By Eduardo Salinas, IPPS-A Strategic CommunicationsMarch 19, 2019
(ARLINGTON, Va.) -- Benjamin Franklin once said: "An investment in knowledge pays the best interest." The founding father's common sense wisdom is applicable in many ways. For Army commanders, understanding human resources actions data on their unit's strength and manpower, and the unique talents of each Soldier, enables more effective leadership and management of these personnel for the betterment of the mission. This knowledge is key to increasing readiness to enable units to accomplish their mission.
In Franklin's home state of Pennsylvania--where the Army National Guard is beginning to field the Army's next generation human resources and pay management system--Franklin's ideas are especially relevant. With fielding of the Integrated Personnel and Pay System-Army (IPPS-A) underway, Pennsylvania Army National Guard analytics subject matter experts partnered with functional and technical experts from the IPPS-A program to improve the business intelligence and analytics capabilities of the system. These capabilities will allow Commanders and human resources professionals to see their formations at greater fidelity than ever before, and inform readiness decisions that will enhance combat power and lethality.
Making Informed Decisions with Human Resources Analytics
IPPS-A brings human resources analytics capabilities to the Army that consolidates human resources data via ad hoc queries to enable decision makers to see insights never seen before. The foundation of this capability is the "data warehouse," an analytical platform that aggregates vast amounts of data from several sources including IPPS-A's Human Capital Management, Enterprise Learning Management and Customer Relations Management modules.
The system includes tools that organize and present information in intuitive formats that will enable Commanders make sound decisions and policy based on data. IPPS-A's powerful analytical capabilities will also transform the role of human resources professionals into human resources analysts, a key step for the Army to get greater value out of the Adjutant General's Corps.
Ultimately, IPPS-A's human resources analytics capabilities will include eight major analytical topics areas encompassing over 700 data elements that can be queried. IPPS-A will also provide Soldiers with robust workflow and auditability capabilities via intuitive, easy-to-use tools. Users will also be able to easily share customized dashboards and queries with others.
HRAR as a Strength Management Decision-Making Tool
Strength management is a critical to ensuring the Army is prepared to meet the diverse national security challenges the nation faces. Matching officers and enlisted Soldiers with units and organizations that accomplish military missions is paramount to readiness.
Today in ARNG units across the United States, human resources professionals and their Commanders rely on individual spreadsheets and databases like the Unit Manning Roster to provide a snapshot of their units. These products require hundreds of man hours to analyze vast amounts of information in order to glean actionable insights. With IPPS-A, human resources professionals and Commanders will initially rely on the Human Resources Authorization Report (HRAR) to provide associations between personnel authorizations and Soldiers in their units. This report provides visibility on all Soldiers within a unit by showing authorized strength and open positions.
"For the Commander, the HRAR is an enhancement that adds capabilities they did not have before for visibility of their units at the company, battalion, brigade or division levels," said Major Joshua Herr, Chief of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard G1 Readiness Division. "Allowing Commanders and human resources professionals to share this near real-time picture of their unit benefits both parties."
IPPS-A presents the HRAR in four different tabs within the system. The "Total Soldiers" tab provides summaries of the total Soldiers in the unit, the number of slotted Soldiers in the unit, the number of unfilled positions in the unit, and a position grades analysis. The "Slotted Soldiers" tab displays the number of Soldiers placed in assigned or slotted positions in a unit. The "Unfilled Positions" tab displays the displays the number of vacant positions within a unit. The "Position Grades Analysis" displays the personnel position where the assigned grade is either higher or lower than the actual grade of the Soldier filling that position.
Each tab breaks down data and displays it in tables, graphs and pie charts. Most of these visualizations are interactive and intuitive, providing users with the ability to select objects and drill down to the root data for a more detailed analysis. The data can also be exported to standard file types including Adobe PDF, Microsoft Excel and HTML formats.
The data and visualizations presented in IPPS-A is directly linked to the role of the user accessing it within the system. Human resources professionals will only be able to view data for their own units, while a Brigade Commander would be able to view information for units within their brigade. Users will also be able to filter their data by a variety of subsets including Army component, Military Personnel Category, Unit Identification Code and Military Occupation Special code, Tables of Distribution and Allowances, Modified Tables of Organization and Equipment, grades, authorization documents and date ranges.
"One of the main reasons our Soldiers prefer to use the HRAR is its simplicity," said Herr. "It's is generated by a single click."
Partnering with Stakeholders to get the HRAR Right
IPPS-A's HRAR capabilities grew out of needs expressed by Army Commanders and human resources professionals for improved visibility of the personnel in their units. As the Pennsylvania Army National Guard began fielding the system, stakeholders provided valuable feedback to IPPS-A development team to refine the system's HRAR capability. This led to the formation of a team consisting of Pennsylvania Army National Guard subject matter experts and business intelligence experts from the IPPS-A program to focus on getting the HRAR right to meet the needs of the Army National Guard. This included making improvements to the HRAR's layout, addressing missing data content, and enhancing reliability.
"One of the major accomplishments was the ability as a state user to drill down to the subordinate commands," Herr said. "The team was able to implement a saved customization to allow drilling down to each brigade combat team, with more levels in the future."
The team also focused on tuning the HRAR to display position-specific information needed by Army National Guard decision makers. Early versions of the HRAR in IPPS-A were based only on Soldier information according to Chief Warrant Officer 3 Dong Lee, IPPS-A Data and Analytics Technician. The HRAR displayed information about Soldiers (e.g. additional skills identifiers, special qualification identifiers, security clearance, languages, etc.) instead of position-specific information. This approach created challenges since not every Soldier was slotted against authorized positions within units. But based on this situation, the IPPS-A team was able to configure the HRAR to display the information needed by Commanders and human resources professionals.
"We created separate dimensions and measurements for positions to display authorized and assigned numbers as well as position-specific data," said Lee.
The collaborative effort to the address the HRAR highlights the commitment of IPPS-A developers to work with stakeholders to ensure the system is built to meet the needs of its customers. It has also an important element of the overall development of the system. Stakeholder feedback has influenced the development of several functionalities within the system including human resources and pay transactions and customer relationship management. This commitment to stakeholders will continue as IPPS-A is fielded throughout the Army National Guard, and eventually to the active and US Army Reserve components.
"As a team, we were able to make changes to the HRAR very quickly to improve its efficiency on almost a daily basis," said Herr. "The group was open and receptive to all ideas, while maintaining the basis that the HRAR will be used by all three components of the United States Army."
IPPS-A developers are working to strengthen the system's human resources analytics capabilities. Work is currently underway to increase the amount of data stored in the "data warehouse" that will widen the analytical spectrum for users. Developers are also implementing Qlik Sense, an analytics tool that provides powerful search and exploration features that will enable users to analyze data by interacting with charts and visualizations. Additionally, IPPS-A will be able to generate other important reports--such as the Total Boots on the Ground Report and the Unit Manning Report--that will help commanders and planners make actionable data-driven decisions.
With an up-front investment in developing IPPS-A's business intelligence capabilities, the Army will be able to see itself in ways never before imagined, and use these perspectives to enhance the Service's lethality and readiness. Ben Franklin would be proud.