DLA re-engineering ahead of schedule

The Defense Logistics Agency is ahead of schedule on its massive Business Systems Modernization project despite the cultural obstacles facing implementation, said the agency's vice director, Rear Adm. Raymond Archer III.

The modernization project is designed to enable DLA to achieve business objectives while supporting improved military readiness through rapid access to logistics information. The first part of the re-engineering effort is scheduled to go live in July with about 150,000 line items and $500 million in sales, Archer said during a speech before the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association's Washington, D.C., chapter Feb. 5.

This is not an enterprise resource planning installation or just a legacy system replacement, Archer said.

"This is re-engineering how we do business," he said.

The keys to making the project work are:

* Focusing on and collaborating with the customer, as opposed to focusing on the function or product.

* Eliminating the community-based stovepipes prevalent throughout the Defense Department and DLA.

* Adopting commercial best practices using commercial off-the-shelf products.

"We're inflexible, we're expensive, but we're still doing pretty well," said Archer, referring to the DLA's role in supporting U.S. troops overseas and its success rates of about 85 percent. He said the agency already was successful since updating the business processes related to food and pharmaceuticals.

Changing the internal and external culture related to the agency's mission has been the most difficult part of the modernization. New business practices mean new rules, and that requires managers and other personnel who achieved their current positions based on old rules to either change or be left behind, Archer said.

Change is the far better option, because all of DLA's legacy systems will be replaced via the modernization project once it's complete in fiscal 2005, Archer said.

"The new business practices [featuring commercial supply chains] basically nullify the policymakers," said Archer, adding that has caused resistance to the project by some officials in the Pentagon.

Archer and other DLA officials, including Mae De Vincentis, the chief information officer, are in the middle of a communication and educational tour to prepare the thousands of agency employees that will be affected by the modernization project. He said the next two town hall meetings would take place this week in Philadelphia and Susquehanna, Pa.

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