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VA Takes on Human Capital IT Modernization

Joseph Thele and Mark Ricciardi explain how they plan to modernize VA HR systems.

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OIST from Onna Village, Japan Photo Credit: CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is turning to emerging technologies like cloud, automation and robotic process automation (RPA) to modernize its human capital IT systems amid a 25% projected hiring surge.

Fully implemented in 2016, the VA’s current solution called HR Smart is an Oracle-based platform that manages personnel data and processes across all of VA, including the Veterans Health Administration and Veterans Benefits Administration. According to a draft performance work statement outlining VA’s desire to acquire new technology that integrates with and modernizes this system as well the Enterprise Performance Management System, it accommodates about 1 million transactions from 6,300 managers across HR servicing offices each year.

Additionally, the agency is projecting a 3% per year increase in its workforce that will necessitate modernized workflows, interoperability and increased data retention.

“We need modern human capital management solutions that are agile in order to keep up with constantly changing human resource regulatory and policy environment, while ensuring great user experiences for all users,” said VA Center for Enterprise Human Resources Information Services (CEHRIS) Executive Director Joseph Thele at an industry day last month.

Thele outlined five key priorities for this HR system modernization effort:

  • Provide enterprise-wide, cost effective, standardized and interoperable HR Solutions to support the strategic management of human capital
  • Capitalize on existing HR system capabilities to supply new, innovative core and non-core solutions between shared service resources
  • Acquire and implement systems that meet stakeholder needs, recommendations and expectations
  • Implement VA HR enterprise-wide data standards for efficient and reliable data exchange
  • Execute an end-to-end system comprised of one or more interconnected applications designed to capture HR data once, and for that data to move in concert with employees throughout the entire HR lifecycle

“Human Capital Management Cloud is the future for supporting HR professionals, managers and employees. We need an approach that gets us to that future that does not disrupt ongoing and continuous delivery of HR services, enhancements and improvements,” Thele said. “We’re here to take care of the people that are taking care of the veterans for this nation.”

Mark Ricciardi, project manager at the Enterprise Program Management Office in VA’s Office of Information and Technology, said that VA is seeking an enterprise solution that can be used by the entire agency to manage employee transactions and then reuse that data to support other critical systems requiring the use of employee information.

As part of its modernization journey, VA has adopted agile practices to deliver products needed by its customers faster to support their business needs, which Ricciardi noted is having a positive impact on the mission. The agency is also adopting human-centered design to improve customer experience.

“Human-centered design is an iterative system development approach that focuses on the users what their needs are and the requirements. We will be seeking this approach to improve efficiency and effectiveness and effectiveness of what is delivered to our customers,” Ricciardi said.

The agency will be accelerating its change management approach and execution, as well as training tools, to help VA break down the barriers to user adoption. VA has incorporated “manpower management” into its workflows, which was created to manage specific positions that are required at the agency to strengthen its workforce.

“A manager can request that position be filled once that is done in the system, and eventually go to an HR professional serving manpower for review to ensure it is approved and properly funded,” Ricciardi said.

Looking ahead, VA plans to integrate emerging technologies to strengthen its enterprise human capital management infrastructure and operate in the most efficient and effective manner possible. Ricciardi said that the future platform will be interoperable with its middleware and data warehouse.

In this call to industry, VA wants to bolster the benefits it has realized in incorporating automation into its HR management.

“VA’s current Enterprise Performance Management System … automates the management of employee performance guidance and business workflow,” according to the draft performance work statement. This “optimizes process improvements through the VA enterprise. This system of record also results in improved organizational performance, increased employee productivity and retention, and employees having a clear understand of the important of their contributions to VA’s organizational goals and objectives.”

Ricciardi said AI and RPA could support a more seamless integration, boost productivity and enable processing requests through the system.

“We’ve done a significant amount of work on HR Smart over the years, but this acquisition isn’t just about moving VA to a modern platform for what HR Smart is already providing. It’s about modernizing HR beyond what has been delivered today,” Ricciardi said.

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