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Industry Can Help Leapfrog the DoD to Standard Business Operations

Originally published June 20, 2006

The U.S. Department of Defense has two primary mission objectives: to defend the United States and its people; and to accelerate a bold transformation of the U. S. Military to counter 21st century threats. The DoD's transformation is intended to be high-impact and far-reaching into every facet of doctrine, mission and support capability. Toward these objectives, the transformation also extends across all current business operations within and beyond the department to deal with all processes and business functions throughout the military departments and defense agencies from the lowest organizational level through the highest.

The new DoD Business Transformation Agency (BTA) is responsible for enterprise-wide transformation of business operations into a more streamlined, integrated business environment that is information-driven, standards-based, interoperable, cost-effective, and concurrently responsive to war fighter needs and management decision making. This highly efficient “to-be” environment will be driven by standard information and business rules, enabled through commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) software and best practices. Utilizing a comprehensive business enterprise architecture (BEA) as a road map, hundreds of DoD legacy financial and feeder systems are being replaced with emerging new, modern systems that support commonality, true return on investment for the Department, common data and business processes. Moreover, BTA oversight and governance process will foster commitment, collaboration, equity and leverage of critical resources across the services. This will facilitate true jointness across not only war fighting commands, but also day-to-day business operations. Ultimately, this aggressive and highly complex undertaking will enable better decision making for the benefit of the war fighter, and fiscal accountability for Congress and the American taxpayers.

There now exists a unique convergence of circumstances to enable the DoD to accelerate transformation and leapfrog ahead in its modernization goals, contingent upon industry’s understanding and willingness to conform to agreed-to standards and commonality. Critical expectations from leadership for rapid efficiencies and savings, emerging strategic guidance/requirements from the BTA, the disparity across DoD agencies in terms of standardization, system/process viability/currency and organization readiness put a lot of pressure on government officials without “pattern recognition” of the path forward and the pitfalls to circumvent. The critical success factor to acceleration of outcomes is standardization across the enterprise – of business rules, processes, information, systems, performance metrics, reports, technical protocols and integration/interfaces. Industry – both solutions and professional services providers – can substantially assist the government by embracing and incorporating these standards into their value propositions with these realities in mind. This is particularly important given that current guidance from BTA directs each DoD agency to essentially determine their own requirements, select among approved solutions, resource and fund their efforts, integrate with DoD-mandated systems and navigate the internal review board (IRB) approval process.

Federal information and systems requirements (e.g., joint financial management improvement program/JFMIP for federal financial systems], Web-based technology and traditional implementation/training/change management techniques are no longer valuable or sufficient to leapfrog the DoD into this standard business operations environment. Functional and technical similarities across ERPs, as well as high complexity, are driving government decision makers to look for other risk mitigators and key distinguishers in making their selections. Industry providers that craft capabilities to enable DoD components to implement faster, more economically, and with a truly “on-board,” trained organization highly skilled in the contemporary processes, terminology and integrated view of their business/mission can dominate the market. These business solutions will include heavily leverageable offerings such as standardized configurations, interfaces, conversion processes, training and change enablement/communication tools.

However, industry has yet to internalize the need for and sustain the critical upfront investment necessary to offer truly standardized capabilities that can be easily, persuasively demonstrated; effectively, quickly implemented; sufficiently, expertly staffed; and that can be extremely powerful in today’s DoD market. Have these firms been daunted by the level of investment to achieve this positioning? Are they skeptical at this point of finalization and therefore unwilling to take these crucial steps to support standardization? Have they dedicated sufficient resources and sustained focus to systematically determine what would be required and the associated level of investment? Or, have they been waiting for BTA or individual DoD agencies to provide additional guidance?

To determine the required investment and achieve this positioning, many firms are likely closer than they realize. Given the number of completed implementations and the products from these, the functional and technical similarities across the existing COTS solutions, the published outputs to date of the business modernization management program (BMMP) and its associated BEA, much can be achieved from dedicating a relatively small, core group of experts to move existing products, tools and processes to a standard, reusable level and packaging these products into a very clear, persuasive and practical solution. In parallel, subsidizing this effort with expanding the pool of strong expertise in federal business processes, BMMP products to date, and how to apply the firm’s resulting standard solution is critical. How many implementation teams have faced the situation where the contractor team’s staff is learning these areas as they go…formally or informally? Combined with the government team’s staff most often in this same situation, how can true standardization, efficiencies and improvements be achieved within an agency, let alone across DoD agencies?

Following are considerations in several key areas in which firms may already be close to having a set of uniform, disciplined products to incorporate into an overall standard, reusable solution. These considerations can help enable firms to determine the level of investment required to position them to be able to provide a more powerful value proposition in today’s DoD market:

  • Application configuration
  • Interface configuration
  • Conversion processes
  • Training and change enablement
  • Management processes

Providers that select a well-honed, reusable package of standard products and tools (rather than the 1990s/early 2000s “product/implementation approach”) combined with people who are more specifically trained upfront in these products, tools, and the environment will be able to get ahead of the typical implementation challenges that have resulted in a portfolio of mediocre results.

Such an all-encompassing, standardized solution offering could also potentially have the effect of demonstrating the benefits of:

  1. Lower investment for the first agency to move forward with this type of solution and, thus, quicker launch of the first initiative (i.e., lessening “let’s not go first, as our agency will incur a heavier investment to figure things out and develop standardized configurations” concerns), and
  2. Modeling a cross-agency solution-selection and implementation process.

Involvement in government business/financial management improvement efforts for almost 20 years (and now viewing the current DoD situation from a further distance, both role- and location-wise) has crystallized in our minds the critical need for heavier upfront investment on both the industry and government sides in producing the strongest-possible standard, reusable, pre-definable processes, tools, skills and techniques. Yes, this perspective may be somewhat colored with frustrated conjecture and hard-gained knowledge from experiencing single-agency-sized “partial successes” (and “less-than-successes”) from applying (or not applying) these approaches. However, given the vast complexities and unforeseen challenges injected into any IT effort by less-controllable factors, such upfront investment can enable programs to succeed, and ultimately spend less throughout the overall effort, where others swirl into far-less-than-optimal results.

  • Debra Del MarDebra Del Mar

    Debra is Managing Partner of Vanguard Advisors, LLC, and a recognized defense industry senior executive and thought leader with more than 20 years of experience creating innovative business strategies to drive quantum growth in the defense and intelligence sectors of the government market areas.

    She founded Vanguard Advisors, LLC in 2003 as a recognized woman-owned small business. Prior to forming Vanguard, she was a Vice President with one of defense industry's largest ERP/software and professional services firms - responsible for all aspects of business strategy, P&L management, client relationship/satisfaction, large opportunity creation/capture, as well as program management, delivery and execution.

    Editor's note: More defense articles, resources, news and events are available in the Business Intelligence Network's Defense Channel. Be sure to visit today!

  • Amy Potosnak

    Amy consults part-time with Vanguard Advisors, LLC focusing on federal financial management transformation dependent on the application of IT and “end-to-end” BPR. Formerly, as a VP and GM of a leading systems integrator’s Federal FM practice, she oversaw all activities associated with delivering strategic, large-scale IT solutions with integrated BPR and FM consulting to major federal agencies. She has led worldwide Web-based solution implementation and consulting engagements for organizations including DFAS, CIA, NRO, USDA and IRS.

 

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