a m e r i c a
e-gov e-zine

introduction contact us links kids corner
staff awards what others are saying







Email Me







The Job Page

Government Services

Government Benefits

Federal Payments


Business Services

Public Safety

Criminal Justice

Business Tax Filing







Privacy & Security





Privacy Statement


National Institutes of Health Adopts New Time-Saving Timekeeping System

By Dianne Vignovich-Needham
February 8, 1999

The 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 the story.

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.

This 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 to ITAS.

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 scheduled.

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

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 newsletter.

Access America E-Gov E-Zine Partners
Chief Information Officers Council
National Partnership for Reinventing Government
Federal Communicators Network