Navy users invite others to try collaboration tool

TacIT IPO's Phillip C. Butch, left, Sandy Grove and Jeffrey Thompson have stress-tested their TCAMM collaboration software. They say it has been pretty bulletproof.

As the military services rush to build out their knowledge-sharing initiatives, one group at the Naval Air Systems Command's Program Executive Office for Strike Weapons and Unmanned Aviation has customized a collaboration tool it's eager to share with other agencies.

'I'd be glad to demo it and let people pick it apart,' said Phillip C. Butch, the program manager at the Tactical IT Integration Program Office in Cherry Point, N.C.

TacIT IPO maintains Marine Corps CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters and does other types of tasks for fleet communications.

'We see a lot of activity,' Butch said. 'Our SiteScape is a vital part.' The office customized SiteScape Enterprise Forum Web software from SiteScape Inc. of Maynard, Mass., for secure collaboration by Navy program managers and contractors.

Butch said the customized version met the needs of his customers better than older Defense Department MS-DOS software 'that was becoming difficult to maintain. SiteScape was willing to modify their product for security.'

Jeffrey Thompson, the office's technical services director, said the customization 'needed to be highly secure because of all the people working on projects. Our commercial partners and contractors also have highly sensitive information.'

The result was Tactical Calendar, Action-item and Meeting Management, or TCAMM. It gives program managers a snapshot of which projects are on track or behind, and who is accountable for them.

TCAMM's 2,000 users in 112 organizations are responsible for everything from software engineering to acquisition planning to engineering change proposals. They can route workflow, hold threaded discussions, post frequently asked questions and libraries, instant-message each other and file documents. Collaborators can work in TCAMM anywhere they have Web browsers, online or offline.

'We use software certificates' for authentication, said Sandy Grove, the information services director. 'We haven't yet migrated to the [DOD] Common Access Card,' although users holding the cards could log in with them if they wish.

Contractors who use TCAMM get their certificates from third-party authorities, military users get them from DOD's internal certificate authority.

'We're dynamic enough to handle certificates of many kinds,' Butch said. 'One reason we chose SiteScape was that their engineers were able to adopt' public-key infrastructure standards.

Semper fi for NMCI

But, he added, 'It's a tremendous challenge in DOD to watch the certificate revocation lists.'
The office was aware that whatever it designed for its own use would have to be suitable for migration to the Web Enabled Navy initiative and the Navy'Marine Corps Intranet.

'The Navy's trying to do the right thing' with those efforts, Butch said. 'And PKI is a big plus. One thing that helped in winning over users was a single sign-on to access different servers and databases. It's a distributed architecture that appears as a centralized view. Authentication is role-based, and it doesn't matter where the user is.'

The office runs the software on Microsoft Windows NT and Win 2000 platforms, he said.
SiteScape continues to support the customized version, Grove said. 'We do not do anything within the product that cannot be migrated to future versions,' she said.

Timothy P. Butler, SiteScape's president and chief executive officer, said TacIT IPO is advancing along a path he envisions for the future of customer relationship and content management, enterprise resource planning and information portals.

'I see collaboration tools becoming part of all those application types,' Butler said. 'Eventually collaboration will become the basic layer feeding all of them and also acting as their front end.'

SiteScape licensing starts at $99 per seat, plus server software for Microsoft Windows 2000 or XP, Sun Solaris, other Unix operating systems and Linux.

As for savings, TacIT IPO's Butch said he couldn't estimate them off-hand, but he said program managers have been using the custom product for more than two years, so it is well-proven.

He invited other federal agencies interested in trying it to contact him at pbutch@tacit.js.mil or to phone 252-466-8001.

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