New Virtual Portal Connects Army Command Worldwide
June 29, 2012
The U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM) recently implemented an innovative Microsoft SharePoint portal for its workforce, which will centralize command data and applications to a single location for the first time.
Not only will the new capability enable the reorganization and management of its data dealing with the life-cycle support of communications-electronics systems across the Army, but it will also connect more than 13,000 CECOM employees worldwide.
"The command now has a collaboration tool that the entire workforce is able to use," said Patricia O'Connor, CECOM's Chief Information Officer. "It also serves as a good communications tool to get the word out on what's critical to everyone in the organization at the same time."
The portal was announced to the workforce at a command-wide town hall meeting hosted by Maj. Gen. Robert S. Ferrell, CECOM Commanding General, on 28 June at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. The CECOM Chief Information Office began designing the portal in 2011. The design allows for different levels of information sharing, including command-wide directives, organization-based communications, and internal collaboration among employees, said Linda Vanbemmel, the project manager for CECOM SharePoint implementation.
The CECOM SharePoint is open to all its employees. The main splash page consists of command-wide communications. In addition, personnel in each directorate and staff organization within CECOM can access specific sites in order to conduct internal, daily work that can be kept private and secure. All data for the site is stored at a secure facility in Radford, Va.
"The portal will eliminate a lot of redundancy and streamline processes," said Renee Ullman, content manager for CECOM. "In this time of fiscal and resource constraints for the Army, CECOM as a whole will be able to work smarter and more economically."
Cost Savings for the Command
The centralization of data and applications will also reduce the workload on individual employees by helping to automate processes such as creating weekly activity reports, managing documents and keeping track of deadlines and workflows, O'Connor said.
For example, when entering weekly activity reports, each individual will go into their team site in SharePoint and create a report. The report will automatically transmit to a supervisor. Using the portal, leadership can choose information to roll up to a higher level report, eliminating the need to cut and paste from various e-mails or word documents.
"Right now, because we have data everywhere and because email is our primary communications tool, I think we're working harder than we need to," O'Connor said. "SharePoint will automate processes so it will be easier for employees to do their job and we can save time and money."
Through the portal, O'Connor hopes to realize cost savings for the command by creating a centralized inventory of applications, such as suspense trackers and calendars. In order to achieve an Army directive of data center consolidation, O'Connor plans to eliminate 30-40 percent of existing applications across the command over the next year.
"Because our employees are in disparate locations, stove-piping is our biggest challenge as a command," O'Connor said. "I want each employee to be able to understand everything; all the missions that we do, but also how we do those missions and what tools and products are best used for them."
CECOM plans to eliminate six existing organization-based suspense tracking systems and create a central suspense tracking system for the command on the new SharePoint portal. A master calendar for the command is also currently under development.
Consolidating applications to one command-wide instance will ensure employees are accessing the correct data and collaborating across the world.
Effective Records Management
CECOM is also using their SharePoint capability to begin a large-scale records management initiative to ensure the proper storage and archival of more than three terabytes of data.
Through the portal, employees across the command will be able to work on documents on team and organizational sites. However, once employees declare a draft document as a valid, official Army record, it will transfer to a records management environment within the SharePoint portal and be searchable for the entire command.
Once the record has reached its archival point as determined by the Army records retention schedule, it will either be destroyed or archived into the Army Records Information Management System automatically, said Janet Wallen, records manager for CECOM G-6.
"Because all the records will be in one location, and the process to move it or archive will be automated, it will be easier to track and safeguard our nation's resources," O'Connor said.
All CECOM employees will undergo three hours of training for SharePoint and a records management overview to fully understand the capabilities of the portal. Training classes are offered twice a week in person from July to September, with more dates to follow.
"I want every employee to understand the CECOM mission and the importance of their individual role in the CECOM family, as well as the best way to continue supporting that mission," O'Connor said.