Army launches new field support reporting system for Soldiers
December 19, 2013
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ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (December 19, 2013) -- For the first time, Soldiers can resolve field support issues with their weapon systems by creating a single automated trouble ticket.
The new capability integrates three existing trouble ticketing systems, creating a seamless online reporting form accessed through an Army unit's SharePoint system so it is intuitive and easily accessible to Soldiers. Known as the Unified Trouble Ticketing System (UTTS), the capability is linked to larger Army efforts to simplify the tactical communications network for users, streamline Network Operations (NetOps) tools used to oversee and manage the network and realign levels of field support needed to train Soldiers and troubleshoot systems.
"Anyone who knows how to use SharePoint can use UTTS," said Sergeant Bill Hill, Brigade S6 Helpdesk Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC) with the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division (2/1 AD) who used the system during the Army's recent Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) 14.1. "This system gives the Soldier more responsibility. They know they must exhaust all avenues before the trouble ticket is advanced to a Field Service Representative (FSR)."
The Army launched UTTS for evaluation during the NIE 14.1 held at Fort Bliss, Texas, which concluded in November. At the NIE, Soldiers with the 2/1 AD were able to use the automated system to report and track more than 1,000 trouble tickets during the month-long exercise designed to assess and integrate new technologies and incorporate Soldier feedback to improve and simplify network systems. Restoring service and resolving trouble tickets at the lowest echelon possible is an essential part of the NIE process, producing data the Army can use to measure system performance, Soldier proficiency and training effectiveness.
"The overall goal is to get help quicker to the Soldier on the ground," Hill said. "This brings much faster support at the brigade level so Soldiers resolve issues at a much quicker pace, with more efficiency overall."
UTTS ensures a trouble ticket is managed at the most effective level of field support for any product in the Army's command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) family of systems. Tickets originate on the unit's SharePoint portal. From there, they can be escalated through the Army's Single Interface to the Field (SIF) capability, ensuring requests are routed to the appropriate support team. The SIF also then serves as the 'switch' to route the ticket and accompanying details to the right help desk at higher echelons, if required.
For example, if a Soldier enters a report about a startup error with a C4ISR software application, the ticket would first be worked among subject matter experts in the unit. If it couldn't be resolved at the user level, then the same ticket would be escalated to the SIF or enterprise level, while preserving the trouble-shooting history attempted by the unit. Prior to UTTS, there were separate processes and tools for trouble tickets at the unit level, C4ISR tactical support level and enterprise level. If a ticket had to be escalated between the three domains, a new ticket was created at each level, losing the prior history information.
"UTTS enhances the unit's SharePoint so it knows how to talk to the SIF's C4ISR routing system," said Dan Hamilton, SIF project lead for the Army's Program Executive Office Command, Control and Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T) Military Technical Solutions Office (MilTech), where Product Director (PD) SIF is assigned. "It essentially provides a simple and manageable bridge between field support on the SharePoint side with the more sophisticated capability on the enterprise side."
UTTS supports an increased need for automated and simplified Network Operations (NetOps) capabilities that help signal officers manage the "big picture" of network functionality. The Army is gradually reducing the number of NetOps tool sets that exist for individual systems and domains, allowing the integrated network to be managed more holistically.
"UTTS gives real-time situational awareness on every single trouble ticket across the battalion," Hill said.
Using an automated reporting form, Soldiers can quickly fill in relevant information for a support ticket, while continuing their evaluations in the field.
The UTTS tool is also a critical element of a new field support paradigm that the C4ISR community is implementing to realign Field Service Representatives (FSRs) and shift technical knowledge to the Soldier. As part of the new model, Soldiers would be responsible for operating and maintaining the majority of C4ISR equipment.
"Right now, a lot of the knowledge that Soldiers enter about a ticket - and what they have done to troubleshoot that issue up to the point it is escalated - is lost when they create a new ticket or reach out to the next level of support," said Ray Maxwell, SIF readiness management lead. "With UTTS, once a ticket is escalated to the FSR level they'll know exactly what has already been done to troubleshoot that issue, saving time and reducing workload."
UTTS not only allows Soldiers to process a service trouble ticket but also monitor investigations, post a diagnosis and record the resolution of a service incident.
"So the FSR gets better information, but the Soldiers themselves are also able to review the actions that the FSR or enterprise did to fix the problem," Hamilton said. "Now the next time that issue comes up, they won't have to reach out and escalate the issue because they know what the FSR has done and they can troubleshoot it themselves."
UTTS is scheduled to be evaluated again at NIE 14.2 and rolled out to Army units next fall.