ERP redefines State's HR practices

ERP redefines State's HR practices


The State Department has witnessed a transformation in its human resource procedures since implementing an enterprise resource planning system last April.

'We now have better management information capability,' said Debra Kent of the Human Resources Bureau.

She oversaw the departmentwide ERP implementation project. State has spent about $10 million on the project since 1993, officials said.

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size="2" color="#FF0000">Debra Kent says an ERP system has improved State's ability to meet its business objectives.

State deployed a data warehouse module from PeopleSoft Inc. of Pleasanton, Calif., that lets managers access information more frequently, Kent said.

'It's automated workflow,' she said, adding that the ERP system improved the department's ability to meet its business objectives.

The system enabled the integration of transactional information with historical data, which was made available to HR employees, Kent said. Employees can access information anytime; previously, it took about 30 days for employees to obtain such information.

The department has also integrated historical data with current data in its bureaus.

State had a Cobol mainframe application that was not user-friendly; individuals could not retrieve data, said Patricia Popovich, deputy chief information officer for management.

'We needed a system with a one-point entry vs. doing it on paper,' she said. 'We needed strategic planning and a program to take care of this.'
Kent said the need to manage human resources and upgrade antiquated technology prompted the ERP implementation.

The department started by comparing PeopleSoft ERP Version 5.6 against the legacy app. Ultimately, State settled on Version 7.0 and began its implementation in 1997.

'We drew a lean and efficient project team, with 25 to 30 highly motivated people working on the implementation at any given point,' Kent said.
An assortment of both technical and functional people worked closely to tackle problems head-on.

One in four companies suffered a drop in performance when their ERP systems went live, according to a Deloitte Consulting survey. Training employees on a new ERP system is important, managers report.

State offered preliminary training, and a pilot program increased end-user familiarity.

'We could have improved in the human resources practical training area rather than concentrating on the functional side,' Kent said.

The implementation had some hiccups. The integration of the foreign services pay plan'which is unique to the department'with civil services data was time consuming.

The 1999 integration of the U.S. Information Agency, and the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency with State last year was another bottleneck. The USIA integration alone entailed the file conversion of 2,000 employees from legacy system records.

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