OPM steps toward e-human resources

OPM's eHRI information page

The Office of Personnel Management is taking additional steps to standardize human resources information systems across all federal agencies.

One of the 25 e-government initiatives, OPM's Enterprise Human Resources Initiative (EHRI) is making progress, and several agencies are adopting it, said Rhonda Diaz, the initiative's program manager.

"We are currently working on several agencies to stand them up to use the application," she said. "What you want to do is have everyone using the same application, same standards, so we can move data back and forth."

Agency officials chose Integic's electronic personnel file software for the application. The Department of Health and Human Services is furthest along, Diaz said. The Homeland Security Department, Forest Service, Education Department and OPM, among others, are also involved in the initiative.

Its purpose is to connect federal agencies' HR departments. EHRI is linked to other OPM initiatives, such as e-Payroll, e-Clearance, e-Training, and Recruitment One-Stop. By coordinating with OPM's retirement systems modernization initiative, EHRI will automate the HR process from recruitment through retirement.

Diaz said she would like to have the system implemented everywhere by the end of 2007. "It's a pretty compelling business case for most of the agencies," she said. "Most of them are very interested in moving forward. It's a matter of budget and when they can put it into their budget cycle."

Integic's Electronic Official Personnel Folder software enables agency managers to eliminate stacks of paper forms by digitizing HR folders.

"It's going to make people's jobs a lot easier," Diaz said. "Right now, with a paper record, only one person can review it at a time. With an electronic record, multiple people can review it, and they can be in different geographical locations."

Jim Fraley, Integic's vice president of civilian federal practice, said use of the electronic personnel folder system could save agencies millions of dollars.

"Every time there's a transaction, like a pay transaction, there's a piece of paper generated and put into that folder," Fraley said. That means when a routine action such as a pay adjustment is necessary, as happened three times in 2004, each of the 1.8 million federal employees must have a new form generated, printed and added to their folders. Add to that the costs of mailing paper and securing paper folders, and the savings of switching to an electronic system accumulate quickly, Fraley said.

EHRI started as the Human Resources Data Network in 1999 and became an e-government initiative under its current name with the E-Government Act of 2002, Diaz said. OPM officials have recently converted the HR initiative to a fee-for-service program, which has slowed its advancement, she said.

"We provide basically a turnkey operation to agencies for hosting their electronic personnel folders," Diaz said. "All they really have to do is have a browser to view the information."

Jim Flyzik, a consultant at Guerra, Kiviat, Flyzik and Associates, said that despite some delays, OPM officials are making good progress on the project.

"HR is getting out there in front of many of the other initiatives," Flyzik said. "It seems like agencies are ready to move toward standardization

of HR more so than

some other back-office applications."

However, he said, it's not surprising that the road has had a few rocky patches.

"The biggest [challenges] are going to be around culture — getting buy-in around government — and funding," Flyzik said. "I think it's a noble effort. It's something everyone around government agrees is a good thing."

OPM says Automate!

If the paper could be taken out of common human resources operations and if agencies used the same set of interlocked systems, the government could save millions of dollars, experts say.

To make that happen, Rhonda Diaz, who manages the Enterprise Human Resources Initiative at the Office of Personnel Management, is looking to

broaden the reach of the EHRI system.

"We're looking at various things, like interfaces with other e-gov initiatives," she said. "One of our goals is to support the retirement system's modernization program."

Although electronic personnel file software could make it easier to share employee records, Diaz said, she and other officials involved in the project are not planning to allow inappropriate access.

"There are still policies around privacy," she said.

— Michael Hardy

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