundancy:
    Same employee information was entered twice into two separate systems, which are not linked.
  2. Data integrity:
    Due to double data entry, it was difficult to maintain data integrity between different systems.
  3. Comprehensiveness of the data:
    Each department was maintaining the necessary employee data for their respective processing only. Holistic view on the employee information was therefore not available.
  4. Manual process:
    Paper records were required to flow from one office to another, creating unnecessary delay and at times even confusion.

The HR Banner System is a purchased package developed by SunGard-SCT, which is targeted at all major universities and colleges in US as well as internationally. As such, it is an integrated, features-rich system providing unmatched functionalities which are not available in most other standalone systems. Specifically, some of the major benefits that we are able to realize are:

  1. Real time processing:
    Information is made available much faster.
  2. Minimal paper flow:
    Inter-departmental workflow efficiency is much improved since most of the paperwork is eliminated.
  3. User oriented:
    The whole implementation is focused on making information such as personal data, job, pay and budget information available to end users directly through the Web. Users are able to make changes regarding personal information directly through the on-line Administrative Information Management System (AIMS).
  4. Data security:
    Information is made readily available on-line to the target users with the appropriate security control.

The project was kicked off back in August 2003 with the first visit of the consultant from SCT. The first phase of the project is to replace the old Full Time Payroll System, plus several other major productivity enhancements. The target is to develop and set up the system for a three-month parallel run starting April 2004 such that it can be cut-over to production in July 2004, coinciding with the new financial year. In order to rollout a system of this magnitude in such an aggressive timeframe, significant amount of effort has been dedicated to its successful implementation by the HRO, FO and Enterprise Solutions Unit (ESU), under the guidance of the Chief Information Officer (CIO). Since Banner is a purchased system, it imposes certain limitations on how we can adopt the system for our use. We have encountered quite a number of challenges during the course of implementation, most of which have been overcome by great teamwork and close collaboration among the three offices. Below are some of the issues / challenges that we have faced and addressed:

  1. Banner's undesirable feature such as limiting deduction to full month deduction amount only.
  2. Inadequate field width, mostly in reporting, since the system was targeted at USD currency.
  3. MPF handling is very complicated and heavily governed by regulations, hence cannot be easily supported with customisations.
  4. Multiple charging and abnormal charging of employee expenses to multiple cost centres.
  5. External interfaces, such as bank file, IRD, trustee, ledger system, have to be customised due to their uniqueness.
  6. Retroactive payroll processing / adjustment.
     

In order to address some of the areas which are not well-covered by the Banner System, we have also developed some additional modules supplementing Banner's functionalities. They are:

  1. Housing Module
  2. Budget Information Web-page replacing the old Executive Information System (EIS)
  3. Staff Enquiry via AIMS, enabling all employees to view and verify information such as personal particulars, family data, employment history, benefits and pay information.

We have also streamlined the workflow between the offices, which was originally based on the old systems and paper flow, using the functionalities of the new system as well as our in-house customisation and development.

During the later stage of the implementation, we have spent a lot of effort in the synchronization and cleaning up of the HRO and FO data. Adding to its complexity, we have also included the newly setup "Community College of City University" into our scope, which was unforeseen at the beginning of the project. Fortunately, our good teamwork pays off and we are able to rollout the system on time. Now that the first phase is behind us, we are now concentrating on the hourly rate payroll and research modules. With the experience gained in the first phase of the project, we are confident that the implementation of the remaining project, although equally challenging, will be smooth and on time.