Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) in this section are continually updated during the STEP Project, based upon feedback from Cook County users. Many questions are submitted through the project email address, ERP.STEPProject@CookCountyIL.gov. Your continued questions and feedback will help us understand the type of information that you need, so we encourage you to please continue submitting your questions.
Click on the link for each set of FAQs below to download and print in PDF format.
What is STEP?
STEP is an acronym for Strategic Tactical Enterprise Project. STEP is the name of the County’s ERP system project, which integrates core functions across Cook County and eliminates multiple, obsolete systems. STEP also includes common processes and nomenclature that simplifies communications and reporting across the County. STEP will be implemented for all Cook County Government offices, including the Forest Preserve District, agencies, elected officials and hospital system.
What is ERP?
ERP is an acronym for Enterprise Resource Planning. It is a technical system that integrates core financial functions and business processes. ERP allows all offices to operate with the same standards and consistency, as well as providing transparency of information countywide.
What are the benefits to employees and taxpayers?
Both employees and taxpayers will benefit overall from a more streamlined process that provides more consistency and efficiency across the County.
Taxpayer benefits also include:
- Increased transparency, for example, spending to support key County programs.
- Cost reductions due to eliminating multiple obsolete systems.
- Improved cost management as the County has improved visibility regarding commodity and vendor spend amounts.
Employee benefits also include:
- Workflow processes that increase productivity through more automation and less manual and paper processes, while also supporting improved governance and control.
- Increased visibility by automating processes that are primarily paper today, which prevents transactions from getting lost.
- Common nomenclature (e.g., Chart of Accounts) and common processes that eliminate multiple interpretations of information across systems.
- Human Resource capabilities to allow County employees to view and manage their own information in areas such as Change of Address, Life Events, Benefits Elections, etc.
- County employees will have a common technology and process framework, which enables staff to easily transition between County job opportunities with minimal training impact.
When will this happen?
The project is being deployed in four waves.
- December 5, 2016: Go Live for Finance and Procurement starts throughout Cook County Government with select offices deployed initially and all other offices, except Forest Preserve District, deployed on December 7.
- January 3, 2017: Go Live for Finance and Procurement starts for the Forest Preserve District.
- April 2017: Go Live starts for County employees involved in budget preparation.
- September 2017: Go Live starts for County employees involved in the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR).
- January 2018: Go Live is scheduled for Human Resource functions, payroll and benefits along with an online Self Service HR portal.
- April 2018: Go Live starts for Supply Chain and Inventory Management functions.
Who is impacted by this project?
Employees with job responsibilities in core finance (Wave 1), budget preparation (Wave 2), human resources (Wave 3), supply chain and inventory management (Wave 4) will assume new roles and execute new processes as a part of the STEP project. During Wave 3 (Human Resources), County employees will have an opportunity to manage their own personal HR and benefits information. To prepare for this self-service capability, employees will be trained to use these STEP features.
Will I be trained if my job is impacted?
Yes, training will be provided prior to the Go Live of each wave. Training curriculum and courses will be developed to support the processes and employee needs. In preparation for training, employees will be notified of which courses are required, and depending upon the audience, there may be multiple sessions to choose from. Multiple methods will be used to deliver training, including:
- Direct, Hands-on
- Instructor-Led, End-User Training
- Online, Computer-Based Training
- Webcast Training
- Online Help
- Job Aids
- Supporting Documentation
It looks like I’ll have to manage a lot of change. How much support will I receive?
Assume everything you do will be affected by the STEP Project. To help prepare you, we will provide as much hands-on interaction, explanation and instruction as possible. Project Team and Operating units will be available after Go Live to help during that transition period.
How will I learn about the changes before they happen?
- Ongoing updates are posted on the STEP web site and through the STEP Newsletter (see Newsletter section). Watch for emails about key training information and dates (see Training section) as well as other important project information.
- User Acceptance Testing (UAT) is the first time some users will be hands-on in the system. UAT follows the design phase and was in progress until November 18 for Wave 1. Feedback obtained from users help identify the system changes needed to meet requirements.
Is there any kind of independent oversight of the project?
An Independent Validation and Verification team from Grant Thornton serves as an independent third party to validate project team direction and actions, identify program risks and provide quality oversight for the project. This is standard for large ERP projects like STEP.
With the implementation of Oracle, what systems are being decommissioned?
JD Edwards One World throughout the County and JD Edwards system in the Treasurer’s Office will be decommissioned along with the MSI system at the Forest Preserve District.
How many resources are dedicated to the STEP project?
The numbers will vary over the life of the project, but it totaled 138 in Fall 2016 with Cook County dedicated employees and vendor resources.
What is an Office Readiness Leader and Change Agent?
These are roles filled by Cook County staff as part of STEP’s Office Outreach program. They are liaisons in each Office to provide feedback to the project team and share information with employees in their respective office. The list of Office Readiness Leaders and Agents is available for downloading and printing in the People section, click Office Outreach for a PDF copy.
Will the new system allow us to get a vendor number without going through a long process to put vendors not in the system?
For Wave 1, the answer is that we will still retain central control and approval of vendor numbers, so the process and timing will be like today. The reason for this control is that the County will now manage a single, centralized Vendor Master File (today there are multiple). A single master file prevents multiple people from entering vendor data multiple times in different ways, sometimes with different spellings. The single Vendor file improves the ability to evaluate vendor performance, control, reporting and spend analysis. In Wave 4, vendors will be able to self-register online with the County, and the vendor workflow will expedite number assignment and reduce cycle time to create vendor numbers.
How will the Vendor Master File operate and be managed?
There are industry best practices about vendor maintenance and data to track for each vendor, such as pay sites vs. ship-to sites, as well as different naming conventions (e.g. IBM vs. International Business Machines). Some of these standards will be established as part of the project. Once implemented, a new governance process will ensure that everyone follows the same standards to prevent confusion over which vendor is which. Similarly, adding the federal Tax ID number associated with each vendor ensures it is a recognized vendor being properly captured and reported for tax reporting purposes.
Why is the Vendor Master File being centralized?
STEP is not centralizing all operations, but it will move us to a single system for consistency, efficiency and transparency of data, so everybody shares the same data across all County offices. We will centralize definitions of information and business rules to provide for consistency and avoid the numerous workarounds currently in place. We currently operate with disparate ERP systems and multiple vendor masters with duplicate vendors across the Cook County Government organization. For example, if the hospital wants to use a vendor and another County Office needs to use that same vendor, they won’t need to enter the record twice.