Army command gets collaborative with SharePoint portal

The U.S. Army Communications-Electronic Command (CECOM) is using a portal to centralize its data, streamline applications and connect its more than 13,000 employees worldwide.

The agency anticipates that the Microsoft SharePoint portal, which was officially announced to staff June 28, will reduce administrative burden, lower costs, improve records management, increase data accuracy and rationalize information management.

"The portal will eliminate a lot of redundancy and streamline processes," Renee Ullman, content manager for CECOM, said in a statement. Design of the SharePoint portal began in 2011.

The portal, open to all employees, allows for different levels of information sharing, from commandwide to organization-based, as well as internal collaboration among employees, said Linda Vanbemmel, the project manager for CECOM SharePoint. The portal includes secure, private sites for directorates and other organizational groups within CECOM for internal, daily work.

Data for the site is stored at a secure facility in Radford, Va.

"The command now has a collaboration tool that the entire workforce is able to use," said Patricia O'Connor, CECOM's CIO. "It also serves as a good communications tool to get the word out on what's critical to everyone in the organization at the same time."

The portal will be used to automate processes such as creating weekly activity reports, managing documents and keeping track of deadlines and workflows.

O'Connor also plans to use the portal to help eliminate 30 percent to 40 percent of existing applications across the command over the next year by creating a centralized inventory of applications. For example, the agency is creating a central suspense tracking system on SharePoint, eliminating six existing organization-based systems, and CECOM is developing a master calendar for the command.

"Because our employees are in disparate locations, stovepiping is our biggest challenge as a command," O'Connor said. "Right now, because we have data everywhere and because e-mail is our primary communications tool, I think we're working harder than we need to.”

CECOM also is using the portal for records management, to properly store and archive more than 3 terabytes of data.

Once a draft document is declared valid, it will be entered into the records management system and be searchable by the entire command. When its shelf life is at an end, the document will automatically be destroyed or archived into the Army Records Information Management System, said Janet Wallen, records manager for CECOM G-6.

"Because all the records will be in one location, and the process to move [them] or archive will be automated, it will be easier to track and safeguard our nation's resources," O’Conner said.

CECOM is one of many government entities looking to consolidate electronic data and communications. Last month, GCN reported that the Federal Aviation Administration was moving 80,000 employees to Microsoft Office 365, giving them secure access to e-mail, instant messaging, calendaring and Web conferencing tools from virtually any device. Office 365 includes SharePoint online.

About the Author

Kathleen Hickey is a freelance writer for GCN.


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