Transition to new Advantage version nearly flawless

“I love it when a plan comes together.”

The oft-repeated phrase is attributed to John “Hannibal” Smith of the 1980s television action series “The A Team.” His plans didn’t always work “right;” they just worked.

Bryan Brown, Ken Stewart and a dedicated group of about a dozen “team leads” could identify with the A Team attribute. Their planning, preparation and persistence made the recent transition to a new version of Advantage nearly flawless.

Beginning in 1998 ITD used an Oracle Financials/HR-based system called IFMS and replaced this legacy system when Advantage version 3.4 went live in 2006. In the midst of that first project, the Canadian firm CGI purchased Advantage from AMS. In 2008 ITD upgraded Advantage to version 3.7, which from the user’s perspective was a relatively simple transition. Moving to the latest version (3.9) introduced signification changes to application navigation so was more complicated. The complication was addressed by involving more users in the testing phase, earlier in the project.

The project took approximately a year and the plan culminated in successful transition on Monday, March 11, a day earlier than its programmed start date.

Early conversion, with minimal complications, is a tribute to those involved in planning and testing, Stewart explained.

“It’s always nice to have a non-event … it was just like another day,” he said referring to the Monday debut. “It went as well as we expected and much better than we planned for. There just weren’t many surprises.”

Brown said in the month since the transition only one notable “issue” was logged that hadn’t been identified during the testing phase. “That shows how well people tested their daily job tasks.”

Advantage is an important tool for all ITD employees who prepare and submit timesheets. The migration from version 3.7 to 3.9 was relatively simple for them. It had a much greater impact on those who process federal reimbursements, order supplies or services or make financial payments.

Training documents posted on ITD’s SharePoint site several weeks and in some cases months before the conversion helped users understand the differences and become more familiar with the new functions.

Most users were not aware of the steps immediately preceding the transition – steps that were responsible for making it a pain-free process.

The previous conversion, from 3.4 to 3.7, took place over a three-day, Labor Day weekend, Brown explained. Because of the timesheet schedule, there was no luxury of a holiday weekend this time, so work on the “cutover” began early and ended late on a traditional two-day weekend (March 9, 10).

Carin Pluto arrived for her part of the process at 2:30 a.m. on Saturday and worked until about 6 p.m.

The vendor, CGI took over in the evening and finished around 11 p.m. ITD business team leads spent Sunday making final changes and verifying the database conversion. Most finished by about 11 am with final touches on configuration concluding about 2 pm.

Most of the project team arrived at their normal time on Monday, March 11, and by 9 a.m. the updated Advantage System was declared operational.

Planning, testing and practicing before the conversion, both at ITD Headquarters and in each of the districts, were largely responsible for the smooth transition, Brown said. Many of the key players were on board during the migration from 3.4 to 3.7 in 2008, which also contributed to the successful introduction of the more robust 3.9 edition.

Advantage 3.9 transition team:
Dana Bailey, Brenda Bassick, Bryan Brown, Angie Charlton, Dave Decker, Greg Dietz, Bill Finke, Gary Genova, Suzanne Hawkins, Barbara Kantola, Jeff Kopsa, Cynthia LaJoy, Tanya Martin, Tom Martin, Hugh Massie, Lisa McClellan, Donna McRoberts, Jennifer Miller, Ruth Munoz, Les Niederklein, Alicia Oakes, Betty Oakes, James Palmer, Carin Pluto, Ken Stewart, George Walter and Gordon Wilmoth.

More than 100 other ITD employees were engaged during the testing phase and stepped up to learn the new navigation – without their dedication we couldn’t have been successful.

Published 4-19-13