Five agencies face hurdles on HR systems

Five agencies face hurdles on HR systems

GAO finds severe delays, bad cost estimates and implementation glitches

By Shruti Dat'

GCN Staff

In a review of five agencies that had deployed off-the-shelf human resources software, the General Accounting Office found severe delays and implementation problems.

The congressional watchdog agency checked out human resources systems at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the General Services Administration, and the departments of Defense, Labor and Veterans Affairs. For the report issued last month, GAO examined the software products, their estimated costs, the deployment timetables and the agencies' estimated benefits.

In each case, agency officials told GAO that they intended the projects to cut the time managers spent on transactions and analyses, eliminate duplicative or multiple systems, and implement self-service HR functions.

Four of the five agencies face implementation delays, however, and three of those four agencies have raised their cost estimates since beginning the projects, according to the report, Information Technology: Selected Agencies' Use of Commercial Off-the-Shelf Software for Human Resources Functions.

Defense originally intended to deploy the Defense Civilian Personnel Data System by September of last year. The department now expects to go live with the system in March, after finishing additional testing. The estimated cost also rose, by $248 million to about $1.3 billion, and estimated benefits declined by $340 million to about $2.4 billion, GAO said.

DOD's costs increased because of development delays and revisions to the software.

Labor faces a one-year delay. The department started the development of PeoplePower, its new integrated human resources and payroll system, in February 1998 and plans to complete the project by September 2002.

Forgot operating costs

Initial costs were estimated at $26.5 million, based on a five-year schedule. Estimated total costs have now risen to $71 million, GAO said. Labor initially did not account for the operating costs it would incur after fully deploying the system, and it also underestimated its implementation costs, GAO found.

The Veterans Affairs implementation is two years off track, GAO reported. VA began development in October 1994 to replace a 30-year-old system and expects to finish by September of next year. Union negotiations, cultural changes, and additional development and testing led to the delays, GAO found. VA has raised its estimated cost for the project from $170 million to $417 million.

GSA's efforts to replace its system, which began in 1996, are expected to wind up next year. But the $34 million Comprehensive Human Resources Integrated System project is off schedule by eight months, GAO said.

Changes needed in the software and the agency's decision to implement the system with internal staff led to delays, GAO said.

The CDC's parent agency, the Health and Human Services Department, will launch a new human resources and payroll system in February 2003. Work on the $214 million Enterprise Human Resources Project began in October 1999.


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