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BPM Revitalizes Federal Acquisition Processes A Practical Case Study (Part 2 of 2)

Ben Farrell
May 26, 2011

The first part of this post was a technology overview of BPM software in the acquisition and procurement environment from a recent webinar on Appian's Acquisition Business Management solution. In this installment, I'll look more deeply at the case study the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) presented in the webinar.

The application of BPM to DISA's telecom acquisition solution process has enabled better visibility into DoD procurement and acquisition, reduced manual errors, and allowed for better-informed choices by contract professionals and other executives.

Marvin Griffin, Enterprise Architect for DISA, described the work of the Defense Information Technology Contracting Organization (DITCO). DITCO falls under the Procurement and Logistics Directorate. It is responsible for IT and telecom contracting services for the DoD, and provides new acquisition and order processing services worldwide. The organization employs about 300 contracting personnel to administer contracts valued at more than $3 billion in financial transactions annually.

DITCO maintains several legacy applications to support the contracting activity for telecom. Those applications have been in place for nearly 40 years, allowing the organization to receive requirements, write contracts, track finances and bill customers, provide status notifications and manage workload.

The multiple aging legacy applications exist on independent platforms, written in various software languages across various technologies. Adding new applications piecemeal to the legacy system has resulted in poor integration of information. The result is a system that is costly to maintain and lacks end-to-end visibility of a business transaction.

In reforming its telecom procurement process, DITCO applied our BPM platform while maintaining much of its legacy environment. BPM for acquisition does not require a rip-and-replace approach, and as Mr. Griffin noted, ripping out 40 years' worth of software applications would be painful, to say the least.

The incremental approach DISA took towards BPM software allowed for seamless integration with legacy applications as part of the overall process flow. It provided less disruption as compared to a replacement strategy, and enabled data sharing at numerous process points.

With Appian, DITCO was able to gain cleaner data with less duplication by reducing the manual entry of information, and increased efficiency through fewer manual touch points. The organization was also able to realize better compliance through process and forced integrations.

The legacy process lacked seamless reporting capability across various tiers of applications. There was no enterprise reporting system, no method of managing workload, and no performance metrics. In addition, because the legacy process was document driven, DITCO had limited ability to search and manage unstructured data in a meaningful way.

The Appian solution was built to a standardized model in order to exactly match the DITCO telecom acquisition process. This led to standardized data across a standardized process, which then led to better reporting and tracking of requirements as they flowed through the system.

Additionally, the Appian solution enabled procurement milestone reporting, so managers have better visibility into the workload, as well as the status of the acquisition process. A search feature allows for views across structured and unstructured information, which had previously been extremely difficult and was too cumbersome for meaningful management decisions.

As reform begins to sweep through the acquisition and procurement process, the most forward-thinking government professionals are taking a hard look at their legacy systems. The good news is revitalizing the procurement process does not mean having to tear apart your legacy system.

With the right software and a plan to introduce iterations of that software over time, an organization can get better visibility into the process and make better decisions while maintaining the integrity of their legacy investments.

-Ben Farrell, Director, Corporate Communications