Russell Haupert, CIO/CTO and Director of Technology and Innovation in Tampa, Fla., is using cloud-based systems to enhance legacy systems.

Jan 19 2023

Agencies Simplify and Improve HR Services with Business Process Automation

Local governments have eased recruiting, onboarding and other activities via the cloud.

In the year since the city of Tampa, Fla., moved its human resources and finance systems to a cloud-based Software as a Service platform, HR signed three new union contracts and had to get the new compensation and rules into the system. The project took half the time it had in prior years.

“We have all the same great people working in HR,” says Russell Haupert, Tampa’s CIO/CTO and director of technology and innovation. “That tells me that the new system must be easier to use. We’re beating our deadlines, and we’re doing it comfortably.”

Like Tampa, agencies around the country are adapting to workforce demands by replacing aging legacy systems with business process automation solutions that streamline tasks such as hiring and onboarding new employees and improve self-service functions.

“Particularly with security issues, cost-cutting methods and COVID-19, organizations are trying to upgrade and streamline to get the greatest economies of scale,” says Laura DiDio, principal analyst at the research firm ITIC.

Business process automation comes with an upfront cost, but when done correctly, it produces a nearly immediate payback in terms of total cost of ownership and return on investment, she adds. “The idea is to update and automate the worst of the drudgery while reducing data backlog, improving response times and saving money.”

Click the banner below to receive curated cloud content by becoming an Insider.

How Tampa Is Working to Simplify and Streamline its Systems

In 2020, Tampa had little choice but to upgrade its systems. Its older Oracle system wouldn’t be supported much longer. “When you have a hard deadline, like your software is going to its end of life, everyone wants to cooperate,” Haupert says.

The city decided that moving to the Software as a Service-based Oracle Fusion Cloud Applications — which offers enterprise resource management, human capital management (HCM) and supply chain management — would be faster, easier and less expensive to deploy and adapt than alternatives.

“I never have to worry that my system’s getting out of date, and I don’t have to go back and ask for $4 million or $6 million to upgrade it,” Haupert says.

“Being in an environment where those updates happen automatically and having the full weight of Oracle security behind us gave us a lot more comfort,” he adds.

Finally, Tampa had made lots of custom enhancements to its old system, and Haupert was eager to scrap them. The new system is configurable, but Haupert and his team found that most enhancements complicated upgrades and testing without providing benefits. “We’re belying some of the strength of the software just by trying to make people comfortable so things work exactly the way they used to,” he says.

Factoring in what the city paid before, plus needed upgrades, the cost of the new system was a wash. “So, we were winding up with more services, more software and more support for about the same money we were paying before,” Haupert says.

Even during the demo stage, the new system was vastly friendlier than the old one, making self-service functions far more accessible. “The day after we put it in, people were using it, and the call volumes that we were expecting just started to disappear,” Haupert says. “People could process an invoice, approve a promotion or look at their paychecks without calling the IT help desk or HR.”

    Russell Haupert
    We were winding up with more services, more software and more support for about the same money we were paying before.”

    Russell Haupert CIO/CTO and Director, Technology and Innovation, Tampa, Fla.

    This Kansas County Is Finding Success in Recruiting

    Like Tampa, Sedgwick County in Kansas was overdue to replace its decades-old systems, including a homegrown recruiting platform and a SAP finance and HR system. Since the county ran SAP, IT had started looking into SAP’s next-generation HR and financial solutions in 2018.

    Midway through that year, an HR recruiter approached IT because the sheriff’s department had been running into problems trying to recruit job candidates. When IT learned that the SAP SuccessFactors recruiting and onboarding module could be implemented separately from the rest of the HCM suite, staffers stepped up their timeline and began implementing it immediately, says Sedgwick County CIO Mike Elpers.

    The module went live in spring 2019, followed by the larger HCM and payroll modules in December 2020. The county has now implemented six of the 10 modules, and the timing has proved fortuitous: Like agencies across the country, Sedgwick County has seen an uptick in job vacancies, so the pressure has been on to speed the process of posting jobs and vetting candidates, says Chief Human Resources Officer Sheena Schmutz.

    “Our old system was very time-consuming,” Schmutz says. “But departments can now go through applications very easily. It’s been tremendous.”

    It’s also easier from the applicant’s side, Elpers adds. Offering functionalities such as uploading resumes and signing up for text notifications on the application process has helped the county attract more candidates, he adds.

    The old site, which didn’t integrate with sites such as LinkedIn or Indeed, was difficult to use and required a lot of dual entry. “Now, when we’re entering information about the employee coming on board, that flows right into our human capital management system, right into our payroll system,” says Elpers. “It’s just a lot more seamless.”

    Since it’s a cloud-based system, managers can use mobile apps for approvals. “They don’t have to be sitting at their desks,” he adds. “It’s not on a server in our data center that we have to patch every month. There’s just a lot more contemporary functionality.”

    How Los Angeles County Is Modernizing Management

    Los Angeles County has 110,000 active employees across 38 departments, each of which manages its own personnel files. In the past, the paper-based files, which averaged 300 documents apiece, were stored in filing cabinets and shared using couriers and HR staff. To access files, an employee would have to go the facility in the 4,000-square-mile county and meet with someone in HR to view them.

    “As you can imagine, HR staff spent quite a bit of time processing and viewing employee personnel files,” says Los Angeles County Department of Human Resources CIO Roozan Zarifian. Documents also consumed scarce storage space, introduced compliance and security risks, and weren’t conducive to timely response for records requests, she adds.

    That’s just one of many ways that HR functions were hampered by the county’s manual processes. In 2017, in partnership with the county registrar-recorder/county clerk, the HR department used the TextNow platform to create an automated central repository to store digitized records and provide real-time, secure access to employees, supervisors and HR staff across the county. It also streamlined onboarding of new employees through electronic forms with e-signature capability.

    LEARN ABOUT: How state and local governments can best navigate IT hiring.

    Even before then, the county moved to business process automation when it updated its appeals process, which allows job applicants to contest the reasons they were denied jobs. In the past, the approximately 4,000 appeals received annually were submitted via mail or fax.

    “There was no online solution where you could file an appeal and receive confirmation of a successful filing,” Zarifian says. The new automated system filled that gap and enabled claimants to submit supporting documentation into the online application, reducing the amount of time to organize and process an appeal.

    The HR department also worked with the county’s Board of Supervisors to overhaul its investigations case management system, used to research employee complaints. Rather than search disjointed systems to compile reports, the OpenText platform provides automated, centralized, secure access to case information, along with an audit trail and data loss protection, Zarifian explains.

    “It creates a central platform for collaboration and equips departments and other stakeholders with the tools needed to process and complete an investigation in a timely, thorough and efficient manner,” she says.

    Photography by Bob Croslin

    Learn from Your Peers

    What can you glean about security from other IT pros? Check out new CDW research and insight from our experts.