CHRIS provides agency with integrated personnel system

The Energy Department next month is set to embark on a nationwide rollout of a human resources information system based on commercial off-the-shelf technology.

DOE's Corporate Human Resources Information System (CHRIS) will provide the department with a single integrated personnel system. DOE has been employing more than 80 personnel-related systems departmentwide. Agency officials are projecting a 52 percent return on investment on the project over six years.

DOE last year selected PeopleSoft Inc.'s Human Resources Management Software as the basis for CHRIS. PeopleSoft is providing DOE with a "federalized" version of its HRMS. DOE chose PeopleSoft from a short list of companies that included Oracle Corp. and InPower. Other recent federal buyers of PeopleSoft's Federal HRMS include the Agriculture Department and the Environmental Protection Agency according to Jeffrey Carr vice president of PeopleSoft Federal.

"The key to success is a single integrated system to meet our business needs " said Nancy Tomford DOE's CHRIS project manager.

A late-1995 meeting of DOE human resources managers set CHRIS is motion. The meeting set the creation of a corporatewide human resources system as the "No. 1 priority " recalled Tim Dirks deputy assistant secretary for human resources at DOE. DOE managers reasoned that a common system would be more cost-effective than maintaining multiple systems some of which were redundant and outdated.

"We could all feel at a gut level that we needed new technology " Tomford said. What was missing however was a formal business case to justify the investment in CHRIS.

To create this business case DOE's Office of Human Resources and the Office of Information Management undertook a business process re-engineering project using the Strategic Information Management approach. DOE used a specific "framework" for performing a SIM project established by the General Accounting Office DOE officials said. DOE retained Coopers & Lybrand to support its SIM effort.

The SIM project helped DOE understand its current business environment identify opportunities for improving business processes and document the need for an integrated human resources system DOE officials said. A Coopers & Lybrand report prepared for DOE said installing an integrated system would eliminate redundant data and pre-empt the development of additional standalone human resources systems to "satisfy specific needs at individual field sites and program offices."

"From a CIO's perspective there's a lot to like about CHRIS " said S.W. "Woody" Hall DOE's chief information officer. He said users and human resources personnel rather than information technology staff members drove the project. That approach helped DOE focus on business processes rather than on automation.

A Plan on the Move

With business case in hand DOE purchased PeopleSoft's package and launched an effort to introduce CHRIS at prototype sites. DOE's first move was to install PeopleSoft's HRMS on a central server at the Federal Energy Technology Center's Morgantown W. Va. facility. The center which also includes a Pittsburgh facility began processing personnel transactions with CHRIS in March. Since then DOE's Nevada Operations Idaho Operations Rocky Flats Field Office and two servicing personnel offices in DOE's headquarters have started using the software.

Next on the list of prototype sites is DOE's Savannah River Operations which is scheduled to move to CHRIS in July. The new system will span DOE's headquarters and 18 operations and field offices. The nationwide rollout is scheduled to begin in mid-August with a completion target of November.While DOE fields the new human resources system the company is planning a cutover to a cross servicing arrangement for payroll processing. In light of this situation DOE initially will limit the CHRIS to processing personnel transactions related to payroll - pay increases promotions etc. The idea is to make the task of training personnel on new systems easier DOE officials said. Eventually CHRIS will be broadened to include such functions as administrating benefits.

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