Vess sets standard with HR Connect

Thursday - 6/23/2011, 2:21pm EDT

Debra Vess, associate chief information officer, Dept. of Treasury

Download mp3

By Jory Heckman
Federal News Radio

Those who work in human resources are often charged with the enormous responsibility of keeping all the disparate parts of the organization running under one system. Debra Vess's commitment to this goal has earned her a 2011 Causey Award. Vess is the associate chief information officer at Treasury and leader of the HR Connect Program Office.

HR Connect allows managers to automate their human resource transactions. Vess is relatively new to the federal government but that has not kept her from setting forth a program that supports more than 150,000 users.

Agencies that use HR Connect include all 13 Treasury bureaus, ATF, Secret Service, and the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Despite their diversified services, all of these agencies operate under Vess's platform.

"They're using the same systems and we're able to scale the cost and then the benefit across all those that are on this platform," said Vess.

The idea for HR Connect, Vess says, came from comments regarding excessive paper forms.

"One of the things that our customers have asked for is, 'We want something like TurboTax' - the ability to, based on a question, have a different set of information fields to fill out," said Vess. "We really took advantage of really creating a solid user interface when we built this product."

Karla Timmons, senior advisor within Treasury, nominated Vess for the Causey Award.

"Her stated goal - to have a 'best-in-class user experience' - drove the team in creating a stand-alone product for the federal government. Her vision, market research and program management allowed for the deployment of new functionality in a TurboTax like application that enables online data entry and replaces extensive paper form completion," said Timmons of her nominee. "This is a first in government application, visualized, articulated, and led by Ms. Vess."

According to Vess, one of the key successes to HR Connect is its commitment to scaling - that is, adapting and accommodating the size and function of the client.

"We looked across and we have big clients such as the IRS, and then there are differences within the Mint, which has a manufacturing flavor to it," said Vess. "We tried to get a good cross of the different employee types to create that core and then we take it out and actually tune it and configure it [for other agencies]."

"The product is really what we call 'one to many,'" she said. "It's very exciting from a technology perspective to define a product that can actually be leveraged across many different agencies' and bureaus' needs because they all do something a little different."

Jory Heckman is an intern with Federal News Radio.

(Copyright 2011 by Federal News Radio. All Rights Reserved.)