Experiences in life and a Soldier's career are very eye-opening. In the case of Maj. Sherri Zimmerman, Integrated Personnel and Pay System -- Army (IPPS-A) Requirements and Data Branch lead, her time handling Human Resources tasks while serving as a combat medic and an Adjutant General (AG) Officer showed her that the Army needed to streamline its HR processes into one system.
"I went from my second command assignment to a job at Human Resources Command," said Zimmerman. "I was able to see HR processes at another level and then went right into a battalion S-1 job. This position held many challenges but to me the largest was managing the same data in multiple systems. That was my first exposure to all of the Army systems that maintained Soldier records."
Zimmerman eventually deployed as a Battalion S-1 and it was during this deployment she first heard of a new system the Army was developing that would merge all of the HR databases into one supporting the three Army components. The system was IPPS-A, and Zimmerman knew right away she wanted to be a part of the program.
"I was feeling the pain of our legacy systems and believed IPPS-A would be the answer to the many problems we face managing data," said Zimmerman.
Zimmerman enlisted as a combat medic in the Active Army in 1988 and later in the Reserves in 1996. She was assigned to the 6250th Unites States Army Hospital at Joint Base Lewis McChord, Madigan Army Medical Center (MAMC) and eventually asked to do level-I in-processing for new Soldiers who worked at the hospital.
"The job to maintain the amount of paperwork needed to in-process a Soldier was daunting; file cabinets filling up with hand written rosters, credentials, and information sheets with no end in sight," said Zimmerman.
This was not her first time being exposed to the AG career field but it certainly contributed to her choosing AG after she commissioned in 2002.
"The direct commission interview panel asked why I picked AG?" said Zimmerman. "I told them 'I like the work, it was very rewarding and something I gravitate towards.'
Zimmerman had been doing HR work throughout her career and grew to appreciate the necessity of it for pay, promotions, orders, etc. She had an affinity to track and keep things organized and could see the results of her efforts.
Her first company command came when she was assigned to the Warrior Transition Battalion at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. It was here where she recognized the need to not only streamline Soldier in-processing but to also have something that could assist in building Soldier transition plans.
She was afforded the opportunity to work with borrowed IT manpower at MAMC to create a web-based system for the transition plans and "for in-processing I had an Access Database savvy admin employee who created a system to house all the Soldier information we needed," said Zimmerman. "It allowed us to run a variety of Soldier queries by state or region when state or government leadership would pay us a visit. We always intended to merge the two but never made it to that point."
Her next assignment was in Madrid, Spain, which was another company command assignment. This position covered, Madrid, Valencia, Spain and Lisbon, Portugal. This assignment had a unique set of challenges where she could apply the same principles in tracking and managing Soldier information.
A portion of the Soldiers assigned to this region were coming straight from multiple deployments and each location provided limited resources to support the challenges faced by Soldiers and their Families.
The closest US installation was over 5 hours away and is one of the main reasons Zimmerman was so thorough about screening Soldiers on assignment to this region.
"We were adamant about making sure we knew what support Soldiers and their Families needed," said Zimmerman. "It would be terrible to have them moved overseas and not be able to provide the necessary support, so we created another database that managed specific information extracted from the personnel and pay databases."
Zimmerman's desire to work on the IPPS-A project was satisfied in 2016 as she was assigned to the program, and was immediately made head of the Data branch.
Her mission since has been straight-forward: Understand the information going into IPPS-A, how that information is going to work, and what data will be needed to be brought in from external systems to conduct HR business processes.
As her time on the project has progressed, additional staff members have been hired capable of doing the technical analysis of data on a larger scale. "I knew we had the talent that could take our mission to the next level," said Zimmerman. "We could produce the metrics and narrow the information down to errors users fix or systems fix and start solving those problems on a larger scale."
Three years after her arrival at IPPS-A, and over 31 years of service, she has decided to hang up her boots and patrol cap.
Though she is sad to leave the program she loves, Zimmerman is pleased with the progress her team has made, and is thrilled the Army is finally implementing a centralized HR system.
"I feel rewarded that I committed my time to influence change and lay the foundation for the data portion of this project," said Zimmerman.