Testing center spends to save

Testing center spends to save

Navy Capt. Tom Snyder says the challenge is to integrate commercial enterprise software products horizontally.

Air Force facility officials say commercial apps will pay off in long run

By Bill Murray

GCN Staff

After spending $40 million in less than three years on deploying commercial software, officials with the Arnold Engineering Development Center at Arnold Air Force Base, Tenn., think the software will save them at least $13 million per year.

In an effort to redesign their financial, human resources and logistics processes, AEDC officials are deploying best-of-breed applications for the Oracle7 relational database management system.

AEDC uses Financials and Human Resources applications from PeopleSoft Inc. of Pleasanton, Calif.; Metaphase Enterprise, a computer-aided-drafting and -engineering application from Strategic Technology Inc., a subsidiary of Structural Dynamics Research Corp. of Cincinnati; and computerized maintenance management products from Synergen Associates Inc. of Walnut Creek, Calif., said Navy Capt. Tom Snyder, AEDC re-engineering program manager.

The development center is an altitude testing and evaluation facility that performs aerodynamics, air propulsion, and space and rockets testing for the Defense Department and industry.

The Arnold Engineering Development Center at Arnold Air Force Base, Tenn., has nearly 60 aerodynamic and propulsion wind tunnels and turbine engine test cells.

Although many corporate users of RDBMS applications have complained about cost overruns and delays in deploying the enterprise software, Snyder said that much of the costs of deployment are one-time expenses and that AEDC will meet its deployment goals and not exceed its budget.

'We won't have to go through another [full-scale commercial software] deployment again,' he said.

In logistics, AEDC officials found that they need to save $13 million per year until 2004 to earn back the $52 million they are spending on the software deployment, Snyder said. The officials found that there was a 96 percent probability that they would do so.

Of the 2,900 AEDC workers, only 300 are government employees, coming from the Air Force, Navy and civil service. Navy officials have had a good working relationship at the Air Force base, said Snyder, who added that working primarily with contractors at the nearly 5,000-acre campus is not much different than working in other Navy field activities.

Half of AEDC's $300 million in annual funding is provisional Air Force Materiel Command money, and the development center earns the remaining $150 million of its budget through testing and evaluation work.

American Management Systems Inc. of Fairfax, Va., won a five-year contract in 1996 to deploy logistics software at AEDC. Officials modified the contract in 1997 to include financial and human resources software, Snyder said.

'We want to configure software and not customize it,' Snyder said. 'We're going to extremes'we want vanilla [off-the-shelf software] products. The challenge is to integrate the products horizontally,' he said.

Off the mark

Working with AMS, AEDC officials have had to write 'an awful lot of temporary interfaces' as they migrated from legacy systems to PeopleSoft and other products, Snyder said.

AEDC officials initially underestimated the number of temporary interfaces they would have to write, and at one time the equivalent of 170 full-time employees worked on the re-engineering project, he said.

AEDC has paid $20 million to deploy and train employees on 10 PeopleSoft modules. The center is on track to deploy PeopleSoft Financials by May, which would complete a 17-month process, Snyder said.

The Arnold Engineering Development Center, an altitude testing and evaluation facility, is spread out over nearly 5,000 acres at Arnold Air Force Base, Tenn.

Since December, AEDC officials have issued 40,000 work orders and configured 125,000 items using Synergen. Metaphase has replaced fine aperture cards, and AEDC officials have made 135,000 electronic drawings using the product, Snyder said.

Snyder said he believes that working with commercial products changes the way large organizations operate.''As you redefine processes, you have to retrain employees on [commercial] packages,' including doing role-based job training, he said. 'We had to write the curriculum ourselves' to explain what each job title entails.


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