In the loop

ATF's Daniel Clark spent 58 straight hours converting HR Connect code to work with systems at the Justice Department, where his agency moved in January.

Olivier Douliery

Saga of an HR rollout

Between now and October, the Treasury Department will link most of its employees to a human resources system replacing dozens of scattered databases, some dating back to the 1960s.

HR Connect, a departmentwide system whose pilot began in 1999, is now available to 43,000 employees, or about 27 percent of its work force. By October, Treasury plans to increase that to about 63 percent, leaving a few IRS offices to be brought on board next spring.

Running on a secure departmental intranet, HR Connect lets employees and managers initiate, analyze or update personnel records and actions.

The latest addition is online filing for retirement, bypassing weeks-long delivery stops at Treasury management and HR offices that span several area codes and states.

Component agencies have begun to take down more than 90 aging, stovepiped personnel and payroll systems that have cost the department $53 million a year to operate.

'I'd have to go to four different systems to get information,' said Daniel Clark, a computer specialist in the personnel division at what was then the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, one of two Treasury agencies piloting HR Connect four years ago.

Lack of interoperability plagued the personnel specialists who often had to scour for critically needed information.

'We were getting more and more demands for data,' Clark said. 'We live in an instant gratification society'as in, 'I need that yesterday.' Sorry, I'm busy yesterday.'

HR Connect, whose 10-year price tag totals $292.2 million, will save an estimated $195 million in fiscal 2004, not counting $150 million in discontinued or canceled HR programs.

Treasury projects a return of $2.31 on each dollar invested.

Five legacy systems in ATF alone have been terminated.

Treasury officials are now building assessment models, using return-on-investment software from a British company, Cedar Plc. The plan is to pinpoint savings from HR Connect down to each transaction and dollar.

'There will be bureau report cards of sorts,' said Todd Turner, director of Treasury's Office of HR Enterprise Solutions. 'They will say what actions are typically done and where executives can better optimize' HR Connect.

The Office of Personnel Management hasn't evaluated Treasury's system and couldn't comment on its impact, but 'the fact that they're using HR Connect is in line with what we're trying to accomplish,' said Norman Enger, OPM e-government program director.

Popular app

So far, HR Connect is in use at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Comptroller
of the Currency, Financial Management Service, Mint, Office of the Inspector General, the new Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, four IRS business units and departmental administrative offices.

ATF, which has moved to the Justice Department and added Explosives to its name, and the Secret Service, now part of the Homeland Security Department, took HR Connect with them to their new administrative homes.

Using HR Connect, employees can post resumes or check their files online. Managers can retrieve subordinates' personnel history, track employee demographic data nationwide or choose a proxy to approve personnel actions during an absence.

Future additions include recruitment and job performance appraisals linked to training schedules.

Even the simple task of updating contact information online has complex implications. For years, Treasury employees had worked in the World Trade Center in New York City, but after Sept. 11, 2001, department headquarters couldn't find those contact phone numbers in any personnel records.

Stops on a dime

'The closest you could get was that an employee was in Manhattan,' Turner said. 'You couldn't get the building information.' With HR Connect, 'now we know precisely where they are.'

The system began as a customization of the Human Resources Management System 7.5 developed by PeopleSoft Inc. of Pleasanton, Calif., and integrated by Litton PRC, now part of Northrop Grumman Corp.

It runs in the Sun Open Network Environment under Solaris, with Web, application and database servers all from Sun Microsystems Inc. The Treasury Communications System WAN and IRS Enterprise Network service providers supply connectivity.

Last December, Treasury officials began an upgrade to PeopleSoft 8.3 HRMS, expecting to finish by the end of 2003. Meanwhile, they are wrapping up a less complex upgrade, from Version 7.5 to 8.0, so that connected bureaus can move from a client-server to a Web environment.

'We didn't want to delay rollout,' Turner said. 'Our goal is a full end-to-end Web system.'

IRS, which has the most employees, has been on the rollout calendar for years but only started its deployment in February. Treasury officials postponed it until HR Connect offered more features than the HR system IRS already had.

'We thought it best to build out as much functionality as possible before deployment,' Turner said.

Otherwise, it 'would be a step backward instead of a step forward for IRS employees.'

Target: 2005

In its annual performance plan for fiscal 2004, the IRS declared that 'by fiscal 2005, HR Connect will be significantly implemented.'

It is one of six major system upgrades planned for this year in the agency's modernization program.

Agency shuffling for the new Homeland Security Department further complicated HR Connect's deployment. In a matter of months, Treasury HR officials had to relinquish ATF, the Customs Service and the Secret Service, while bringing online the IRS and the new Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.

'It's been tough but fairly compartmentalized,' Turner said. 'It's called overtime. It's called sleeping here on weekends.'

Clark said he spent 58 straight hours converting ATF's HR Connect code to work with the Justice Department's systems'one reason he recently received an award from Treasury.

He also helped launch the system at ATF four years ago, rewriting thousands of lines of code, attending PeopleSoft programming classes and flying to 22 cities in seven weeks to train employees.

Clark said he's given demos of the software to other departments that he can't name, but he makes no secret of his wish to spread the system to Justice and Homeland Security.

'There's basically an apprehension out there, so we're going to have to prove it,' Clark said.

'We're going to have to shine for the next year or so.'

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