Navy e-business unit targets back-office projects

The Navy’s eBusiness Operations Office works like many military units; it finds a target and looks for the simplest, most efficient way of hitting it.

But in the case of the e-business office, the targets are ways to improve the service’s back-office operations, and its ammunition is the funding to support them.

“The pilots work, and they are a value and they get implemented,” said Karen Meloy, the Navy’s e-business director, who works in Mechanicsburg, Pa.

The office fired its latest salvo last month, selecting projects that received a total of $3.8 million in funding.

Established in 2002, the office sifts through hundreds of proposals each quarter for projects that are considered for Navy-wide adoption. They must be easy to roll out and compatible with the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet.

“We look at what is the potential of the idea to be used throughout the Navy. You really try to pick those biz processes that have really wide applicability,” Meloy added.

They also must be inexpensive; projects generally receive between $500,000 and $1 million for program management and hardware and software development.

The latest projects include development of software to streamline evaluations and systems to make data more accessible to users.

So far, the office has funded more than three dozen projects.

Meloy said some of the earlier e-business pilots have paid off handsomely. For example, the $937,000 Integrated Interactive Data Briefing Tool, a project approved last October and expected to be in operation in several fleets by the end of the summer, gives fleet commanders a comprehensive look at a wide range of data. It lets commanders check numerous factors such as operations, intelligence, weather and readiness.

“The commander needs that visibility,” Meloy said.

Before, such information was available in a variety of databases. “This linked all those disparate databases, provided decision-makers a single view of all the functional areas,” she said.

Simpler management

The briefing tool uses Microsoft Netframework and Extensible Markup Language Web services, which Meloy said was key to simplifying the platform management.

The Navy hired Herres and Lee Enterprise Solutions, a small company in Springfield, Va., to help build the tool.

Tom Heasley, director of the Navy’s eBusiness Innovation Group, also developed an application for maintenance workers called the Electronic Planned Maintenance System. EPMS integrates online tools to support the Planned Maintenance System and improve the maintenance process for sailors, Heasley said.

“What we look at is we try to minimize any unique software code,” he said.

The $950,000 program eliminates paper forms, automates workflow and reduces the time required to establish new maintenance procedures from years to months, Heasley said.

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