Bureau of Public Debt to punch digital clock

The Bureau of Public Debt this month expects to close a deal to install a software program for tracking employees' work hours originally developed by another agency.

The new electronic timekeeping program, already in place at the Interior Department's U.S. Geological Survey, will replace the bureau's old paper-based method of keeping track of hours worked using time cards and special envelopes that are signed as they move through the bureaucracy.

Cory Gildersleeve, a program analyst at the bureau, said the new method, called Quicktime, should inject greater accuracy into the timekeeping process.

"I think the overall error rate is one of the keys," he said. "We want people to be paid accurately and timely."

Moreover, the new electronic method will allow faster processing of information for bureau employees scattered at close to 30 offices nationwide. Instead of mailing time cards to a central location for processing, the bureau can use existing computer networks to record employees' time instantly.

The Bureau will have "timekeepers" record employees' time because not all employees have access to computers, according to Gildersleeve. Close to 2,000 employees' work hours will be tracked using Quicktime, he said.

At the heart of Quicktime is a software product called Prolifics, produced by Prolifics of New York City. The product works essentially as a hub, creating one central interface for several types of database software, such as Oracle Corp. or Microsoft Corp. products, and running on a variety of platforms, including Windows NT and Unix.

USGS started using Prolifics in 1992 to begin crafting the Windows-based application that it now calls Quicktime. Other federal users of Prolifics include the FBI, which has used the product to build a system enabling Interpol offices to access the National Crime Information Center database and share information on stolen vehicles.

At USGS, employees can enter their own time into Quicktime, and managers or supervisors can verify the time that employees record and use the information to monitor an office's productivity - a factor that should help agencies comply with the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993, said Joyce Lawlor, the Quicktime product manager at Interior's National Business Center.

The National Finance Center, a part of the Agriculture Department that processes financial data such as payroll information for other federal agencies, requested Interior's help in crafting Quicktime so that NFC clients, such as the Bureau of Public Debt, could use the product to make data sharing easier and more standard.

Lawlor, who has begun marketing Quicktime to other agencies besides the NFC, said she hopes to move Quicktime to the World Wide Web by the end of the year so that Interior's employees scattered across the country can have access to it. About 4,500 USGS employees use it now, and another 4,000 or so USGS users should move to the product by the end of the year. Work hours for those employees are now recorded using an old DOS-based system.

Devi Gupta, director of product management for Prolifics, said recent enhancements to the product make it ideal for pulling together various databases via the Web. "These days, when you go to deploy, you're going to want to deploy your application on the Web," she said. "We give you a jump-start mechanism, and you can use our product to build any kind of application."

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