DEA to re-engineer core apps

The Drug Enforcement Administration selected five vendors late last month to help the agency modernize its core applications, providing DEA agents with Web-based access to data from multiple systems.

The first phase of the modern- ization program, known as Concorde, focuses on the business process re-engineering of the agency's investigative and case management work. The DEA not only wants to upgrade its technology projects but also change how its agents work so they can take full advantage of the technology.

Other phases of the project include testing, configuration and change management; product deployment and help-desk support; design, development and documentation; and operations and maintenance.

Under the first task order, Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. will analyze the Investigative Management Program and Case Tracking system, which reports and manages data collected during investigations.

According to DEA research, despite the use of electronic case files and other technology, as much as 75 percent of case management work involves paperwork.

Booz Allen Hamilton will examine the system and make recommendations on how to improve the processes and technology.

"We're taking a look at the as-is, then we hypothesize on the to-be, looking for process-improvement opportunities," said Adolph DiSandro, a principal with the company and DEA program manager. "What can we do in the short term that would help them improve business?"

The DEA still relies on paper processes for gathering crime data, monitoring case status and tracking seized evidence, and the agency is looking to automate those processes, said Al Dunn, director of Praxis Engineering Technologies Inc., a Booz Allen Hamilton subcontractor.

Praxis will design, develop and implement the software to support the automated process, which is the second of five phases included in the Concorde project.

"Paperwork goes way down, information gets to people right away and the workforce is automated," Dunn said.

DEA officials could not be reached for comment on the contract.

Investigations were improved in the 1990s, when the agency fielded the Firebird local-area network, which provided electronic case files, e-mail and Web computing. However, agents still spend much of their time on data entry rather than analysis.

The business process re-engineering forces the DEA to re-examine their mission and how it's carried out, said Derril Watts, chief executive officer of Mountain Home Training and Consulting Inc., which is based in Huntsville, Ala., and provides agencies with training in business process re-engineering.

"They have to start with the concept process: What is the real reason for the DEA to exist?" he said. "Re-engineering is really going back to those processes."

The project will refocus the agency on its mission, Watts said, which should improve efficiency and reduce operating costs. If successful, the effort will help create an environment of innovation that should sustain increased performance over time, he said.

Watts said culture is 80 percent of the challenge facing DEA officials, who must convince employees that the new pro-cesses are desirable. "All of a sudden, you're going to be doing a fundamental change in process," he said. Employees "are going to resist the change if they do not understand why the change is happening and how it will affect them."

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