By Jacob Kriss, CECOM Public AffairsOctober 23, 2019
Editor's note: The joint force is preparing for large-scale combat across land, sea, air, space and cyberspace. Under the Multi-Domain Operations concept, Army Material Command, or AMC, has reorganized and reshaped to ensure readiness of the Strategic Support Area, where military might is generated, projected and sustained during the fight. As a major subordinate command of AMC, the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command, or CECOM, is contributing to Strategic Support Area readiness in four focus areas: Supply Availability and Equipment Readiness, Industrial Base Readiness, Strategic Power Projection and Logistics Information Readiness. This article is the final in a series highlighting each priority.
Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. -- Data is the lifeblood of any large, complex organization -- its most critical natural resource. The U.S. Army is no exception. It relies on its data not only to ensure Soldiers are equipped with the resources they need to achieve their missions, but to glean insights, plan for the future and make better business decisions to save taxpayer dollars.
But when data is separated across multiple systems -- and worse yet, when support structures for connected systems are divided across the same fault lines -- Army business users can be sapped of their ability to deliver the precision logistics the 21st century battlefield demands. As the Army modernizes to focus on near-peer adversaries, the CECOM Software Engineering Center, or SEC, is reimagining how it sustains enterprise resource planning systems, or ERPs, in which Army data is organized.
Leading the Way to Reform
Since they were introduced beginning in the early 2000s, ERPs have grown into complex ecosystems of people, processes and technology. They now house much of the data used across the Strategic Support Area, from physical equipment to transportation to finance. But because they are often stovepiped and duplicative, so too are their support operations, such as software updates and service desks. This leads to inefficiencies and higher costs.
That's all about to change. The SEC's initiative, known as the Shared Services Center, will bring centralized ERP support teams and standardized tools and processes together under one roof. This effort complements the work AMC and Program Executive Office Enterprise Information Systems are now undertaking to better connect ERPs to improve Soldiers' and civilians' ability to get the data they need.
"Our goal is to bring more efficiency to ERP sustainment through fiscal years 2021 to 2025," said Michelle Dirner, SEC Army Shared Services Center director. "It's all about reducing costs, increasing readiness and bringing more value to business users to enable them to better do their jobs."
In-House and External Expertise
Emulating software best practices used in private industry, the Shared Services Center is focused on creating a common DevOps platform for all ERPs. This will incorporate a single environment for agile software development and continuous delivery, integration and testing, all informed by constant user feedback. It also envisions a single enterprise service desk for all ERPs and empowering a set of "super users" who can solve many business process challenges on their own.
Working with industry partners is important to the Shared Services Center, Dirner said. In December 2019, CECOM will award a major ERP support contract that consolidates 11 previous contracts. Simultaneously, the Shared Services Center is hiring more employees to build its organic in-house support capacity and reduce reliance on contractors.
The Culture Connection
Dirner said that in addition to changes in technology and processes, driving to the envisioned Shared Services Center end state requires a culture change. For example, she noted that before the Logistics Modernization Program, an ERP, transitioned to SEC sustainment, user representatives were so focused on system enhancements that they were unaware of the scale of business operations the system handles every day.
"That showed us that we needed to educate our workforce to foster organizational buy-in," she said. "When there are Soldiers depending on us to help get them the equipment that they need, we have an imperative to change."
ERPs that the Shared Services Center will support include the Logistics Modernization Program and Army Enterprise Systems Integration Program, which have already transitioned to capability support, and the Global Combat Support System-Army, which is in the process of transitioning. The General Fund Enterprise Business System will transition in 2022.