Section: NASACT

When Byron Diamond became the director of the Nebraska Department of Administrative Services in 2015, he was shocked by the siloed and disparate state of its back-office systems. But unlike many public sector agencies that are just beginning to move to the cloud, Nebraska had a different kind of IT problem — managing a hybrid patchwork of on-premises and cloud solutions from four different vendors.

Nebraska had been working on a major software upgrade for its legacy Oracle on-premises JD Edwards application for financials, procurement and payroll since 2012. At the same time, the state had deployed different cloud products across the enterprise: Workday for HR and benefits; NeoGov for recruiting; and Cornerstone for talent management. Integration problems soon became evident, and with limited staff, there was no way the team could effectively understand and troubleshoot the myriad applications.

“My staff could not tell me how many interfaces were tied to those different systems and what the interfaces did,” says Diamond. “It was a management nightmare that made it difficult for us to modernize.” Nebraska is unique in that a statute gives the Department of Administrative Services director full authority over the state’s back-office systems. So, Diamond began discussing with IT vendors and experts how to modernize systems onto a single cloud platform. Meanwhile, Oracle offered to conduct a free assessment of the state’s back-office systems.

“The Oracle report confirmed we had a lot of work to do,” says Diamond. “We were in bad shape across the board.” Diamond discussed the results with his senior staff and pushed them to think more strategically.

“There were a lot of black holes in our interfaces. They were built over 10 years ago and hadn’t been updated since,” says Diamond. “Even worse, no one really knew how they worked or how they were dropping data into different tables.” With his staff’s support, Diamond approached the governor’s office about replacing the state’s back-office systems. The governor approved an initial assessment in August 2015.


Diamond’s first priority was to move to a single, enterprise-wide solution for the back office, one that took advantage of the benefits of unifying financial and human capital management (HCM) systems.

“We didn’t have the budget or the staff to support a new hardware platform,” says Diamond. “With cloud I wouldn’t have to buy or support the hardware, so it would save us a significant amount of money each year. It would also allow us to stay current going forward.”

Diamond invited multiple vendors to submit proposals for new cloud-based back-office systems. He then invited finalists to conduct two-week walkthroughs of their proposed systems.

Oracle’s functionality and reporting capabilities — and its ability to fully meet Nebraska’s financial and procurement needs as well as its complex HCM requirements — tipped the scales in its favor. And Oracle’s consolidated cloud-based platform solution sealed the deal.

“Other vendors we looked at only had two of the four major sub-platforms we needed,” says Diamond. “We weren’t looking to add more disparate systems. Oracle was the best fit.” In 2016, the Nebraska Department of  administrative Services officially selected Oracle for a massive 20-month back-office modernization project.


Soon after contracting with Oracle, Diamond spoke to a peer in another state who recently kicked off an Oracle HCM project leveraging KPMG’s Powered Enterprise approach.

KPMG’s Powered Enterprise methodology  accelerates business transformation cloud implementations with certainty of outcomes. It includes target operating models, roles, responsibilities, controls, reports, process flows and leading practices designed to help government transform the back office faster and reduce risks associated with change. Based on their extensive commercial and government experience implementing Oracle systems, Nebraska contracted with KPMG for systems implementation and change management services.

Nebraska focused first on standardizing and streamlining its work processes using KPMG’s Powered Enterprise practice preconfiguration environment. “We were concerned about the number of entities, players and process flows we had. Powered Enterprise would allow us to standardize on one process flow for all activities for the first time in the state’s history,” says Diamond. “A common process flow would also make everyone’s jobs easier and allow employees to more easily seek new opportunities within the state.”

KPMG has developed an innovative approach for solving cloud integration problems based on its experience helping organizations of all sizes move to the cloud. The Cloud Integration Framework is a standards-based solution built using commercially available Oracle products for addressing complex enterprise cloud integration and data management.

“Using our Powered Enterprise methodology, we were able to show agencies how the future system was going to operate from a business process perspective,” says Ray Zaso, principal, KPMG. “We listened more than we talked. We respected what the agencies had to say, and we responded to their concerns. That helped get everybody excited and on board.”

As expected, the new system generated initial resistance from some employees. Fortunately, there was also significant support from staff frustrated with the state’s existing systems.

“The previous system had 150 different sub-applications all jerry rigged together with interfaces and intermediate databases that were passing data back and forth,” says Diamond. “It was a decentralized, cloggy system, and although our workers were used to it, they could see the advantage of more modern technology.”

To maintain continuity of operations, KPMG and Oracle worked with Diamond’s team to ensure that critical financial operations could move forward at the appropriate time, such as W-2 processing, the start of open enrollment, end-of-year closeout and other operational benchmarks. With a single vendor solution, it was significantly easier to split payroll from HCM and supply chain management systems and avoid the “big bang” of massive change and potential risk.


The Nebraska Department of Administrative Service’s new payroll processing system is set to go live with the processing of the first payroll in December 2018. HCM is expected to roll out in January 2019 and the financials and supply chain systems are targeted to go live in April 2019. In addition to providing the state a modern, cloud-based back office and all the benefits that go with it, the new solution will also enable better transparency.

“Public records requests are a nightmare when you use disparate systems,” says Diamond. “Now I have one master database so I can easily pull information and respond to those requests quickly.”

Finally, modernization will enable Diamond’s staff to focus on strategic initiatives for the first time ever. “The new system will allow my team and the state to be more effective without requiring any additional staff,” says Diamond. “Instead of being reactionary and trying to fix immediate problems, we can be proactive and get out in front of issues.”

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