HR Challenges and Modern Technology
Bringing together different functions to work together for federal government success is the ultimate goal of the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) — new legislation that might be considered exciting, threatening or business as usual, depending on your point of view and your agency’s current modus operandi.
In the federal HR world, technology is unquestionably becoming critical to success. With challenges such as an exodus of baby boomers, attracting and retaining millennials into the workforce and federal employee engagement, morale and leadership problems, human capital leaders can’t rely on legacy systems, pen-to-paper solutions and fillable forms to fix them.
FITARA – The HR and IT Partnership
It’s this reliance on technology to HR executives that brings us FITARA, which really recognizes the critical nature of technology in today’s modern, federal world. It changes and reforms the framework that manages how the federal government buys new technology, emphasizing the importance of Chief Information Officers (CIOs) in access and influence over budgeting, contracting and human resources. At the same time, this does not lessen the importance and influence of other government leaders. For FITARA to succeed – and for individual agencies to succeed in their implementation of FITARA, it is critical for the CIOs, Chief Human Capital Officers (CHCOs), Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) and Chief Acquisition Officers to work well together and have a strong working relationship.
HR’s Path to Embracing FITARA
While every agency will likely have its own unique set of guidelines, procedures and chain of command, there are a few key considerations all CHCOs should consider when pursuing technology purchases under FITARA.
- Confirmation of Need
HR leaders must clearly communicate the need for the technology they wish to purchase, backed by a strong business case. Specific items to consider include consolidation of systems, databases and licensing agreements to improve agency efficiency and reduce costs, improved security, cloud adoption, elimination or reduction of expensive legacy systems, improved productivity of agency staff and interoperability with other agency systems.
- Confirmation of Authority
As agencies work toward full FITARA implementation and compliance, CHCOs need to confirm where authorization for particular purchases lie. Generally, HR technology purchases will fall under the umbrella of the CIO office, yet there are instances where the CHCO office has full authority to complete a purchase, assuming the CIO is aware and generally approves of the purchase.
Whether purchase authority lies in the CHCO office or in the CIO office, ongoing communication is critical to reduce any chance of surprise in the purchasing process. This is, of course, even more important when the authority lies with the CIO.
- Confirmation of Budget
All the best-laid plans, rationale and execution will not matter if there is no available money, means to make money available, or the ability to craft a plan to adjust any current budgetary constraints.
If there is no current budget item that allows for the purchase of new HR technology, the Confirmation of Need, outlined above, will be an important tool for securing funding. There are several justifications within that step that can be used as a basis for changing budgets. For example, if it is deemed that money is not available, the ability to save money in other areas may be used as a catalyst for securing funding.
With need, authority, and budget all accounted for, the next important item to check is the timeline. The CHCO will need to understand when the budget is available for spending, what resources are needed to evaluate and reach a decision on the desired technology, and when resources become available to work on the implementation and deployment. Once resources have been identified and planned for, a purchase timeline can be determined and communicated to all internal and external stakeholders.
- Other CIO Considerations
The degree of CIO involvement in any HR technology decision will vary by CIO and agency. However, there will generally be specific areas that the CIO will want assurances on. While the CIO may or may not choose to oversee a detailed technology review, he or she will at least need to understand the CHCOs preferences and choices for security, cloud adoption, integration points and cost. In addition, HR and IT may wish to consider pilot programs or phased implementation to speed adoption.
FITARA holds great promise for federal technology procurement, including HR technology. By assuring the communication lines between HR and IT remain open, the odds of FITARA success at your agency will greatly improve.
Joe Abusamra is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.
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