DHS's Spires defining future state of HR technology

Thursday - 1/26/2012, 11:38pm EST

Richard Spires , chief information officer, DHS

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The Homeland Security Department wants to cut back on the number of human resources systems it uses and supports.

With components managing more than 130 human resources systems, including more than nine learning management systems on a daily basis, DHS chief information officer Richard Spires sees this area as the next opportunity to save money and become more efficient.

To that end, DHS released a request for information in November for both a learning management system and an employee performance management system in the cloud.

"The RFI was to conduct a market survey, to see what's available in the marketplace, and the maturity of the products, solutions and services that are available in those areas," Spires said. "Then that helps inform whether we will come out with what type of RFP, what functionalities we will be looking for from a mandatory perspective, and whether or not we really want to go out with one that combines learning management and employee performance management into one system or service. This is really for us to learn so we can come out with a much more informed RFP."

Spires added DHS received a good response back from industry and the software and services seem mature enough to meet the agency's needs. The department will decide on an acquisition strategy in the next couple of months.

This effort comes from an initiative called HR IT. DHS just completed a segment architecture for HR systems where it defined the current state, the future state, and a transition plan for how to get there. This was the first ever comprehensive analysis of the agency's HR systems.

During the research of the "as-is" environment, DHS found it still uses too many manual processes for HR services, including in employee performance management.

"In order to get better consistency, better results, and over time, to help the employees, we think having an automated solution for this across the enterprise will be very helpful," Spires said. "It will certainly make the process more consistent from component to component and ease the burden on the paperwork side as well."

The analysis showed several areas where there is a lot of duplication and learning management systems was among the low hanging fruit.

"There are number of others. We have literally dozens of projects we've laid out," Spires said. "How fast we can execute? Budgets are tight, and it does take some investment to get over the hump to get the savings you can accrue by doing this kind of consolidation. We will move as aggressive as we can by working across the enterprise and pulling the resources from each of the components in the HR IT space to drive this."

Along with LMS, Spires said DHS has a lot of duplication among personnel accountability systems, HR data management and case management systems.

Across all of the HR functions, he said the goal is enterprise services.

"We are very much taking, particularly in the HR field, we want to buy it as a service or system first and it needs to be mature," Spires said. "We are not interested in going off and building custom capabilities. We are really trying to limit our risk on implementation by going with off-the-shelf services or systems, preferably services as we move toward cloud based services assuming they are available and mature, and meet our security requirements."

He added enterprise services help lower their capital expenditures on implementing these new systems and services.

DHS already is implementing enterprise services around email, a common operating picture for law enforcement agencies, SharePoint and more than 10 others that will reside in the cloud.

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