Air Force Research Lab improves data quality for empowered decision-making
Adheres to defensive cyber protection requirements
Unified design experience for developers
Scales for the AFRL workforce of 10,000 globally
Open, flexible platform for federated development
"Moving to the new platform will achieve better data quality as we’ll have applications that fit the way people work. With better visibility, we will reduce data calls and increase the speed at which we make informed decisions to support the warfighter."
The Business Issue
Since 2006, the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) had been relying on a commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) system that had been significantly customized over the years to enable AFRL to manage its science and technology programs. The customizations were problematic: Whenever AFRL had to upgrade the core COTS product, it had to spend significant amounts of money to put those customizations back in place. Moreover, adoption of the tool across the organization was poor, as the tool didn’t fit the way people worked. Most importantly, the tool was purely a data collection tool, when AFRL really needed an intelligent business process management suite (iBPMS).
Another major weakness of AFRL’s existing IT solution was it didn’t enable different directorates to share applications. AFRL has IT shops in each of its directorates as well as headquarters; those shops have disparate platforms and technologies. This meant that if one directorate within the enterprise had an application that another directorate wanted to use, the application would have to be re-coded to fit their specific environment and requirements. It was costly, time consuming, and inefficient.
AFRL found a flexible, open solution that would meet the needs of their enterprise processes and could also be configured for various local needs and conditions in different parts of the enterprise. The platform met four key selection criteria for AFRL to:
- Inherit enterprise applications and be able to configure them to meet local conditions
- Provide a unified design experience for developers
- Optimize decision making
- Adhere to defensive cyber protection requirements
Currently, AFRL is prototyping four different applications. The first is a task management application that can be used broadly throughout the organization. The others are for the management of science and technology programs:
- A planning application for POM (budget request submissions)
- A work unit management application that manages by cost, schedule, and performance (all of which can be reported out to the Department of Defense)
- A program management application
AFRL has a list of over 100 different applications currently in use – some particular to very specific units in AFRL and others that are used in multiple units – that will ultimately be transitioned to the platform.
The broader goal for AFRL in moving to the new platform is to improve data quality. In the legacy system, teams and leaders too often rely on spreadsheets and presentations to find the data they need, rather than looking to the system itself. With better data, data visualization tools, and advanced reporting, leaders – whether at the division, branch or enterprise level – will have greater visibility into projects, enabling them to make more informed decisions. Meanwhile, accurate data from past research and projects will be readily available and accessible for future projects. With this advanced level of capability, agility, and reuse, AFRL is proving to be an innovator in defense IT modernization.
All text sourced directly from Governments Building for Change.