With its dated language and limited functionality, Los Angeles County's 30-year-old human resource management system just couldn't keep up with the 21st century. And every year there were fewer support staff familiar with the old technology.

"Employees who worked on those were either on the verge of retiring or had retired," said Robert Davis, assistant auditor-controller for L.A. County. "Our systems were becoming less and less flexible."

But those days are history as the county has recently upgraded to a new eHR payroll system, serving more than 105,000 county employees as part of a long-term, multiphase enterprise resource planning (ERP) project. (Previous implementations include financial, budget and procurement systems.)

The new system, CGI's AMS Advantage ERP solution, is a Web-based interactive system, using modern languages like Java and XML, Davis said, which allow for more flexibility and more efficient workflow. With an online platform, the county can enhance payroll processing and tracking, and streamline data entry and reporting. Other improvements, Davis said, include switching to a bimonthly payroll schedule that bases pay on scheduled work days rather than calendar days.

HR managers used to have to report billing information on spreadsheets. And employees had to complete timesheets early with estimations included to get them routed to and approved by supervisors before the end of the pay period.

"You were guessing your time and you had to make adjustments if you were wrong," Davis said. "Now you can record your actual time and when an employee submits it, the online workflow goes to the supervisor electronically. No handing of paper, no waiting for the mail."

CGI Group Inc., which provides IT and business process services, implemented the first phase of the current project in 2005 with an upgrade to the financial system. That success led to a multiphase eight-year contract through 2012, said Tim Popoli, CGI's vice president.

"The unique built-for-government attributes of CGI's AMS Advantage ERP solution allow us to approach complex financial and human resource system replacement projects in a spirit of configuration, not customization," said Dave Delgado, vice president of CGI's Public Sector West.

Funded by L.A. County's general fund, Davis said, the entire contract -- upgrades to the financial, procurement, budget, HR and payroll systems and seven years of maintenance -- cost $160 million.

A Timely Transition

Moving more than 100,000 employees to a brand new eHR system provided its own challenges. But county officials took steps to make the transition as smooth as possible.

For instance, Davis said, the county sent out eight two-sided fliers to all county workers that explained how the new system works. The information showed employees what would be changing and what would remain the same (salaries, overtime calculations, etc.) in what Davis called an "open communication approach."

"The county did an amazing job of change management, outreach and comprehensive training," Popoli said, adding that local officials communicated to all stakeholders throughout the process.

The county, Davis said, held informational training sessions for the payroll managers and ran monthly sessions with two major union groups to discuss the good and the bad of the new system.

One change that might be considered negative is moving from a monthly payroll system to a bimonthly system. Employees could pay slightly more in taxes because they'll receive one additional paycheck at the end of the year, Davis said. But at the same time, he said, any money going toward loans or a savings account would be sent in twice a month, which could generate faster returns.

 

Russell Nichols  |  Staff Writer