Navy open for e-business

With little fanfare but high expectations, the Navy will officially open

the doors to its new eBusiness Operations Office this month.

The office will serve two separate but related purposes, said Rear Adm.

Linda Bird, director of the eBusiness Operations Office and vice commander

of the Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP), based in Mechanicsburg, Pa.

The office will centralize operational control for certain e-commerce

programs — including smart cards and purchase cards — and infuse emerging

e-business technologies into Navy and Marine Corps programs. The anticipated

result is better business processes and services.

"We will be pretty much open for business [this month] starting to work

on two areas: credit cards and trans-actions," Bird said. "We will transition

those programs into the e-business office of program management starting

this fall."

Each program will have its own transition plan. Centralizing transactions

and card programs will provide a consistent and integrated management approach,

ensure a single voice to customers and contractors, deliver goods and services

more efficiently and facilitate the evolution to future technological solutions,

according to the eBusiness Operations Office charter signed late last month

by Navy Secretary Richard Danzig.

The office will also have an e-business Office of Innovation and Technology.

"We're looking at marrying up e-business opportunities with the new technology

that's out there," Bird said. "We're looking at those e-business opportunities

where a command has an issue, something they think e-business technology

can improve. We'll identify those projects and put some money" into them.

The Navy wants the new office to act as its "e-business catalyst for

change," according to its charter. That includes identifying "industry innovations"

and providing consulting services and business support for Navy organizations

as they develop and roll out their e-business programs.

In addition, the office will have $20 million per year to invest in

e-business pilot projects throughout the Navy and Marine Corps. The money

will come from the Supply Corps component of the working capital fund, not

from commands' budget reductions.

"If a command would like to try something but cannot afford to put it

on a pilot to see if it can work, this may be an opportunity to do that,"

Bird said. "We can do a pilot in 90 or 120 days. We can provide the resources,

technology, the support contractor. If it's successful, then it goes back

to [the command] for implementation." Bird said the office will ask Navy

commands to identify pilot programs for review and potential funding regularly.

The eBusiness Operations Office will be staffed with civilian and military

personnel and supported by a "robust" contractor. The Supply Corps and NAVSUP

are recognized Navywide as "Navy's business managers," Bird said, which

is why the new office was established as part of NAVSUP.

Having an e-business champion is necessary for progress. "Unless you

have a catalyst for change, someone who is leading the way and championing

the way to do business, it's very difficult to get it done," said Michael

Mestrovich, president and CEO of Unlimited New Dimensions LLC. "There is

so much culture you have to overcome that creating a new organization is

the way to go." Having a high-ranking officer involved makes a big difference,

he added.

The best way to break cultural barriers is to adapt industry best practices

to government, Mestrovich said. "Government creates its own climate," he

said. "They change technology to make it fit government. If they can adapt,

look how much they could save."

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