State upgrades personnel system

The State Department is rolling out a new application that will make it easier for the agency to store and retrieve personnel records and information by modernizing and integrating its aging personnel systems into one database.

The Global Employment Management System (GEMS) provides real-time monitoring and online updating and reporting by enabling human resources workers to automatically route personnel actions and positions to the appropriate bureaus for review and approval.

The system, which includes interfaces with State's payroll system, supports more than 15,000 foreign service and civil service employees in 26 bureaus and is used by more than 300 human resources professionals at branch offices in New York, Charleston, S.C., and Washington, D.C.

Deborah Kent, branch chief for operation and information systems at State, said the 25-year-old legacy mainframe system was extremely limited in functionality, laborious to update and not Year 2000-compliant. GEMS, on the other hand, provides a broader range of functions and gives State more room to grow, Kent said.

With the new system, State human resources employees will have access to information online rather than having to rely on records that have been processed in batches some time earlier, said Stephen Rohleder, managing partner of Andersen Consulting Americas Federal Government, which helped State develop GEMS, based on software from PeopleSoft Inc.

The system also enables State to leverage the future upgrade and maintenance capabilities that PeopleSoft offers and to share technical support activities with other government agencies, Rohleder said.

GEMS will be installed in five phases, with completion targeted for 2001, Kent said. State began the first phase of GEMS in April, transferring work-force records and other human resources information from a mainframe to a client/server system. In three months, as part of a second phase, the agency will transfer more human resources information to the new system.

Benefits information will be transferred during the third phase. During Phase Four, performance management records will be shifted, and Phase Five will target employee services, such as life insurance health benefits, Kent said.

Veronica Scott, chief of procedure, reports and processing for information management in State's Bureau of Personnel, said GEMS created improved workflow and redefined some business processes.

Because of the new system, Scott said fewer people are needed to do various tasks, and some tasks are being performed more accurately and with better results. Scott said her job is to ensure that personnel documents stored in the GEMS system are legal and the application supports quality assurance and feedback to the user.

"We have a brand-new application...[and] it is the future of the [State] Department and the personnel management arena,'' Scott said.

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