DLA takes an industry approach to modernize, handle business on Web

DLA takes an industry approach to modernize, handle business on Web

David Falvey

With an aging work force and two increasingly expensive Cobol mainframe systems to maintain, the Defense Logistics Agency in 1998 turned to industry when it decided to modernize.

DLA officials knew they needed to replace their 1960s-era legacy systems to comply with Joint Vision 2020, which required that they start using the Web to handle transactions.

'We went through a process of doing a script demonstration of sorts, called in a list of commercial, off-the-shelf providers and had them demonstrate their software against a set of scripts in August 1999,' said David Falvey, DLA's Business Systems Modernization program manager at Fort Belvoir, Va.

The result: The commercial products worked, and people were excited about getting rid of the agency's legacy management systems. 'We could leapfrog over several decades and get into the 21st century,' Falvey said.

DLA last August awarded a five-year, $390 million contract to Accenture of Chicago. DLA will deploy enterprise resource planning software from SAP America Inc. of Newtown Square, Pa., and supply chain software from Manugistics Group Inc. of Rockville, Md.

'SAP will provide greater reach-back to the supplier base,' Falvey said. 'We will be able to look into the inventory we manage ourselves. [Currently,] we don't always know what the vendor has. Right now, it varies by category of supply. All of our material comes from supplier to customer.'

Follow along

DLA's plans dovetail with the logistics model touted by Defense Department brass as a way to create greater visibility while decreasing the time it takes to order products and get them shipped.

'We're re-engineering our business practices,' Falvey said. 'We're introducing a new business architecture, an information technology foundation, to exploit the electronic-business world that we all want to be in.'

DLA wanted a system that would let clerks throughout DOD make supply queries online, improve delivery time and give commanders immediate access to stock information [GCN, Aug. 21, 2000, Page 3].

DLA is moving ahead with its effort even though the General Accounting Office recently criticized the agency for failing to first create an enterprise architecture.

DLA's approach violated Defense policy, GAO said. Further, continuing without an architecture plan increases the risk that DLA will modernize only an individual business area without improving agencywide logistics management performance and accountability, GAO concluded in a late June report.

For a typical software development project, an agency will set an architecture before introducing new technology, Falvey said. But ERP projects in industry have shown that architecture and new technology can be introduced simultaneously, he said.

'We're going to implement ERP exactly the way industry would implement it,' Falvey said. 'Our approach is to focus on our core business area and reintroduce a new business architecture. We believe that will mean our system will be fielded quicker.'

DLA officials disagree with GAO's contention that their approach is risky. 'Industry for 10 years has integrated systems in this manner,' Falvey said.

And it's not as though the agency is working without oversight.

'Every step of the way we have to satisfy' the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Falvey said.

Just a phase

The project is currently in Phase 4. By the end of next year, the Joint Interoperability Test Command will begin systems tests. The agency must 'demonstrate the software and new business practices and new way of organizing our business practices' before it can proceed to deployment, Falvey said.

DLA plans to begin the rollout in 2003 and finish deployment within three years.

DLA employs 28,000 civilian and military workers at 500 sites in all 50 states and 28 countries.

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