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State of Alaska

Department of Administration

Division of Finance

Alaska Department of Administration, Division of Finance
Administration >  Division of Finance > IRIS Portal > Project Info > Project FAQs

IRIS Project

Frequently Asked Questions

Click on the questions below to see their corresponding answers.

General Questions

01. What is IRIS?

IRIS stands for Integrated Resource Information System. IRIS consists of three software systems that will replace the State of Alaska’s (SOA) financial and payroll systems, and provide functionality for procurement, debt management, human resource management, and learning management.

The software systems that make up IRIS are being implemented in stages. The debt management portion of IRIS went live in July 2012 and LearnAlaska, the learning management system, went live in June 2013. The financial and procurement components will go live in July 2015 and the HR and payroll segments will go live in January 2016.

02. What is the IRIS Project?

The IRIS Project is a statewide effort to design, configure, and implement the three software solutions which make up IRIS (CGI Advantage, SymPro Debt Manager, and Meridian Global Learning Management). The goal of the IRIS Project is to improve the SOA’s administrative and operational functions through the use of an integrated system.

The IRIS Project consists of three key work effort areas: Business processes, software, and behavior adoption. The IRIS Project has teams of people focusing on each of these types of activities to help the State transition from current operations to how work will be done in IRIS. Click here to view the Project Team organizational chart.

03. What are the benefits of implementing IRIS?

The benefits of implementing IRIS include:

  • Standardization: Standardized accounting rules and financial controls for all SOA agencies means staff trained to use IRIS will be trained to work in any department in the state.
  • Transparency: The establishment and adoption of common accounting rules and consistent controls for all SOA agencies will provide improved government transparency and accountability.
  • Real-Time: Real-time reporting capabilities, meaning data will be updated as the system receives information instead of having to wait for nightly batch runs to occur.
  • Automation: Automated approval processes will help minimize paper processes, eliminate redundant data entry, and help to reduce data errors.
  • Security: By supporting security based on roles and reliable audit capabilities, IRIS will improve security for sensitive information.
  • Recovery: IRIS is designed for rapid system recovery and high system availability, which will minimize downtime and aid speedy recovery.
  • Support: IRIS is supported by a multi-year, renewable contract that provides ongoing technical support and regular software updates, so that IRIS can adapt to changing technology and demands.

04. Is the IRIS effort fully funded?

Yes, the Alaska State Legislature fully funded the IRIS Project through two different Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) which were approved in 2008 and 2012, respectively.

05. Will IRIS replace the Alaska Budget System (ABS)?

No, replacing ABS is not part of the IRIS Project.

06. Will IRIS replace the Alaska Data Enterprise Reporting (ALDER) Warehouse?

No, ALDER will not be replaced. The current version of ALDER will be extended and enhanced to ALDER 2.0 to accommodate changes in reporting with the new system. ALDER 2.0 will maintain the same look and feel as ALDER 1.0. After IRIS is implemented, ALDER 1.0 will continue to be available for historical reporting purposes but the data will no longer be updated.

07. Will IRIS replace eGrants?

No, replacing eGrants is not a part of the IRIS Project.

08. Can I continue to use AKSAS and AKPAY once IRIS is implemented?

AKSAS will stick around for a few months so that departments can close out SY 2015. Starting July 1, 2015, departments will record all SY 2016 transactions in IRIS. This means there will be overlap in when the systems are being used, but no new activities should be recorded in AKSAS after June 30, 2015, only finalization of SY 2015 financial activities. AKSAS will be turned off on December 1, 2015, but the data will remain available in ALDER for reporting purposes.

AKPAY will interface with IRIS during the six month period before IRIS HRM goes live in January 2016.

09. When can I start using IRIS?

The SymPro Debt Management system is already being used by DOA staff. The Meridian Learning Management System, LearnAlaska, went live in June 2013. It is currently being used by the Department of Administration’s Divisions of Personnel and Labor Relations (DOP) and Finance (DOF) to train employees and track workforce training efforts. The LearnALaska Enterprise Administrators will work with other departments who are interested in using LearnAlaska to manage their training programs. SOA employees are expected to begin using the IRIS financial and procurement functions in July 2015 and the human resources and payroll functions beginning in January 2016.

10. Will I receive training for IRIS in advance of being expected to use it?

Yes! All SOA employees who are expected to use the new system will receive training and preparation in advance of using IRIS for day-to-day work. For most end users, training will start next spring. Some users will receive training on how to build their department’s reports before next spring so that data can be populated prior to Go Live. Similarly, some users will also be trained earlier in order to prepare them for participation in User Acceptance Testing (UAT), which involves testing the application using real world scenarios that are relevant to the end users.

The IRIS Project Team is dedicated to supporting ALL employees through this transition and is currently working with departments to assess their training needs and develop a training plan specifically tailored for Alaska. For more information on training, please see the FAQs under the ‘How will IRIS affect me?’ section.

11. Will there be step-by-step procedures developed?

Yes. Statewide standardized procedures will be created and provided for all end users to follow. Individual departments may have specific procedures for performing certain activities and will provide additional instructions pertaining to these activities for their staff.

12. Once IRIS is implemented, how will this impact my data reports?

IRIS will leverage ALDER, the same reporting system AKSAS and AKPAY currently use, as a reporting solution to help minimize the impact on end users. Historical information will be accessible in ALDER 1.0 while data from IRIS will be accessed through ALDER 2.0. ALDER 2.0 is an extended and enhanced version of ALDER that is being developed to accommodate the changes in reporting needs caused by the new chart of accounts structure, procedures and processes of IRIS. Since the way data is structured in IRIS is different from how data is structured in the State’s current systems, users will not be able to do direct comparison reports between ALDER 1.0 and ALDER 2.0. As the implementation for IRIS approaches, the IRIS Project Team will work with those SOA employees who use ALDER to arrange training on the changes to reports.

13. Why is the state replacing the existing financial (AKSAS) and payroll (AKPAY) systems?

AKSAS is nearly 30 years old (1984) and AKPAY is over 20 years old (1990). In technological timeframes, they are antiquated and are not able to integrate with many of the SOA’s newer systems. The absence of integration creates challenges for real-time reporting or strategically viewing SOA’s operations, and hinders efficiency.

14. Who should I contact if I have questions regarding IRIS?

You can email your questions about IRIS to: IRIS.Project@alaska.gov. This inbox is monitored by members of the IRIS Change Management Team who work closely with the entire IRIS Project Team to respond to your questions in a timely manner. You can expect a response to your inquiry within 1 business day.

15. When will we receive a glossary of terms?

Numerous crosswalks and glossaries were distributed during prototyping, labs, via the newsletter, and other meetings. We are in the process of consolidating these documents so there is one place where you can refer to for glossary and terminology.

How will IRIS affect me?

01. How will IRIS affect me?

Depending on your job, IRIS may significantly change your daily work, or you may only be affected indirectly. IRIS is also being implemented in phases, which, again, depending on your job, means you may not feel the effects for another couple of years. Still, as IRIS is a statewide effort, we are trying to make sure all State employees are at least aware of it.

If I work in Finance or Procurement:

Those working in finance and procurement will see significant changes to their day-to-day work when those components go live in July 2015.

If I work in HR & Payroll:

In January 2016, the HR and payroll functions will go live, affecting employees working in those areas as well as general employees, who will have access to an Employee Self Service portal to access employment and pay history.

How other employees may be affected:

If you need to register for training, you may get to use LearnAlaska, IRIS’ online learning management system that went live in June 2013. LearnAlaska provides registration for training courses and tracks and analyzes training. Currently only classes offered through the Department of Administration’s DOP and DOF are administered in LearnAlaska. However after the initial deployment, LearnAlaska Administrators will be working with other departments who are interested in using LearnAlaska to manage their training courses. IRIS training will be offered through LearnAlaska.

02. How will IRIS impact different departments’ busy times, such as Legislative Session, field seasons, financial reporting, planning crunch times, etc.?

The IRIS Project remains sensitive to the impacts the project may have on department resources during these busy times and will do their best to work with departments to determine timeframes that are agreeable for all involved. IRIS Liaisons and the entire project team are committed to helping departments be successful by providing additional information and assistance as needed.

03. How will the IRIS Project engage end users?

The IRIS Project Team is working extensively to engage and prepare all potential IRIS end users for the transition to IRIS. All IRIS end users can expect support and preparation (training) from the IRIS Project Team. Training for most end users will begin in Spring 2015. However, some end users will begin training earlier in order to participate in User Acceptance Training in winter 2014.

As we move closer to Go Live for the financial and procurement components, there will be additional activities planned to engage end users and the IRIS Project will continue to communicate project information via frequent web updates, monthly project newsletters, prompt responses to questions submitted to IRIS.Project@alaska.gov, and a 3-month look ahead update for leadership to keep them informed of upcoming project activities.

04. When and how will training occur? How do we identify who to train? How will we reach/communicate with everyone who needs to be trained?

For most end users, training will begin in spring of 2015. Some users will receive training earlier on how to build their departmentís reports so they can populate their departmentís data prior to go live. Similarly, some users will be trained early so they are familiar enough with the system to participate in User Acceptance Testing (UAT), which involves testing the application using real world scenarios that are relevant to the end users.

The IRIS Project Team has been working with departments to complete a training needs assessment to determine the overall number of people within each department who need IRIS training and where they are located. The training needs assessment will also identify the number of people who currently perform tasks related to major IRIS business areas such as accounts payable, accounts receivable, procurement, or fixed assets. Information on how we plan to deliver IRIS training and identify those who need it will be finalized in August 2013.

05. What are some ways the system will streamline my work or simplify my basic job tasks?

IRIS will simplify basic job tasks through automated approvals, reduction of manual entries, and elimination of duplicated efforts. Some examples of how the system simplify job tasks include: (1) the IRIS system uses document templates (referred to as transactions in AKSAS) for transactions that you enter on a regular basis; (2) IRIS keeps one master record of data that is used by all hands in the financial and procurement processes, so information is auto-populated in your documents as itís inferred from what you enter (such as department number, or a template); (3) In IRIS, funds are encumbered automatically, eliminating some work for both procurement and financial employees.

06. Will IRIS cut jobs?

Implementing the new IRIS software will not cut jobs. Instead, IRIS will provide end users with an opportunity to pursue career paths across departments since they will be trained in a system that is used throughout SOA. Additionally, experience with an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system like IRIS will give end users experience with current technologies being used in other sectors.

HR & Payroll

01. When will the HR and Payroll module go live?

Since the State of Alaska's payroll runs on a calendar year basis rather than fiscal year and for ease of conversion, the HR and Payroll module will go live on January 1, 2016.

02. What is Employee Self Service?

Employee Self Service (ESS) is a component of the HR and Payroll module of IRIS. It allows employees a convenient and secure way to review various benefits and payroll information specific to them through a secure online portal. ESS eliminates the need to request personal information from your Human Resource Office or Payroll by offering users access to their personal information through the internet whenever they need it. ESS also reduces paper waste and manual processing.