Instructor: Aleksi Aaltonen, Section 002

Enterprise Resource Planning and the DoD

Business information technology is a perennially evolving field, constantly developing new solution-oriented software and finding ways to further refine business processes spanning all departments. But is it possible for these solutions to be applied to large organizations that are neither “in business” or even part of the private sector?

As private entities continue to implement IT management systems, members of the public sector are increasingly motivated to incorporate similar systems into their organizations. The U.S. Department of Defense, specifically, has taken steps in recent years to make use of such software originally intended for business use. In 2017, the Army announced its intent to simplify its many disjointed processes/systems meant to manage personnel and equipment; based on an analysis performed by Gartner, the Army came forward with a plan to reduce the number of systems in use from 800 to 400 through the consolidation of existing legacy systems into centralized Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems.

SAP, the primary contractor working with the Army in the years-long transition toward the integration of ERPs, is helping to develop defense-specific systems such as the Logistics Modernization Program (LMP) and the Global Combat Support System – Army (GCCS-A) – both of which are “integrated, web-based systems” that combine a myriad of different systems into a single software. As opposed to exclusively managing business activity and processes, the LMP and GCCS-A will streamline the management of troop movement, maintenance operations, financial activity, unit supply functions, and personnel issues while simultaneously improving access to information, accuracy of reported cross-unit exchanges, and overall command visibility. In addition to these systems, the Army is also developing a solution for its Human Resource Management needs; by the program’s completion, it will be “the largest HR ERP system in the world”.

The military is certainly demonstrating that government institutions can find great value in implementing business-specific technology, and it begs the question: what other public entities can adopt similar technologies in order to streamline/simplify their operations?

 

https://www.army.mil/article/125011/the_impact_of_enterprise_resource_planning_systems_on_army_sustainment

5 Responses to Enterprise Resource Planning and the DoD

  • Seeing the government adopt private practices demonstrates the need for continued advancement. I think this is a very interesting project, especially reducing the systems from 800 to 400; however, I wonder what the learning curve will be for the novels systems. How long will it take for the DoD to experience a true increase in efficiency? Building upon that, what will be the adaption and software issues when developing the largest HR ERP system in the world? Its interesting to take a government body, engrained with historic systems and techniques, and introduce modern technology.

    After everything is completed, I am curious to the long-term success of this project, especially when taking all other government projects into consideration. For instances, according to Grant Thornton, “Only 20 percent of the Defense financial workforce said the ERPs had reduced their workload” (Serbu). This is a very interesting project and for the sake of our country I hope it is very affective!

  • Seeing the government adopt private practices demonstrates the need for continued advancement. I think this is a very interesting project, especially reducing the systems from 800 to 400; however, I wonder what the learning curve will be for the novels systems. How long will it take for the DoD to experience a true increase in efficiency? Building upon that, what will be the adaption and software issues when developing the largest HR ERP system in the world? Its interesting to take a government body, engrained with historic systems and techniques, and introduce modern technology.

    After everything is completed, I am curious to the long-term success of this project, especially when taking all other government projects into consideration. For instances, according to Grant Thornton, “Only 20 percent of the Defense financial workforce said the ERPs had reduced their workload” (Serbu). This is a very interesting project and for the sake of our country I hope it is very affective!

    https://federalnewsradio.com/on-dod/2017/01/despite-billions-invested-dod-erp-systems-financial-managers-see-reduction-workload/

  • Considering that the U.S. Army and its sister services are extremely large (and bureaucratic) organizations, it will likely still be years before the DoD realizes the full advantages of its ERP systems. For decades the military has used IT at a very decentralized level, resulting in many smaller units employing one type of software to support operations that other units may have never touched or seen; those units employing “the other” IT system were likely also using software unrecognizable to OTHER small units – rinse and repeat. Being a service-wide issue, the transfer of information was messy, difficult, and risky in not only branch-to-branch communications, but even at battalion and company levels. Change management in organizations dealing with 700,000+ people takes a lot of training, time, and careful management; they are slowly rolling out their ERP systems (in increments) across four corps and eighteen divisions while operations steadily continue all across the world, so there are a lot of moving parts.
    Of course in the interim period, there are going to be situations where both the new and legacy systems need to be accessed and updated by personnel, essentially doubling workloads until a full transition is completed. Ariane Whittemore (director of the survey conducted by Grant Thornton) goes on to say in the article you cited that the poor performance was a symptom of a large institution actively undergoing change. She notes that “a lot of the work associated with the legacy systems is still there – those systems weren’t retired early enough”, that many military entities were “skeptical” about terminating these systems despite having confidence in the new ERP, and that the main hindrance to integrating the ERP efficiently was because personnel had to “maintain two duplicative systems and populate data into both”. At the time of that article, the Integrated Personnel and Pay System-Army (IPPS-A) – the largest HRM program in the world once finished – had thus far only undergone its first increment and incorporated only 15 of the 43 systems to be included in its function. There is always the possibility of shortcomings in transitory phases like that, and most organizations expect them. However, this is not always the case: after the first incremental roll-out of the LMP, the Army declared savings of $6 billion in logistics operations and expected to see growth in this number.
    It of course does not help that the DoD, a typically slow-moving institution that is resistant to change, is simultaneously developing multiple ERPs geared toward solving different problems in a groundbreaking reorganization effort. GCSS-A was only fully deployed as of the first quarter of 2018, and even so it still has yet to take on the role of lead systems integrator. As of this moment, GCSS-A is the largest ERP to be fully deployed in U.S. Army history, and it is still being developed alongside the LMP, IPPS-A, and the General Funds Enterprise Business System (GFEBS). The learning curve facing the organization, from everyone at the squad level all the way up to the highest echelon, will certainly be painstaking, but surmounting the challenge will absolutely lead to continued and growing improvements in operational efficiency. The DoD, as a whole, is talented at finding ways to “improvise, adapt, and overcome” in even the worst of circumstances. Throughout the messy adjustment period, I have no doubt that the personnel will adapt to this change, overcome this set of challenges, and find great utility in the new systems.

    • Nick, I would like to draw an interesting similarity to your point. Take the automotive industry and their implementation of seat-belts. From the initial effort to push for seat belts and when regulations were passed, over 10 years had passed and many many people had died. Even though the numbers were inherently clear, still took 10 years and was too late for the many who passed away. Translating back to the DoD and ERP systems, do you think this implementation will take forever and will be too late (in the sense that something better will have come along by then?)

  • As Professor Aaltonen prefaced in the introduction above, information technology is rapidly evolving at an incredible rate. Essentially, businesses and employees have begun to form large informational/technical collectives by using systems to communicate and collaborate towards a goal. For organizations like the Army, this ability has become inherently important. Unfortunately for the Army and the many sister or similar government organizations, things take a long time to implement (due to regulations, ect) and they cannot move nearly as fast as they would like. So we must take baby steps. Moving from 800 to 400 systems is good step in the right direction. Hopefully they start with the legacy systems and begin to consolidate them. This is no easy task for the DoD to take on, I am interested in seeing what steps they take in the future.

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