The project to develop OCS has been underway for more than a year. Staff from multiple Centers and numerous professional disciplines has spent months identifying and aligning data, processes, terminology, and other details to prepare for the conversion to the common system. And from 31 October to 18 November, they are meeting at the International Potato Center (CIP) headquarters in Lima, Peru to test and refine prototypes of the new system.
The impetus for OCS reaches back several years, when Finance and Administration Directors from several centers, including CIP, began investigating the potential cost savings and added efficiencies that could be gained from adopting a joint system. That potential has become even more important with the advent of new, cross-Center CGIAR Research Programs (CRPs) and demands for greater accountability from funders.
The CGIAR has a global public mandate to help eradicate hunger and poverty, improve health and nutrition, and enhance ecosystem resilience through advances in agricultural research. The pressures of climate change, population growth, and increasing hunger are adding greater urgency to the task. The CGIAR centers operate in over 150 locations around the world, mostly in developing countries, and work with extensive networks of partners. Such a system requires robust and sophisticated ways to aggregate results, reduce redundancies, and improve efficiencies for a better investment of time and donor funding.
Early payoffs are promising. “Calculations indicate already that we are saving $550 thousand per Center by purchasing a system jointly instead of individually,” explains Carlos Alonso, CIP’s Executive Director of Strategy and Corporate Development, who has been leading his organization’s involvement with OCS and helping to coordinate the workshops. “And we’ll be achieving significant annual costs savings from a common hosted infrastructure to reduce equipment and maintenance costs,” he adds.
He is not alone in touting the benefits of the new cross-center system. “It may sound like a tedious and technical exercise,” explains one participant, “but when you see a demonstration of what OCS can do, its functionality and how it can resolve tough problems, well, that really is worth getting excited about.”