Business Tax Filing
Institutes of Health Adopts New Time-Saving Timekeeping System
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
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
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 newsletter.