TSP system to begin user tests

The new and much-maligned Thrift Savings Plan system will begin user-acceptance testing this month and parallel testing with the existing system next month.

In an update to the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, project manager Larry Stiffler said the TSP systems team would begin user tests after it finished loading data from employee accounts into the new database.

If the system proves it can handle the records volume, Stiffler said, the TSP team will conduct parallel testing until project leaders are satisfied the system is ready for full deployment.

The board in October stopped parallel testing that had begun last year after the system failed to handle the volume of transactions quickly enough.

The system has been plagued by problems since its inception more than five years ago. The board originally said the system would be running by September after years of fits and starts, which included the firing of the initial contractor.

The board has approved Stiffler's request for $994,000 to pay for continued contractor support through the new round of parallel testing and subsequent implementation.

Splitting records

Since January, project workers also have solved a data conversion problem and created about 80 percent of all the electronic forms the system will generate, Stiffler said.

The data conversion required contractor Materials, Communications and Computers Inc. of Alexandria, Va., to split the records into five sets based on the last digit of each employee's Social Security number, Stiffler said.

'We went from processing about 100,000 transactions per hour to about 470,000 per hour,' he said. 'We had only a 12-hour window to update the system, and we couldn't complete the update if we had an especially heavy day. Splitting the information into five data sets has worked well.'

Stiffler said Matcom successfully tested the system using data from the Postal Service.

Matcom also made progress in testing the reports the system will generate for agencies, employees and the board. Stiffler said that Matcom's progress had been slow before January. But in the past month, the company tested 80 percent of all forms and approved 70 percent of them.

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