E-gov redefines the workforce

When Norm Enger agreed nearly two years ago to manage the Office of Personnel Management’s five Quicksilver e-government projects, he wasn’t sure how much success each initiative would find.

“I was skeptical that we could transform government in a short time frame,” he said.

But as the projects head toward completion, Enger believes all have helped transform government in ways that could not have been imagined before.

Now the Office of Management and Budget has charged Enger with managing the Human Resources Lines of Business Consolidation project, aimed at finding a common set of applications to perform agencies’ HR functions.

Large projects are nothing new to this IT veteran. Before coming to OPM, Enger was a vice president at Computer Associates International Inc., where he developed business strategies and managed projects for commercial and federal customers.

Enger also was president of Applied Management Systems Inc. of Branford, Conn., a software development and integration firm.

Enger graduated from Columbia University and has authored several books on IT.

GCN staff writer Jason Miller interviewed Enger at his Washington office.

GCN: What is the greatest effect that OPM’s five initiatives have had on how government does business?

ENGER: OPM’s five initiatives were unique because they all dealt with one subject, namely human capital. They framed the employee lifecycle from recruitment to retirement.

Our goal was not to do minor changes to existing business process, but to make transformational change. I think if you look at what we have accomplished, we have basically transformed an entire business function in the federal government.

Perhaps one of the biggest successes is simply completing Phase 1. Without that, we would not have Phase 2, which is called the Lines of Business initiative. With the Lines of Business phase, you are talking about transforming an entire line of business.

GCN: OPM is the lead agency for the HR Lines of Business initiative. What is the status of the project?

ENGER: We have received responses from 43 organizations, including some government agencies, from the request for information sent out in April. We have formed a task force from 21 agencies, which meets on a weekly basis. We’ve had seven meetings and established three working groups.

The first [group] looked at the RFI and developed a government response to it. That becomes the straw person to be looked at as we evaluate the 43 other responses.

The second working group is evaluating the RFI responses. Their goal is to develop a common solution of what is the best path for government to improve its human capital systems.

Essentially, they will pick anything that is good from any of the industry and government responses, and from all of that, put forth a pattern for the government to follow to improve how it operates in the human capital area. The draft will be finalized by Aug. 1.

In parallel with that, the third working group, an architectural group, is looking at the line of business and all subfunctions, doing an architectural design of the HR line of business and mapping that to a solution being produced by a working group that is evaluating the RFI. We will wind up with a solution we recommend and architecture that supports that solution.

They both will be finalized by Aug. 1 and will become the foundation for business cases for the HR line of business, which is due for completion in September. Agencies will be expected to recognize that and target their own migrations and developments in accordance with the master plan.

GCN: What have been some of OPM’s e-gov successes?

ENGER: Recruitment One-Stop, which went live Aug. 1, 2003, now has 300,000 people each day going to that site. That is 15 times the number of people [who] went to the old site.

For E-Training, we will have 60 agencies by [Sept. 30] using the GoLearn.gov Web site, which delivers Web-based training to agencies. We have 200,000 people signed up right now as users of this site.

With E-Clearance, we’ve enhanced homeland security. We’ve brought up last year’s clearance verification system, and for the first time the government has been able to go to one Web site to check the clearance status of a person. This system was used by Homeland Security to evaluate the backgrounds of 160,000 people who moved into the new department from 22 agencies.

With E-Payroll we have migrated five agencies to the new providers and will save $10.1 billion over the next 10 years.

With the Enterprise Human Resources Initiative, for the first time we’ve established a high-quality corporate database of federal employees. By September, we will have 30 years of history for every civilian employee. This is invaluable for any kind of workforce planning, analysis, demographic studies or other needs.

GCN: Looking back, would you have done anything differently?

ENGER: I thought about this, and I hate to be so glib, but I can’t think of any significant thing that I would have done differently. I did not anticipate the fact that we’d be as successful as we’ve been.

What I can say is something I’ve learned—you can never do enough communication. No matter how many times we give a speech, there are always groups who haven’t heard of the initiative or don’t know what’s it about. I really believe now that the more you talk and more outreach you do, the more successful you will be.

GCN: How has the experience of managing five e-government projects changed or expanded OPM’s role in the government?

ENGER: What has happened with e-government, OPM has moved into a leadership role in technology as it applies to HR systems. And even now, we are being looked upon as steering and guiding the HR line of business in technology, in choosing what solutions are viable from a technology and interoperability point of view.

E-government is now essential to OPM’s operation, which was not the case before. Technology was there, but it wasn’t essential to how the agency operates.

GCN: The Recruitment One-Stop contract has seen significant controversy, including the General Accounting Office overturning the award. What could OPM have done differently?

ENGER: I can only say from our point of view, we had a very proper request for proposals, a rigorous evaluation team. The fact that a protest was filed and the fact that two points were upheld by GAO, our general counsel did not believe that those points were significant or material. I must add that the protest filed by the protesting company was not filed in a timely manner and therefore work was not suspended on the contract.

In all honesty, we had to say what was best for government, and what was the most significant benefit for the government, and the decision was that we were ready to go live. There was no stop work order, so we made the decision to proceed.

GCN: What is the status of the e-payroll project?

ENGER: We have migrated the Energy Department, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, American Battlefield Monuments Commission, National Science Foundation, and portions of the Homeland Security and Transportation departments to the system. More agencies and bureaus—the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Federal Protective Service, Health and Human Services Department, Labor Department, NASA, Railroad Retirement Board and Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corp.—will migrate by [Sept. 30]. The remaining agencies’ schedules are in place and will finish migrations after September.

GCN: Have there been any technology problems in migrating agencies to the new providers?

ENGER: To my knowledge, there haven’t been any significant problems with the migrations. We do have a technology issue because at some point we will want to replace the legacy payroll systems with commercial software.

Later this year, we will start looking long-term at some technology replacement options. We are looking at several years before we actually replace the legacy systems.


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