In May, about two months after the COVID-19 pandemic forced federal government organizations and military installations to maximize telework for their workforces, I took over as head of Program Executive Office Enterprise Information Systems, a critical provider in the modernization and management of Army network and enterprise business systems.
As I accepted the charter from my predecessor, Chérie Smith, during the official change of charter ceremony, the challenge of the task ahead weighed on my mind. Not only did I need to get up to speed on the work of the office’s 36 program offices and 71 acquisition programs, but I needed to build relationships with a worldwide workforce of 3,000 employees and many other key stakeholders, largely via virtual means.
“Acquisition is a team sport,” I told ceremony attendees. “All your skills and talents are a critical element of our success. My learning curve is going to be steep, so please bear with me and have patience as we continue to define the legacy that Chérie helped put into place and into motion.”
Indeed, if there was one thing I could feel confident about at the time, it was that my longtime colleague Smith and my deputy, Brendan Burke, had laid the groundwork for our success at Program Executive Office Enterprise Information Systems (PEO EIS). There was no question that we would continue carrying out the organization’s mission to rapidly deliver integrated, innovative and cost-effective systems and services for the total force, globally connect the Army and provide a decisive information advantage to every soldier.
By the time we held our first virtual town hall with the EIS workforce in July, I had met with a number of colleagues and started wrapping my head around the important and innovative business systems and enterprise network solutions PEO EIS provides to keep the Army connected and support soldiers.
The four priorities I laid out for the workforce were designed to align with the Army priorities of people, readiness and modernization:
- Ensure discipline. Much like soldiers need to demonstrate discipline, so too do the Army organizations supporting them. In order to instill more discipline in our acquisition processes at PEO EIS, we are changing the way we manage our programs and relationships with industry partners. To set ourselves up for success from an internal perspective, we are reassessing our acquisition strategy, contracting language, requests for proposals, selection criteria and deliverables, as well as identifying the right tools and metrics for measuring program success. Externally, we are improving communications with stakeholders and meeting with industry on a weekly basis to discuss data, trends and actions that need to be taken.
- Maintain positive command climate. While I was fortunate to inherit an amazing command climate, maintaining it and continuing to look for areas of improvement are my priorities every day. The moment you take your eyes off it, it can start to trend downward. Our greatest strength at PEO EIS is our people, and we are committed to maintaining a diverse and inclusive workplace, as well as appropriately compensating staff members. Diversity comes in many forms—background, culture, identity, education, experience and more—so my mandate to all leaders is to make sure we leverage our diversity to deliver the best products.
- Manage talent. Unique skillsets are required for the type of work we do at PEO EIS, so it is important for us to build a bench of future leaders. When new acquisition professionals join the PEO, we need to ensure they are ready to hit the ground running from Day One. To do this, we have introduced new tools like Compass, a checklist designed to measure the proficiency of leaders and identify development opportunities. We also kicked off software and network boot camps, established a formal mentoring program and began working with the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology on tailored training opportunities.
- Deliver capability. As I told our workforce, no PEO is a PEO unless it delivers capability to its No. 1 customer, soldiers. PEO EIS does this by keeping our finger on the pulse of industry, leveraging tools like “Other Transaction Agreements” and teaming with partners to develop rapid, innovative solutions. A good example of this is our Army Vantage data analytics platform, which helps commanders make data-driven decisions.
Reorganizing for Success
Another way we improve how we deliver capability is by reorganizing for success. Over the past year, we have been restructuring our internal organization to better align with Army priorities.
For example, the Army and DoD are adopting the concept of data as a strategic asset, as indicated in the Army’s data and cloud plans and, most recently, in DoD’s data strategy. We’re excited to contribute to that vision as a critical partner. Because we play a vital role in analytics and data visualization, we restructured and created a project office dedicated to data. Army Data and Analytics Platforms (ARDAP) will help the Army improve information readiness and data agility by providing modern data and decision support tools and platforms, harnessing data across defense business systems and modernizing the Army’s training management system.
Among the programs in ARDAP’s portfolio are three we stood up in the past year: Army Vantage, Global Force Information Management and Enterprise Business Systems-Convergence. Later this fiscal year, we will migrate the Army Training Information System program to the ARDAP portfolio.
Another organization that has undergone a lot of change in the past year is our Defense Integrated Business Systems product office, formerly known as the General Fund Enterprise Business System. The Defense Integrated Business Systems’ mission continues to focus on modernizing the Army’s business and financial systems to achieve unparalleled readiness.
To better align our legacy enterprise resource planning programs, we moved our Logistics Modernization Program to the Defense Integrated Business Systems portfolio last fall, and by early fiscal 2022, we will transition our Global Combat Support System-Army program there as well.
As the needs of the Army evolve, PEO EIS will continue to adapt in response, keeping our stakeholders informed along the way.
Winning matters, both on the battlefield and behind the scenes where we support soldiers. In the past year, PEO EIS has achieved a number of significant milestones, as well as proven our mettle during the COVID-19 crisis:
- Last spring, before my arrival at the PEO, our Integrated Personnel and Pay System-Army project office logged a key win with its successful rollout of an integrated, mobile-friendly human resources system to the Army National Guard. By December, we aim to roll out Integrated Personnel and Pay System-Army Release 3 to the Army’s active component and the U.S. Army Reserve, providing soldiers with a comprehensive online talent management system.
- Over Independence Day weekend, we migrated the Army’s enterprise financial system—our General Fund Enterprise Business System program located within our Defense Integrated Business Systems portfolio—to the cloud seven months ahead of schedule with the help of over 190 government and industry partners. The General Fund Enterprise Business System provides around $1 million in real-time transactions every day to more than 35,000 users worldwide. Moving this massive system to the cloud was part of a modernization effort designed to make data safer and more easily accessible while putting metrics in place to determine benefits and outcomes that will inform future migrations.
- There are intangible impacts that we have to measure as we operationalize the advantages of the cloud. For example, increased performance as it relates to speed; enhanced access to data and information from all devices; 24/7 support; and better scalability based on fluctuations in user demand—a benefit we didn’t have with traditional data centers. Over the coming months, we will continue advancing the Army’s migration to the cloud with our Army Enterprise Systems Integration Program Hub, Global Combat Support System-Army and Logistics Modernization Program.
- During the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of PEO EIS programs provided much-needed assistance for relief efforts. Examples included our Automated Movement and Identification Solutions program, whose solutions enabled Army Reserve and Army National Guard units to track convoys deploying supplies for COVID-19; our Applied Cyber Technologies program, whose software repository known as “the Armory” fielded more than 100 requests for our Defensive Cyber Operations Deployable Systems-Modular kits; and our Army Vantage program, which empowered leaders to make data-driven decisions using a common operating picture for visualizing COVID-19 data.
While these are but a few examples of our achievements and wins over the past year, they are illustrative of what our workforce has been willing to do to get the job done—and done well—during unprecedented times.
In the year ahead, we plan to continue reorganizing for success at PEO EIS and making progress toward our four priorities. As Army leadership makes further decisions and moves forward with plans for network convergence, enterprise information technology as a service, enterprise resource planning modernization, data visualization and cloud migration, we will work with our stakeholder partners to support and implement these initiatives.
The safety and well-being of our workforce and stakeholders will remain paramount. Until it is safe to resume in-person meetings and events, PEO EIS will continue holding virtual industry days and accepting meeting requests from industry partners via our website at www.eis.army.mil. We are grateful that “the Forge”—the innovation center where we collaborate with industry to fast-track defensive cyber prototypes—now enables virtual product demonstrations as well.
The nature of our work is complex and essential to conduct the Army’s daily business. Our collective team, including our program managers, industry partners and strategic partners across the Army, works together to tackle challenges and deliver the capabilities soldiers need to be successful.
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Ross Guckert has served as program executive officer of U.S. Army Program Executive Office (PEO) Enterprise Information Systems, Fort Belvoir, Virginia, since May. Previously, he served in deputy program executive officer positions for both PEO Soldier and PEO Combat Support and Combat Service Support, and as acting deputy program executive officer at PEO Aviation.