Paperless HR initiative ramps up

OPM's Enterprise HR Integration pages

The e-government initiative that will modernize federal personnel recordkeeping and eliminate paperwork is kicking into high gear with a new project manager on board and the selection of a systems integration contractor expected this month.

Rhonda Diaz, who has managed major modernization projects of human resources systems at the Office of Personnel Management and the Defense Department, began work early last month as OPM's project manager for the Enterprise Human Resources Integration (EHRI) project.

EHRI is one of the Bush administration's 24 e-government initiatives launched in 2002 with the goals of modernizing the federal government and streamlining operations. The project will create a huge data repository — probably the nation's largest such system — where all federal employee records will reside. An Official Electronic Record will replace the paper-based Official Personnel File.

The EHRI database will include data from DOD's modernized personnel data system, which Diaz helped develop.

Al Ressler, a former federal government executive who heads the Center for Human Resources Management at the National Academy of Public Administration, said EHRI will standardize the data elements in federal personnel records, giving HR managers better information and making the HR function "more effective, efficient and responsive."

Ressler said that, although agencies once insisted on keeping their employee records in their own files, managers have begun to view that information differently. "It's more like a utility," he said.

Diaz described DOD's system as one of the largest personnel data systems in the world. She declined to predict the size of the EHRI database, saying only that they are "just doing the initial sizing on it. It will be a very large database."

The government now processes more than 10 million personnel actions a year, uses more than 100 forms and keeps all records for at least 65 years after an employee leaves the government.

OPM officials hope the project will result in a more efficient and effective records system, Diaz said. Agency HR specialists are reviewing the existing paperwork processes to determine where they can be improved and whether some steps can be eliminated, she said.

Officials expect the integration contractor to do much of the development work during the next 18 months, although OPM will likely award a five-year contract.

Agencies will keep their own personnel records; however, they will be required to send employee data to the EHRI repository in a format that has yet to be determined, Diaz said. "Because we don't have the integrator on board, we haven't determined exactly which way we'll do certain things, but that should be determined very shortly," she said.

Besides improving personnel processing and recordkeeping, the repository will be a source of data for analyses and workforce planning. OPM has begun to retool the Army's Workforce Analysis Support System and its Civilian Forecasting System so that they can be used governmentwide, Diaz said. A few agencies will most likely be able to begin using the systems in a pilot test in September, she said.

EHRI will be updated biweekly, in contrast to the current Central Personnel Data File, which is updated only quarterly, Diaz said. Once EHRI is fully populated and thoroughly tested, the data file will be turned off, she said. Her previous OPM responsibilities included managing the file.

The project team includes representatives from 18 partner agencies that are working with OPM, Diaz said.

Sandra Gibbs, who was the EHRI proj-ect manager, moved on to a new project, an OPM spokesman said. "We had a pressing need for privacy assessments of all the IT systems, and she's performing those assessments," he said.

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