“Seventy percent of corporate transformation efforts are doomed to fail.” International change leader and Harvard Business School professor Dr. John Kotter made this dire assertion more than 25 years ago, and it has since proved very prescient. With the Army embarking on one of its largest business system transformations, the Enterprise Business Systems-Convergence (EBS-C) team needed to find a way to defy Kotter’s alarming prediction and optimize the Army’s business activities to support the warfighter. Enter a concept known as co-creation.
Co-creation is defined by Renée Dineen, a bestselling author, and organizational psychologist, as “the intentional and yet organic process of bringing together different groups and perspectives to jointly produce a mutually valued outcome.”
Co-creation means flipping the script in a digital transformation. Do not build buy-in after you design, develop, and test new technology. Instead, co-create change from day one. Rather than peddling change after the fact in deployment, co-creation requires participation from those who understand the processes and needs of the business from the very beginning of the project. In the case of Enterprise Business Systems-Convergence (EBS-C), that means not conducting business as usual and breaking down silos. Let’s begin with an introduction to EBS-C.
What is EBS-C?
The current suite of Army Enterprise Business Systems (EBS) was state-of-the-art when they were introduced, but in today’s environment, they lack the agility and capacity to seamlessly share information among systems and commands. As the Army increases its efforts to improve tactical and strategic readiness and modernize its business systems, the requirements and approaches supporting EBS must be modernized to improve business execution, data and data analytics value, and cloud computing advances while reducing ownership costs.
On March 26, 2020, the Under Secretary of the Army chartered EBS-C to deliver a modernized war-fighting capability that enables integrated and auditable sustainment operations from the strategic support area to the tactical edge of the battlefield, enabling decision making by Soldiers, the civilian workforce, and leaders at every echelon.
EBS-C is slated to combine at least four of the Army’s Enterprise Resource Planning programs and massively improve system agility, capacity, speed, and efficiency. The General Fund Enterprise Business System, Global Combat Support System-Army, Logistics Modernization Program, and Army Enterprise Systems Integration Program hub are the primary systems being considered for convergence.
The new system, with an intention to go live within the next 10 years, would tap into advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotic process automation, and constantly learning algorithms. These are all variables that would enable and support business process transformation. That said, the most important variable for EBS-C are the stakeholders—the hundreds of thousands of Soldiers and civilians that process more than 75 million business transactions annually. Globally, this amounts to more than 190,000 users interacting with platforms that impact every aspect of the Army’s business operations, from ordering supplies in theater to supporting maintenance activities in garrison.
Organizational Change Management as the Key to Co-Creation
Given that co-creation is not the natural state of large and complex digital transformations, EBS-C began with the proposition that business as usual would not lead to success. After all, the Army is fundamentally changing its business practices and processes, not to mention its technology. EBS programs of the past delivered many accomplishments and opportunities for improvement.
Leveraging this legacy sweat, EBS-C is executing an approach based on the inclusion of key stakeholders in all aspects of the project and every phase of the lifecycle. To aid in this effort of busting traditional silos, the Army created the EBS multi-functional capabilities team (EBS-MFCT) to bring the functional community together to drive requirements for the future system, rather than organizations separated by function. To foster the inclusion of stakeholders in systematic ways on this difficult journey, the Army added a small but important team to the project—the Organizational Change Management (OCM) team—the central engine for co-creation. The Association of Change Management Professionals defines change management as “the practice of applying a structured approach to the transition of an organization from current state to future state to achieve expected benefits.” EBS-C would be the largest business modernization effort in Army history and would transform the core of how the Army does business. This type of transformation does not happen on its own, nor can it be created in a vacuum. The OCM team, with a mission to deliver tools and techniques to drive cultural change and build relationships needed to maximize change adoption, focuses on placing humans at the center of the change to mitigate common causes of failure.
Methods and Tools
To frame these efforts, the team developed its own change approach, inspired by best practices and research in the fields of change management, organizational development, applied behavioral sciences, and neuroscience. Several change methodologies and process theories influenced the development of the OCM team’s approach, including heavy inspiration from John Kotter, whose ‘Eight Steps to Change’ has become part of Army doctrine, culminating in an approach that is definitively “People First.”
Kotter’s eight-steps outline the journey organizations should consider when implementing large-scale change. These steps include:
- Create a sense of urgency
- Build a guiding coalition
- Form a strategic vision and initiatives
- Enlist a volunteer army
- Enable action by removing barriers
- Generate short-term wins
- Sustain acceleration
- Institute change
The OCM team is either leading or supporting every facet of Kotter’s methodology in its approach and applying it in an iterative manner for each phase of the project lifecycle. One example is the creation of a change coalition. Set to launch this fall, the EBS-MFCT change coalition will be a set of three different stakeholder groups to serve various purposes. Whether it is a coordination of senior leadership or change advocates who understand and value the project, the change coalition will be one, if not the most, important effort led by the OCM team.
One of the processes the OCM teams will utilize to help with such behavior change and its effort to co-create is human centered design (HCD). Global Design Firm IDEO defines HCD as “a process that starts with the people you’re designing with and ends with new solutions that are purpose-built to suit their needs. It is about cultivating deep empathy with the people you are designing with; generating ideas; building prototypes; sharing what you have made together; and eventually, putting your innovative solutions into the world.”
Co-Creation in Action
The OCM team is mindful that when leveraging the various change methodologies, tools, theories, and approaches that enable the transition from current to future state, the end goal is to help people adapt their behavior, one person at a time. Those impacted by the change need to understand the value and the why of the change in order to respond, but more importantly, be instrumental in the change process.
Stanford Professor Benham Tabrizi says it best in his Harvard Business Review article titled, Digital Transformation is Not About Technology, where he highlights key lessons that have helped organizations successfully traverse digital transformations. Two of these lessons are to “leverage insiders” and “design customer experience from the outside in,” both central to co-creating change. Although the project is early in its lifecycle the OCM team has already applied these principles in collaborations across the project—by developing guiding principles (as listed below), infusing organizational change into business process reengineering (BPR), and establishing foundational feedback loops with stakeholders—to enable co-creation from the beginning.
- Challenge the Status Quo. Break the boundaries of what is possible and challenge the way things have “always been done.”
- Value People First. Create value in partnership with the EBS community to benefit the warfighter and workforce.
- Embrace Change. Adopt a growth mindset in all actions that enables the team to improvise, adapt, and overcome.
- Practice Radical Honesty. Embrace productive conflict to drive productive disruption. Foster a safe environment to share and challenge ideas. Communicate with authenticity, respect, and truthfulness.
- Create One Team, One Fight, One Product. Seek out partnerships, erase the line between “us and them,” and use lessons learned from those who have come before to achieve a common mission.
Business Process Reengineering
BPR is an excellent conduit for co-creation. As illustrated in EBS-C business reengineering graphic, BPR efforts take a holistic view of current and future states, and considers the people, process, information, policy, and technology impacts to fix problems and achieve goals. During these efforts, the project team, in coordination with the OCM team, works with and for the warfighter and those that support them. Specifically, during the BPR effort, project leaders look to analyze current and design the future workflows and business processes, being mindful that the analysis and processes impact stakeholders. The progressive action taken as part of the EBS-C BPR effort is that the processes are designed with the stakeholder in mind and with stakeholder contribution. In other words, end-users are not coming to understand the future state when it impacts them but are helping design what the future state looks like. The first round of BPR, conducted in 2021, included more than 400 stakeholders who contributed their expertise over seven months and produced 514 change impacts that will contribute toward the successful implementation of EBS-C. Preparations for a new round of BPR are already on the way.
The EBS-C transformation could potentially impact the entire Army, affecting how units maintain property and equipment, order parts and supplies, move themselves, and, quite possibly, touch every business segment. This is especially important for how the Army’s industrial base plants, depots, arsenals, and sites could use it to sustain the force and ensure strategic readiness. EBS-C would change how the Army trains Soldiers in schools and units. Because of the broad, and relatively sudden impact, there are potential changes to how the Army prepares civilian workers around the globe. Civilians enable Army readiness by supporting Soldiers and working on staffs in every command and theater. Only by getting feedback and buy-in from this vast array of stakeholders will the Army realize the full capabilities of this unprecedented, end-to-end business system.
For example, TRADOC’s Combined Arms Support Command (CASCOM) at Fort Lee, Virginia, is already considering stakeholders’ user experience (UX) and training. CASCOM is part of the EBS-C team and is focused on UX. Russ Coughenour, a CASCOM enterprise training analyst, said, “We’re not just developing training requirements with the end-user ‘in mind,’ we’re developing requirements with the end-user today.” Russ’ involvement and his command’s co-creation efforts at this early stage is a testament to the importance of considering end-users for a yet-to-be-identified system. In partnership with the OCM team, CASCOM, Army Material Command, and many other commands are approaching EBS-C as a Total Army requirement.
Additional ways the OCM team establishes feedback loops is via its leadership of the EBS-C monthly forum and Microsoft (MS) Teams channel. The forum is a virtual meeting with action officers throughout the community to share high-level program efforts and an opportunity for stakeholders to ask questions. The MS Teams “EBS Convergence Portal” was recently established to share EBS-C 101 information, news, and a sub-channel with links and recordings of the monthly forum. This portal is open to all A365 users.
The OCM team is not alone in its feedback loop efforts. It collaborates with the EBS-C strategic communications group composed of the EBS-C strategic communications team and public affairs office representatives from all major stakeholder commands. Together, they craft messaging to share project information and, even more importantly, opportunities to listen to stakeholders via periodic polls.
Digital transformations, co-creation, human centered design, change management, business process reengineering—they are all approaches, methodologies, and tools to help guide and transform organizations. Central to all of these is that people are the primary variable for achieving transformation. Moreover, when end-users are asked to co-create from the start of the change journey, success is even more possible.
EBS-C deployment might seem a long way off, but one variable remains constant—transformation success is greatly increased when stakeholders impacted by the change, also design the transformation—via co-creation, from day one.
Who to contact/what to follow?
To learn more and keep abreast of EBS-C efforts, follow the EBS-C LinkedIn page as well as the EBS Convergence Portal via A365. For the latter, you’ll find general information, news as well as a link to join the monthly forum, hosted every third Wednesday at 3 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. To join the team, use code “85smlxy.”
Michcell Shoultz leads the organizational change management team for Enterprise Business Systems-Convergence. Shoultz graduated from the Naval Postgraduate School with a Master of Science in Systems Engineering Management. She is a Certified Business Process Management Professional, trained in Lean Six Sigma and Capability Maturity Model Integration. Shoultz has worked in industry and Joint organizations and is a former U.S. Army intelligence analyst.
This article was published in the Summer 2022 issue of Army Sustainment.