The Integrated Personnel and Pay System-Army team recently hosted Army National Guard primary human resources technical experts in Arlington, Va. -- leveraging ARNG expertise to populate the question and answer section of IPPS-A's Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software.

As the Army drives toward deploying IPPS-A to the 54 states and territories of the ARNG, this May 14-18 event provided an opportunity for the IPPS-A team to address questions and concerns from HR Professionals who will use the system as part of their day-to-day activities.

IPPS-A's self-service capabilities will enable Soldiers to access their personnel and pay records at any time from their computers or mobile devices. Soldiers will have access to tools and resources that will help them use IPPS-A. HR Professionals will also have access to IPPS-A's 21st century customer support software, which automates, tracks and manages Soldier HR and pay inquiries. The technology makes case management easier by automatically linking to a Soldier's HR record, and enables HR Professionals to respond to Soldier inquiries faster and more efficiently.

CW2 Sara Smith, Systems Integration Branch (SIB) Chief with the Mississippi Army National Guard Joint Force Headquarters, was part of the ARNG on-site team. Smith has five years of experience running the enlisted personnel section in Mississippi, and has unique insight on their day-to-day activities. She believes the Guard is making strong contributions to the customer support software database.

"The National Guard is definitely leading the way because the Guard is deploying IPPS-A first. We do a lot of things differently," said Smith about ensuring the IPPS-A captures and accommodates policy and HR procedures from all 54 states and territories. "But some of it is the same and we are identifying what is common to all three components. Our work here will make things easier for the Army Reserve and Active Component. We go through regulations, pull information, and put it in layman's terms backed up by requirements and references. We're building a frequently asked questions database around common topics tied to questions that Soldiers would ask."

The CRM Question & Answer database addresses several concerns raised by Guard Soldiers over the past year such as using non-technical language to provide self-service capabilities, and tools to answer, triage or escalate customer support issues electronically. SIB Chiefs like Smith play a critical role in knowledge management efforts for state National Guards.

"By having participation from subject matter experts from both the states and National Guard Bureau, we have been able to create the foundation of the library in CRM," said CW3 Benjamin Reis of the on-site IPPS-A ARNG liaison team. "This library will be utilized by the whole Army and maintained by the U.S. Army Human Resources Command. The library will allow Soldiers to get their HR/pay questions answered in a timely manner by just doing a search similar to technology the use now every day," he added.

Some of the most common questions are anything related to pay and promotion. "That's a Soldier's biggest concern," said Smith. "We've done the work to identify those. We know what affects pay -- bonuses, re-enlistment, and career progression."

One of the topics Smith was working to address was a topic of keen interest to Army National Guard officers: promotions. There is currently lag time between National Guard officer promotion selections and confirmations, which results in denying officers their pay increases during the time gap, and could be addressed by the bi-partisan National Guard Promotion Accountability act.

One of the database questions is: "What happens if I am removed from a scroll for derogatory information?"

Background checks have slowed the "scroll process" from 200 days to a year, said Smith, with no differential pay while waiting. To "come out on the scroll" is similar to an enlisted Soldier being put on a promotion list.

Smith was interested in the topic because a Miss. general, Retired Brig. Gen. Roy Robinson, is president of the National Guard Association working on the legislation. But as an HR Professional, Smith was excited about not having to log into multiple systems to perform routine administrative tasks such as promotions. "No one likes logging into 15 systems to do one thing," she said talking about how IPPS-A will eliminate over 300 interfaces. "If you could avoid that, who wouldn't?"

"I wanted to learn as much as possible because I know that IPPS-A is going to be a big deal for the Army National Guard," she said. "Any knowledge that I can bring back to the state makes me an asset and better positions me to help Soldiers in Mississippi," said Smith. "Why wouldn't you want to be as involved as possible?"

Smith said that enlisted Soldiers have nicknamed IPPS-A "the super system," and some are skeptical that it will go live.

"I have logged on and seen IPPS-A first hand," said Smith. "It's real. I've seen it and touched it."

She added that having the opportunity to see and touch the system -- such as recent User Juries and the Multi-Systems Transformation Action Group (MSTAG) training event this summer - generates immediately credibility. Soldiers will also be able to get hands-on with IPPS-A at two ARNG association conventions this August in Charleston and New Orleans.