Decision support app helps Navy teams be of one mind

Tool emphasizes priorities, then backs up the process with sophisticated algorithms

A key part of collaboration is reaching a consensus on how to proceed on a project. The Navy’s Program Executive Office for Littoral and Mine Warfare is using a collaboration and project management system to establish goals for programs, evaluate contracts and allocate resources for departments.

Paul Hullinger, the office’s chief financial officer, said the application allows teams to set priorities and solve complex problems.

The software, developed by Decision Lens, can be installed on desktops or operate via an intranet. It lets groups set priorities for projects and manage various steps in those efforts, such as budgeting and resource allocation. Hullinger said the challenges facing PEO-LMW are similar to those facing many other government organizations: too much work and not enough resources.

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“How do you make the hard call, and do it with some rigor, other than some gut warrior instincts?” he asked.

The Decision Lens tool uses sophisticated algorithms that the application runs. A key feature of the software is the establishment of mission priorities at the beginning of a project. The system, sometimes with the help of a Decision Lens moderator, collects the opinions of all participants and allows the opinions to be evaluated and compared to the group’s goals in a nonconfrontational manner. Hullinger said personnel who used the software valued its ability to define important project priorities. After identifying a set of priorities, teams will self-select or edit their priorities.

After choosing priority sets, Hullinger said, the mathematics that underlies the software simplifies the decision-making process. He said the software’s graphical user interface features sliders and other settings that overlay the algorithms.

“They’ve taken something that’s pretty complicated, but it’s all behind the scenes,” he said. “Once you learn the rudimentary things you need to operate the system, it all seems very easy. The burden is all upon you to figure out what the priority is.”

Several of PEO-LMW’s program offices are using Decision Lens to prioritize work for this fiscal year. Hullinger said those offices are going through the discovery process of understanding the software’s strengths because the program office has been using the tool for only slightly more than a year. Other sectors of the Defense Department are using the application, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Chief of Naval Operations and intelligence community.

PEO-LMW also is using Decision Lens to evaluate contracts by studying incoming proposals. Hullinger said that even before a company submits a proposal, the software lets evaluation teams determine the priorities they will use. The process takes roughly a day for the teams, but it also allows everyone on the team to accept the process.

“They’ve had their chance to speak, and they understand where their personal priorities are, and they’ve had a chance for everyone else to evaluate it,” he said. “So there’s buy-in from the technical evaluation team even before the [request for proposals] comes in.”

For example, Hullinger said, he anticipates that the evaluation of an upcoming professional services award will go smoothly because of the priority-setting process.

He said the process already has benefited other program offices at the Naval Sea Systems Command. “Not only does it help you get to the right answer, but it also helps defend you when you have the inevitable protest,” he said. “You can show the rigor with which you went through this process.”


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