(FORT PICKETT, VA.) -- The Integrated Personnel and Pay System -- Army went live for the Virginia Army National Guard on April 5, 2019. Soldiers and Commanders having real-time access to theirs and other Soldiers' information is already proving a benefit of the system, according to Chief Warrant Officer 2 Lionel Blair, Systems Information Branch Chief for the VAARNG.

"Commanders and managers being able to see their unit's information in real time is super powerful," said Blair. "They can see deployment stuff like readiness scorecards and duty statuses. Honestly, they can see the overall readiness of their unit in real time without depending on contacting a Human Resources professional."

The VAARNG has spent two years preparing to implement the IPPS-A system. IPPS-A is the Army's new comprehensive human resources system that has subsumed the Standard Installation and Division Personnel Reporting System (SIDPERS). The new system gives access to personnel records for every Soldier in the VAARNG, which means an increase in the number of Soldiers who need to know how to use the system. Blair said he and his team are working to help Soldiers get accustomed to IPPS-A.

"This system is more robust than SIDPERS," said Blair. "SIDPERS was binary, so only select people had access. Now, we've got 300 HR professionals in the system, plus commanders, 1st Sergeants and Sergeants Major. So, a lot of people are trying to get their footing and figure out their role in the system."

The reduction in systems, plus speedier uploading of new information is a benefit Human Resources Specialists have noted, said Blair.

"They've seen orders go into IPERMS in a matter of seconds rather than having to manually upload them," said Blair. "That's definitely a positive of the new system."

Prior to having IPPS-A, HR Specialists did not have a lot of contact with Soldiers. They would communicate with one another via email, or a quick phone call when a Soldier needed information. However, IPPS-A has created what Blair refers to as a ticket system, which he feels will force HR Specialists and Soldiers to deal more directly with one another to solve an issue.

"The ticket system increases what I call touch time," said Blair. "If a Soldier asks me a question via the ticket system, I must open the ticket, read the comment, research something in another system, come back and answer question, then work a solution. That's holistic HR management which is a good thing. It increases visibility on the work we are doing as HR professionals."

Another benefit of IPPS-A is the Soldier's ability to update their profiles on their own without the need of a government computer. Now, Soldiers can be anywhere in the world and update their IPPS-A profile, which reduces delays that existed with prior systems.

"Our Soldiers who are only here on drill weekend will especially benefit from this system," said Blair. "So, knowing if they get married they can submit their documentation on their own. They can do that in real time instead of waiting 30 days to submit a document. Before IPPS-A, Soldiers couldn't update their records on their own."

Blair and his team are already seeing the benefits of IPPS-A, which is particularly satisfying after going through such a long migration process.

"Getting to an end state of something we've been working on and seeing benefits is very satisfying," said Blair. "Now, we're shifting gears to training to make sure we're training the field users of the system. It's nice to be at this point."