Forces make transformation strides

To better support warfighters on the front lines of battle, the Air Force and Marine Corps are working to transform and modernize their logistics business processes and information technology systems.

The Air Force is using a spiral development process in which the service is rolling programs out in small steps and refining its processes and systems as it progresses toward the desired end state, said Kenneth Percell, chief technology officer at Air Force Materiel Command.

Speaking Feb. 4 at a defense logistics conference in Arlington, Va., Percell said the Air Force will accept anywhere from a 30 percent to 80 percent solution in a spiral as long as the result is an improvement on the current system.

As an example, the Air Force recently revamped the process for unit type codes (UTC), which list the duties an individual will be required to perform for a war deployment. The former process had been in use since the 1940s as a seven-part paper folder. Now, the UTC is held on a card that can fit in a wallet and includes addresses of Web sites that offer pre-deployment information.

In revising the UTC process, defining the business rules and workflow paths took about 96 days to complete, the IT and software configuration took only three days, and the subsequent training for users and administrators took another 96 days, Percell said. He added that those cycle times are reflective of the fact that IT is an enabler in this area and is often not difficult to provide, whereas training and culture change remain the bigger challenges.

To assist in that change management effort, Percell said the Air Force Materiel Command has established a Transformation-Program Management Office with a dual mission:

* To serve as the central entity leading the command's IT transition from an application-based organization to a process-based organization.

* To provide support to the IT field units with change management, training, organizational issues and processes.

"IT transformation is the key to the horizontal integration of business processes across the IT set of investments," Percell said.

Maj. Gen. Bradley Lott, commander of the Marine Corps Materiel Command (Matcom), agreed and said that the service is Web-enabling its integrated contact center to more quickly accommodate questions and requests coming in from the field.

The Marine Corps used to have about 200 different toll-free numbers that customers could call with questions, but in October the service established a single point of contact through one phone number to streamline that process.

"It's working, but it's not working as well as I want," because Matcom should be able to respond to a query from Afghanistan as quickly as it does to one from Camp Lejeune, N.C., Lott said. He added that the Web-based capability soon will help make that possible by providing troops in the field with around-the-clock access to subject matter experts.

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