How the Army's new pay system upgrade could improve talent management

The Army is planning to field an app-friendly human resources system that could hold the data needed to improve its workforce.

abstract view of data (agsandrew/

The Army is betting that a commitment to data may prove essential to diversifying and strengthening the workforce.

"We're really focused on data in the Army right now. So one of our key points to all components and to commanders and units is you really have to focus on the correctness of your HR data," Col. Gregory Johnson, the division chief of IPPS-A's functional management division, told FCW during the Association for the U.S. Army's virtual annual conference Oct. 13.

"We live and die by data in this program. The better the data is, the easier this test is gonna be and the easier the rollout is gonna be in December 2021."

The Army released an updated Integrated Personnel and Pay System-Army (IPPS-A), the service's online human resources system, in March to about 300,000 users. The legacy system has been revamped to an app-friendly capability that allows soldiers and commanders to track promotions, mobilizations, reduce paperwork and functionally replace multiple legacy systems that were used throughout the Army.

The third iteration, called Release 3, is on track to roll out for the rest of the Army including the active and Reserve components, about 1.1 million users, by December 2021.

Johnson said the third version of the system, Release 3, is built and has gone through initial testing, which will increase starting in November, "which will really give us a really good sense of where we are, how well the system is built and any areas that we need to focus on before we start to add users" from across the Army by mid-2021.

But while the new system promises less paperwork for personnel with things like leave, it could also improve workforce efforts, such as diversity and inclusion initiatives to improve team-building.

Roy Wallace, the assistant deputy chief of staff for Personnel (G1) said the updated IPPS-A increases Army leaders' visibility into the workforce with thousands of different data pieces that weren't readily available before.

"The kind of work that we're doing now for diversity and inclusion and talent management -- one of the things that I believe is true is that you can't manage talent unless you can see it," or rather the data, Wallace said.

"We'll be able to tell about 2,500 different attributes pieces of data on each one of those soldiers and many of them don't exist today, which will allow us to put the right person in the right place at the right time and to move between our components."

The effort complements the Army's use of automation to improve accuracy in officer assignments, which also attempts to capture information about personnel that isn't readily gleaned from job titles and certifications.

"We're creating this holistic profile in IPPS-A by consolidating that data. So today, without it, you really don't track knowledge, skills and behaviors of individuals, you track them by their [military occupational specialty] and their skill level inside their HR record, you really can't see these other talents," Johnson said.

"For instance, I have several team members on my team --they're coders, they're database experts, they come from very different backgrounds. But all that kind of information, those skills, they're not tracked in our HR systems."

IPPS-A, once completed, could change that as standardized data allows Army leaders to check their progress from a single source.

"We really don't have structured data in the HR space that's really clean right now, and part of the effort of IPPS-A is to transition that data into a structured format," Wallace said.

"We're gonna start to learn a heck of a lot more about our own population and then you can really start to think about other policies, et cetera, more holistically."