Institutes of Health Adopts New Time-Saving Timekeeping System
February 8, 1999
National Institutes of Health was one of the early federal agencies
to heed Vice President Gore's call to reinvent labor-intensive timekeeping
systems, including eliminating employee sign in sheets. Good systems
trust employees, ask them to report only when they take leave, and
use information technology to reduce timekeeping tasks. NIH gradually
implemented a time-saving system, using a National Science Foundation
system as its model. Now it's moving to a Web-based system. Here's
NIH has taken the time out of timekeeping. When Vice President Al
Gore's then National Performance Review (now the National Partnership
to Reinvent Government) made reinvention recommendations in 1993,
an NIH group responded. Members of the NIH time and attendance business
process reengineering team identified one of NPR's objectives --
eliminating unnecessary, labor-intensive time and attendance paperwork
through the use of technology -- as a paramount need at NIH.
was the genesis of the Integrated Time and Attendance System or
ITAS. Richard Drury, director of Human Resource Systems, said, "The
Integrated Time and Attendance System is not just new software.
It ushers in a new time and attendance paradigm for the NIH."
National Science Foundation Model
A system developed at the National Science Foundation is the model
for ITAS. The reengineering team selected it as the best place to
start after researching automated time and attendance systems at
other federal agencies and various commercial offerings. NIH acquired
the base system, adapted it to agency requirements, and enhanced
it with new features. The initial version of ITAS was first piloted
at two institutes. These trials were successful and ITAS was implemented
at both institutes in May 1996. In early 1997, NIH decided to implement
ITAS for all employees.
Timekeeping by Exception
One of the most important aspects of ITAS is that it moves NIH toward
timekeeping by exception. That is, if an employee is at work an
entire pay period and does not take leave, the system automatically
generates the timecard, so the employee and timekeeper don't need
to do anything. As Drury pointed out, "Employees are effectively
both empowered and obligated by ITAS."
System Reduced Paperwork
The new system greatly reduces and may possibly eliminate the timekeepers'
responsibilities by shortening the time required to record time
and attendance information. Both paperwork and the number of data
entry and payroll errors are reduced. "It's automated. If I don't
do anything as an employee, I will get paid. I think it's a wonderful
timekeeping system but, like anything new, we'll all have to be
patient while learning how best to use it," said Crystal James,
an administrative assistant at one of the initial NIH pilot sites.
By design, ITAS relieves users from the need to understand complex
timekeeping rules and procedures by embedding these in the system's
programming logic. The ITAS system can also be configured to support
a variety of approaches to timekeeping instead of forcing users
to conform to one model.
IT and HR Offices Worked Together
The main ongoing ITAS support roles are led by the Center for Information
Technology and the Office of Human Resource Management in the Office
of the Director. This marks the first time CIT and OHRM have worked
as partners on a cooperative human resource systems venture. CIT
provides expertise in running and maintaining an enterprise-wide,
client-server network and is the expert in maintaining the ITAS
database and hardware. OHRM is the expert in timekeeping. It provides
support for the rules and regulations regarding timekeeping; guidance
on leave and pay issues and amending time and leave records through
ITAS; , and provides all necessary data to support the transition
Web-based System Begins in 1999
Although the technologies involved in ITAS are advanced, they no
longer represent the cutting edge. A World Wide Web-based version
of ITAS has been under development for several months. The first
phase of the effort to migrate ITAS to a pure Web environment began
in January 1999. The first phase will implement employee functions.
This includes such items as requesting leave, time-card viewing,
timecard verification, and more. There are plans to migrate the
remaining timekeeper, administrative officer, and leave approving
official functions to the Web but this is not currently funded or
There have already been two versions of ITAS. A newer version includes
such enhancements as online leave requests, support for leave donation,
family friendly leave requirements, and global posting of leave.
According to Drury, as progress is made with the ITAS system, refinement
will be perpetual. "We want to make this the most intuitive and
efficient timekeeping approach NIH will ever utilize," he said.
Currently, ITAS transition has been completed in four institutes
and centers. Six more are in the midst of implementing ITAS. Just
two weeks ago, the Department of Health and Human Services announced
it was adopting ITAS as its official timekeeping system and will
begin a Department-wide implementation shortly.
For More Information
For more information, see the fact sheet
or visit the ITAS Web site.
You may also contact Richard A.. Drury, Director of Human Resource
Systems, National Institutes of Health, at 301-496-4368 or Richard_Drury@nih.gov.
About the Author
Dianne Vignovich-Needham was a Presidential Management Intern at the
National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD, when she wrote the original
story for the December 15, 1998 issue of The NIH Record, an employee