IT strikes-back over “stuffed” Defence payroll claims

The man in charge of IT for the Department of Defence’s payroll and systems has hit out at internal critics and recent press reports allegedly based on leaks that Defence’s PeopleSoft-based PMKeyS payroll application is “stuffed”.

Speaking at PeopleSoft's Australian user conference in Sydney last week, director general of personnel systems at Defence’s personnel executive Peter Lush said recent press reports painting the PMKeyS system functionality as crippled were “wrong”.

Lush labelled recent internal Defence criticism of PMKeyS as cultural “pushback”, which stemmed largely from silo-busting attempts to rationalise Defence's massive administrative burden across all forces.

PMKeyS is the first stage of Defence’s plan to integrate and unify around 20 disparate and internally written legacy payroll applications presently used to cover more than 100,000 military, civilian, reservist and contracted staff scattered across some 700 physical locations in 17 countries.

“We would argue that much of [the recent reporting] is inaccurate. We have been live on the application since October 1999. In that time the civilian workforce has been effectively paid by the application. It rather makes a lie of notions that the PMKeyS is, as one article put it, stuffed. There was a lot of anecdotal commentary that was rubbishing [the system] without any real experience or knowledge,” Lush said.

Lush said while Defence’s civilian payroll was now functioning well, the military and services payrolls would now come across when the department upgraded from PeopleSoft R7 to R8.

Lush conceded Defence had hoped to unify all of its payrolls under R7, but this had not been possible because of the substantial complexity in the way services personnel had entitlements and allowances calculated, as well as the limitations within the software.

This included some 830 different “discreet allowances” which have to co-exist within a given pay bracket for a serving defence force member and which are applied and paid dynamically, with different taxable components.

Compounding this complexity, many such modules run in specific legacy environments which require both rationalization and integration into a single environment.

“It’s not the applications. The applications are the dumb slave. It is we - the users – who are at fault [for the complexity and inconsistency]. Services management realises this.

“Legacy systems do live longer than you want them to. There is a demand to go back and sort out what is wrong with the [business] process. It’s not about glitches in the [PMKeyS] functionality,” Lush said.

As for Lush's view on life with PeopleSoft after the honeymoon is over, it would appear the director general likes to occasionally humour his vendors.

“Life with PeopleSoft has been reasonable…we have both matured. Version 8 is currently going through a definition of requirements…we hope to be live [across all services and civilian payrolls] in July 2006,” he said.

PeopleSoft spokesman Bernard O'Brien said the vendor continued to support the PMKeyS rollout, but declined to comment on the allegation it was "stuffed".

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