Build a Force, Move a Force
Developing an integrated, interoperable, transactional global force management environment that automates workflows, eliminates swivel chair processes and provides risk-informed decision support is critical to the U.S. Army.
We sat down with U.S. Army G-3 GFIM Chief Management Officer, Lori Mongold, and U.S. Army G-3 Deputy Division Chief of Strategic Operations Enterprise, Andrew St. Laurent, to hear about the importance of intelligent automation for global force management and the lessons they’ve learned during the organization’s digital transformation journey.
Can you provide some background on the Army’s GFIM initiative?
In order to set the day-to-day activities for the U.S. Army and to efficiently deploy and employ our forces, the Army leverages 16 end-to-end business processes. The Army G3 is responsible for “Deploy to Redeploy and Retrograde of Material” (D2RR) which is the primary business process GFIM will automate. D2RR is the Army’s core business process that enables the 15 other processes.
The end-to end-business process covers the strategy that determines what an Army force needs, which is based on policy and guidance set by the President, Joint Staff, or the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). These directives are intended to align forces and combatant commanders to comply with the Army’s service requirements through mobilization, deployment, and employment activities. Approximately 65% of the Army’s D2RR current end-to-end business processes are “swivel chair” activities. Today, we have 14 disparate legacy technology systems that are not integrated nor interoperable, which causes a lot of manual work for the Army’s force managers, planners, strategists, and mobilization officers.
Additionally, our current systems provide a minimal solution that allow the functionals to do their jobs. Most of it is redundant. The first time someone enters the data, it doesn’t flow to the next person in a workflow. With the automation technologies available today, we needed to move out of the Industrial Age into the Information Age and the Cognitive Era.
Why did the U.S. Army decide to implement the GFIM solution?
A few years ago, the Secretary of the Army did a rationalization across Army business systems and determined that the Army was very antiquated when it came to the technology responsible for transacting authoritative data with a specific focus on manning, equipping, training, readiness, resourcing, and building facilities of a force.
So, the Secretary decided to sunset legacy systems and then went a step further and removed all the funding from the program. That way, the Army would be forced to move toward objective capabilities.
GFIM will be the first place where the authoritative data for the other Title 10 processes gets transacted and distributed. By analyzing the data, the Army will better understand what will be expected and what type of resources it needs to perform its missions. At the end of the day, the GFIM solution will enable the Army to make sure it has the right people, at the right place, at the right time, for the right mission.
When GFIM is delivered, it will be the first time that the Army will be able to not only visualize, but also conduct analytics and share the data of an Army at rest and in motion. We call that, “developing the future force” and “providing the current force.” These two activities will now be able to run parallel to one another. We’ve never been able to do that before. We’ve only been able to see one or the other without identifying any sort of relationship.
Why is the D2RR function that GFIM addresses so essential to the Army?
GFIM will be the first place authoritative data is transacted to send a demand signal to trigger an action. For example, if you’re in the human resource area, you may not know what people and skillsets you need and when you need them unless you get a demand signal from GFIM. The force structure position can then direct and guide you so you can appropriately recruit, implement retention methods, and know what training is needed – and how to resource it.
We define force structure by four major categories:
- Readiness of the capability
- Availability of the capability
- Employability of the capability
What is truly unique about GFIM is the fact that is one of the first defense business systems to span the business mission area and the war-fighting mission area. By having near real-time authoritative data on force structure, the Army is better able to communicate on the battlefield in support of war-fighting missions. Bridging that gap makes GFIM even more critical as the Army goes through a digital transformation journey.
How will the Army measure the success of GFIM?
The first thing we’ll measure is the functional capabilities inside the existing legacy systems that are already automated, and we’ll determine if GFIM has matured those capabilities with emerging technology. Then, we’ll evaluate whether we have used the best-of-breed solutions in the new environment. So, at a minimum, we want everything modernized with new technologies.
The second thing we will evaluate is the workflows by determining if we’ve automated swivel chair activities. As I said, 65% of these activities are currently manual processes. Next, we’ll examine whether the automated workflows have caused a decline in that figure. Our ultimate goal is to reduce swivel chair activities to below 20%. Of course, we know not all work can be automated because there are some functions that automation will not address, but if we can cut down the manual processes to a more manageable level, that will prove the worth of GFIM.
We will also evaluate the effectiveness of the workflows to ensure the current capabilities with enhanced technologies accurately address the needs of our stakeholder communities. Ideally, we want users to accept these tools as inherent to their jobs and transform them from data entry clerks to analysts who leverage authoritative data to make decisions.
Lastly, we will examine how well we turn unstructured data into structured data through process automation. This will reduce the time it takes people to read through narratives and text files. Part of that evaluation will be to understand whether we designed and built technology that is operable in a cloud environment and enables effective communication across cloud and hybrid environments. We’re mainly interested in two essential communications. The first is between cloud and traditional data centers, and the second is between enterprise solutions and the tactical edge. Additionally, we want this to work in a low-code environment while also working toward zero-trust principles.
Andrew St. Laurent:
I’d add that the community of interest is discerning, and they want to hold on to what they know – the legacy systems. I think one of the biggest measures of success is whether they accept the product we will deploy in about seven months. That factor will allow us to make the conditions-based decision of when to turn off legacy systems. To be able to do that, GFIM has to be accepted by the user community, and it needs to be able to support the Army processes it is designed to address. So, user buy-in is key to success if we are going to be able to break away from the legacy environment.
Do you think there’s potential for the Army’s GFIM solution to be adopted by other service branches?
GFIM is an Army-specific capability. However, every other service has end-to-end business processes. We’ve had other services reach out to us, and it is clear they are monitoring where the Army takes this capability so they can garner lessons learned and capitalize on the technologies where it may make sense for them. The Army also doesn’t deploy on its own, so we will also need to integrate GFIM to ensure it is compatible with other services.
What’s important to note is that services work together in support of the combatant commander, which can also extend outside the DoD. We have frequent meetings with the Marines, Joint Staff, and OSD to discuss integration points, redundancy, friction, and potential partnerships. It’s clear they’re monitoring the Army’s success on this initiative.
Can you give us a specific example of how GFIM can help the Army better accomplish its goals and perhaps provide a real-world example where the solution can show its value?
Andrew St. Laurent:
A great example was when the President ordered us to stand up a task force to eradicate Ebola in Liberia, and deploy within two weeks! At the time, we had 14 different legacy systems we had to use, which each had its own access, level of security, and methods of populating data.
We faced trouble determining whether we had authoritative data upon which to take action. In that scenario, we began to think about where we would go for the capabilities we needed to act quicker and more confidently.
GFIM provides a one-stop shop. If this type of order came down today, I’d have one login, I can get the capabilities I need for research, I can see what’s available, I can generate a request for forces, I have automated workflows, and I’m better able to focus my work on actually standing up the task force instead of trying to track down the information I need.
You mentioned earlier that the goal of GFIM is to reduce swivel chair activities from 65% to under 20%. How does that reduction in manual processes allow the Army to execute differently by reallocating resources?
The question I get asked all the time is, “The Army has been executing force management for 247 years, so obviously, we’ve been able to be a premier land fighting force – so why GFIM now, and what makes it any different?”
I always think of a few things. First, the automation of the swivel chair activities – the amount of time that our functionals have to spend sending emails, making phone calls, manually moving packets, and re-doing work will certainly free up their ability to focus on analytical rigor. We are taking risks on analytical rigor for data entry, and we’re losing the significant analysis that goes into ensuring senior leaders can make risk-informed decisions.
That’s the huge intangible benefit. While nobody wants to talk about it, the Army has assumed a lot of risk in the past because of its dependency on manual processes – which opens the door for human error. We won’t have to carry as much risk as we go forward because we will have increased veracity and velocity of the data, which is critical for risk-informed decision-making.
We also potentially free up resources that can be reallocated where we have capability gaps across the Army. We will continue to restructure the Army based on the strategic directives and guidance from the President and OSD, and GFIM allows us to be more agile in how we reallocate the structure to accommodate those gaps.
Lastly, GFIM gives us the opportunity to be able to visualize, analyze, assess, and prepare for kinetic and non-kinetic fights.
Can you explain the difference between kinetic and non-kinetic fights?
Sure. Kinetic fighting is boots on the ground, walking the mountains of Afghanistan with weapons, kicking down doors, and taking out bad guys. Where warfare is moving is toward a more non-kinetic battlefield, which includes things like unmanned operations, cyber warfare, and electronic warfare. Unfortunately, we’ve not been able to execute the non-kinetic side very well, so that’s probably the most significant transformation GFIM will address. By introducing disruptive and emerging technologies, which we haven’t done in the past because we’ve accepted the swivel chair activities because they’ve been “good enough” in an environment that moves so quickly. But, the day-to-day Army operations never matured to keep up with the non-kinetic battlefield.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us that we may have missed?
Regarding the Secretary of the Army’s priorities, one of which is industry and department relationships, we believe that GFIM is probably one of the first Defense business systems that has been delivered using SAFe® agile methodology under the adaptive acquisition framework. That’s important because we looked at the Secretary’s six priorities and concentrated on the maturation of business processes, introduction of technologies like the cloud environment, and partnering with industry to bring us the expertise we don’t necessarily have in the Army today. With GFIM, we looked at all six Army priorities and capitalized across the board to design an execution strategy.
The industry/Army partnership is critical to our success. By collaborating with a vendor and unpacking their capabilities, we’re moving forward from the old days when the Army would develop a requirement, toss it over the fence, and let the vendor or technical community build something. With the rate of technological advancement, we don’t have years for a vendor to develop something we can use. By the time it is delivered, it has likely already been surpassed by new technology. By building GFIM the way we are, we can capitalize on the industry’s best-of-breed expertise to deliver capabilities quickly while maturing those technologies as we spiral it out.