Penn finds a better way to do business

The Business Enterprise Network — BEN to its friends — will soon open on a Web site near you.

Designed to streamline Penn’s elaborate financial management information systems program (FinMIS), BEN is an adaptation of a ready-made database system that includes specific features for Penn’s needs.

Those features were created following a series of meetings that brought together Penn’s financial officers, administration and faculty in discussions about how to establish an accounting system that affords the University convenient service and at the same time handles Penn’s increasingly complex financial structure.

“We always intended to upgrade the basic underlying (FinMIS) technology,” University Comptroller Kenneth Campbell said. Now, he said, “We’ve got literally off-the-shelf software.”

The BEN Web site — — will begin operating sometime around the middle of this month, offering a calendar of University-wide training sessions for use of the new financial system as well as interactive discussions and answers to frequently asked questions about BEN.

Also debuting is an easier way to file expense reports. With C-forms available through the Web, faculty and administration will be able to file expenses online, and BEN’s software program will speed up the reimbursement process by rapidly flagging reporting errors.

Other conveniences include BEN Travels, which will offer an electronic travel-booking service for the University (without the FinMIS surcharge), and BEN Buys, which will offer direct purchasing through the WEB. “Eventually, we would hope that we would be doing business electronically with a number of our recurring trading partners, which facilitates the ordering of goods and also insures that our departments obtain negotiated-contract pricing,” said Campbell.

The software has been designed to make financial and salary management easier within the University. BEN will allow administration and financial officers to study summaries of individual department revenues and expenses.

The new system will also allow department heads to oversee grant-subsidized research by charting each project expenditure according to its original appropriation. And a special “freeze grant account” feature will enable administrators to close down accounts for specific financial activities, making it easier to avoid cost overruns.

“The intent is to make the conduct of business easier in the long run,” he said. “We’re sort of heading in one direction, with two main themes. One certainly is ease of use. The other theme is really self-service, so that people can conduct business at their desktop with very little of what I call human intervention.”


Originally published on June 1, 2000