ARLINGTON, Va. -- Army General Counsel, the Hon. James E. McPherson, met with Soldiers of the Integrated Personnel and Pay System -- Army (IPPS-A) for a briefing on the system's mobile phone, analytics and future talent management capabilities in Arlington, Va., Dec. 20, 2019.
McPherson was impressed to see first-hand what the Army's 21st Century human resources system will do for the future of the Army.
"This is central to what we're doing for the Army going forward," said McPherson. "The Chief of Staff of the Army says 'People First.' This system is the vehicle for the People First strategy."
McPherson's visit corresponded with an important milestone for the program: as of Dec. 16, 2019, IPPS-A is live in 50% of Army National Guard states and territories and will be live throughout the entire ARNG in March. IPPS-A will be fielded to all three Components by Dec. 2021.
"I've always wondered why we went with the National Guard first," asked McPherson. "Why the hardest group?"
The existing ARNG HR systems have been described as 54 separate 'fiefdoms," according to Lt. Col. June Copeland, Senior Army National Guard Liaison to IPPS-A. "Because the Guard was the hardest, we knew if we could get them all into one system, we'd be able to do all three Components," Copeland added.
The Pa. ARNG was the first state to field the system in 2019. The Pa. ARNG proved that IPPS-A system capabilities were able to provide Army human resources essential services and support; align with Army National Guard policies, processes and procedures; and comply with Department of Defense control and auditability requirements.
"The National Guard is leading the charge," said Col. Gregory S. Johnson, IPPS-A Functional Management Division chief. "The heaviest lift will be these last states. We went with smaller states and groups at first and then refined our cutover drills. In 2020 our goal is to refine and improve the data," he added.
Maj. Lee Baklarz, Release 2 Sustainment Lead, provided a demonstration of Soldier self-service capabilities using the IPPS-A mobile app. The app provides Soldiers easy access to their records, transparency on the system of routine requests and self-service functions to submit personnel actions using a mobile device. To date, the app has been downloaded from the TRADOC app gateway by over 8,500 users and is the #1 app on that portal.
Baklarz demonstrated how the app could be used on any commercial network using just a long, strong password. Most Soldiers live on their phones, explained Baklarz, and are used to banking and shopping online. IPPS-A puts 24/7 access to a Soldiers records in the palm of their hands bringing the Army into the digital age by replacing manual processes.
"I can take a picture of my record or jump log, put it in IPPS-A and it will route to the battalion S-1," said Baklarz. "Typically documents have to be printed, delivered in a folder, reviewed, signed then routed to an HR professional to manually input into the system. Soldiers have no transparency on that process. IPPS-A changes that by automating steps within the system. We're the first in the Army to allow mobile access to an HR system."
Maj. Myron Bishop, of the Mich. ARNG, will be able to use self-service capabilities when his state goes live on Jan. 28, 2020. He was recruited into the program by Johnson because of his background at the National Guard Bureau doing manpower analysis for the entire Guard. Bishop presented about IPPS-A system analytic capabilities.
IPPS-A's reports include readiness indicators on every Soldier displayed by duty location, explained Bishop: authorized, assigned, deployable and non-deployable. The program is also developing an application prototype for release 3 using Qlik Sense --a visualization software tool that reads the exact same data and presents it into an easier visual format fluid of interest to commanders.
IPPS-A also uses Oracle's business intelligence suite to bring data from the transactional modules, where most HR functions are performed, to the business intelligence data warehouse. IPPS-A has a universal Oracle license so all users including at the company unit level are able to access analytic capabilities. McPherson remarked that pushing a senior leader dashboard down to the lowest levels was very impressive.
"I see incredible potential," said McPherson. "I don't want to be working with stubby pencils and spreadsheets." Speaking positively about the possibilities for managing talent, he added, "26 years of my life were dictated by assignment officers and they told me 'these are the only jobs that are available.' The data elements from the 25-point talent profile…Think of what a promotion board could see…what data elements would look good on a board." McPherson went on to compare the Army's talent management initiatives to the nascent U.S. Space Force and how both were building something completely new.
It was a point emphasized by Capt. Olumide Akanni, IPPS-A Talent Management Support Officer. "We don't know about the hidden talent in our organization," said Cpt. Akanni. "In the legacy environment, I'd have to go into two different systems, download the data, merge it into an Excel spreadsheet to prepare a report on the information that we just showed in a few minutes with a few clicks," he added.
"It really is an exciting time for the HR community when it comes to talent management…the challenge posed to us by the Chief of Staff of the Army. We can increase efficiency by having all data in one place…efficiencies that save time and money. In the future by adding knowledge, skills, behaviors, you'll have a multidimensional view of a Soldier through the 25-point profile," said Akanni.
McPherson ended the meeting by encouraging the Army Financial Management & Comptroller community to get excited about release 4, especially audit trails and accountability. Some functions from the Defense Finance Accounting System will be merged into Human Resources Command.
The Integrated Personnel and Pay System - Army will fill the capability gaps in personnel, pay, and managing talent and data for the total Army. Currently, there are approx. 200+ HR and pay systems and over 650 interface and data exchanges between internal and external systems. IPPS-A will subsume 30+ systems, eliminate 300+ interfaces and provide essential capabilities to the Army including total force visibility, managing talent and data, and auditability. IPPS-A will serve as the vehicle to enhance total Army readiness by maximizing the potential of the Army's greatest asset, the Soldier. To learn more, follow IPPS-A on social media.