Army HQ keeps work on track with collaborative task management tool
- By Stephanie Kanowitz
- Apr 14, 2017
A new collaborative staff management task tracking tool is helping the Headquarters of the Army save time and money and keep an eye on the enormous number of tasks, projects and personnel it manages on a daily basis
Until now, the department had been using a hybrid system that tracked the status of tasks, but the people working on those tasks were still using hard-copy folders to carry documents to others working on the same task. To improve efficiency and collaboration, the Army’s Project Director, Enterprise Services group stood up a new project office called Army Enterprise Staff Management Systems (AESMS) to work on a new staff management task tracking tool.
Headquarters is now moving to the Task Management Tool from Accenture to enable real-time visibility, automate the document-sharing process and eliminate the need for paper.
TMT gives users a common place to store and manage documents so that at any given time, anybody involved in a task knows what's going on with it, who else is working on it and what they’re doing. It’s powered by Microsoft Dynamics CRM and SharePoint, so tasks can come in via Outlook and be turned into a task with a click.
“Depending on what action is required, documents will need to go across a lot of different offices across the Army,” said Lt. Col. Michael Gilligan, who became project officer for the Army Correspondence Tracking System last year and heads this effort at the Program Executive Office-Enterprise Information Systems (PEO-EIS).
TMT “allows that to happen all digitally in real time.” It saves someone from carrying a folder to the other side of the Pentagon or from “clogging up email” with 100-MB files.
What’s more, documents no longer sit unattended and unaccounted for after they land on the front desk of a receiving office. It used to be that a folder could sit on someone’s desk “for a couple hours to a couple days and sometimes a couple weeks with no real real-time tracking,” Gilligan said. Without knowing where documents are or who’s working on them, managers “don’t have visibility” into projects to keep them on track. Now documents are moving in hours as opposed to days, Gilligan said.
Last January the vice chief of staff for the Army, Gen. Daniel Allyn, asked that the Army shift to an automated system that can interact with the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Correspondence and Task Management System. In August, PEO-EIS tapped Accenture Federal Services to provide TMT according to specifications for use with the Non-classified IP Router Network and Secret IP Router Network. The system was up and running by the end of October 2016, and full deployment is expected in June, Gilligan said.
“We have reached initial operating capability within each [Army Headquarters agency] and that’s allowing respective directorates, based on their level of employment and training, to start using the system within their organizations,” Gilligan said.
TMT supports 8,300 users at the department who fall into three categories: basic users, who are action officers; advanced users, who are action control officers; and VIP users who are general officers or senior executives.
The basic users and the action officers originate the tasks. “The advanced users are going to be managing all the tasks within that organization…. And the principals -- senior executives and the general officers -- are going to be more pretty much signing documents and doing the approvals.”
Users get alerts when they need to take action on a task, and TMT allows for version control, so if an edit or input is required, recipients can make the changes without losing access to the original document.
The tool keeps all this data secure by complying with the Defense Department’s rigid cybersecurity requirements, the Risk Management Framework and user-access controls.
Right now, TMT is hosted at a data center run by PEO-EIS’ Acquisition, Logistics and Technology Enterprise Systems and Services (ALTESS). “We are looking at cloud solutions for the future, both in leveraging what technologies are there as well as leveraging cost savings,” Gilligan added.
Although it’s too soon to estimate a return on investment, Gilligan said, other Army organizations are looking to be tied into the system to take advantage of the same efficiencies that Army Headquarters is starting to see. Organizations that already use TMT and host it at their local installations now want it hosted in the same environment to leverage technical support that PEO-EIS is providing at ALTESS. “It’s going to incur additional cost savings throughout the Army as we continue to migrate,” Gilligan said.
Stephanie Kanowitz is a freelance writer based in northern Virginia.