FORT CARSON, Colo. -- Family. Teamwork. Mission. Collaboration internally and with customers and peers outside the building. Understanding "we are not perfect." Focus on the Soldier and Army Civilian team - all necessary for success.
The Network Enterprise Center (NEC) of the Year (runner-up, large post), Fort Carson, Colo., leaders and workers also know they must manage change as they listen to, and support, their customers.
"Knowing the mission and caring about the people here at Fort Carson is what we believe in and I believe it is one reason why we were selected as the NEC of the Year [runner-up]," said Shawn Harris, Systems Manager Branch chief at the Fort Carson NEC.
"Exactly, it's customer service," confirmed coworker Ken Brooks, NEC exchange administrator. "We want to try to do what the customer wants to the best standard we can within the guidelines; it matters to us that they get what they want."
Vicki Craig, NEC Policy and Governance, service level manager, agrees that customer service is a hallmark trait of the NEC team, and that is possible because "we're family," she said. She also believes the NEC is architecturally strong and their tactical services are on target.
"They are in tune to what the Soldiers are doing," she said.
Maj. Dawn Longwill, S6, 2nd Brigade, Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, said the NEC team provides a host of services to her units when they go downrange or into the field.
"I just can't say enough good stuff about the tactical support branch," said Longwill. "Any time we give them a requirement they program the switches and get them in place ahead of time before we arrive.
"They drive to Pinon Canyon or out to Camp Red Devil, an hour away. They get it out there and they get it up and running for us."
While she said service and support are not always perfect, they have had very few problems as long as requirements have been coordinated ahead of time.
"And even when it hasn't been coordinated as soon as it should have been on my end, they are quick to jump up and make it happen as soon as possible," said the major.
While she believes the NEC understands the needs of the Soldiers, they serve other customer well, too.
"They also support all of the civilian offices because we have a lot of civilian support on post," said Longwill.
That service is in the here and now. Maj. Longwill and workers at the NEC contribute much of their success to vision, planning, collaboration and innovation.
"They had a lot of innovation in the Lean Six Sigma realm and so they were able to utilize that program to improve their processes and services," said the major.
Brooks and Craig cite collaboration as a key ingredient of the NEC's success.
"One thing I've seen is communication where the rubber meets the road," said Brooks. "The NEC admins [systems administrators] are actually calling other admins. They are asking each other, - 'How are you doing this'' - That's good. We have more close communication and collaboration," he said.
Craig said she believes working closer with other NECs, talking with customers one-on-one, which is paying dividends because the comments from some of the customers has been "eye opening," and talking formally and informally with each other in the NEC is key.
"Hallway conversations are the basis of moving forward," she said. "We have our engineering review board where we get IAs [information assurance] and SAs and even the business section involved, and we have a great configuration change process which holds the pieces together.
"But without the hallway conversations, we would be somewhat disjointed."
On the tactical side of the house, one-on-one and hands on contact unite the NEC with its customers according to Craig.
"We have dedicated folks that help train Soldiers, and we go onsite where they train," she said. "They also rotate through our SA branch and get hands on experience with activating accounts, and other technical and admin support."
Harris believes vision plays a huge part in the NEC's success and selection as a NEC of the Year.
"This organization has vision," he said. "For example, we invested in virtualization ten years ago. There are things we did ten years ago that are making us better today.
"We researched, documented and figured out what will work better not only now but later."
The NEC's deputy director, Frank Davis, believes smart, long-term resourcing contributed to the NEC's consistent improvements and success, but the money, and resources did not come to them automatically.
"We fight for money and we're ready with a vetted laundry list for whenever and from wherever funding becomes available," he said. "We are well resourced, but we have to fight for money just like everybody else."
He also believes being part of the change process is key.
"We try to be part of things so people can hear our voice, he said. "The only way you can make change is to be part of the change; we try to be involved."
Being closely involved with customers helps Davis and his team to better understand their needs. While they use information from the automated Interactive Customer Evaluation system, they also put out feelers locally.
"Not through email, that's non-touchy stuff," he said. "We want to go out and see the commanders and customers eye-to-eye and ask, 'Boss, what can we do for you''"
The NEC team also invites commanders and customers to the NEC, and they provide contact numbers so units can call them when they go downrange to places like Iraq or Afghanistan.
"And we get calls from them, and it's not always during the normal work day," said Davis. "Our folks will stay to help, no questions asked. Teamwork is huge here, and it is not unusual for me to have to kick people out of here at night and tell them to go home; they are dedicated to their jobs. We are here to support the Warfighter."
With a recent influx of 20,000 people to the Fort Carson area, a military construction program of $2.8 billion slated through FY15 and the deployments of Carson-based units, the post has huge demands for information technology (IT) according to Col. John Keenan, deputy garrison commander (transformation).
"We are an IT-dependent Army, and the support the NEC provides is crucial," he said. "The ability of the NEC to support us when we need help, whether it is for one individual system having difficulty or a system-wide improvement on the IT structure for the installation, the NEC has been proactive and responsive to our needs."
The Fort Carson NEC is part of 7th Signal Command (Theater), headquartered at Fort Gordon, Ga., and reports directly to the 106th Signal Brigade, Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
About 7th Signal Command (Theater)... 7th Signal Command (Theater) provides and defends network capabilities and services for Army, Joint, Interagency and Multinational forces in the Western Hemisphere to enable operations and battle command. One Team Aca,!" One Network!