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Navy Special Operations Reduces Micro-Acquisition Timeline

October 13, 2011
By Rita Boland, SIGNAL Online Exclusive
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Naval Special Warfare (NSW) Group 4 has reduced its time to process Government Purchase Card acquisitions from months to 3.2 days with a combination of technology and employee involvement. The resulting system not only lessens the time from request submission to purchase completion, it also walks users through processes to eliminate mistakes and can create various reports automatically for a variety of purposes.

Cmdr. Eric Miller, USN, logistics officer for NSW Group 4 during the time of implementation and current branch fleet support manager for Program Executive Office Submarines, says the BizFlow product the group used to build its new acquisition-processing program offers three keys for workflow automation: visibility, forcing function and standardization. The visibility allows users to see the stages of various requests as well as what must be completed at any time. They also can generate reports on different metrics through simple point-and-click actions. The forcing function notifies personnel when their signatures, reviews or other actions are required and continues to send reminder emails until the recipient responds. The commander explains that people can overlook a piece of paper, but BizFlow's persistence capability keeps the process moving.

The standardization part of the effort includes more than common processes across the group. Cmdr. Miller says that before introducing the technology, the stakeholders came together for two days to hammer out the procedures they wanted to implement. This involvement from the beginning helped employees to own the project and accept it more readily. The success has spurred interest by other larger groups in the Navy who are talking to BizFlow manufacturer HandySoft about procuring it at higher levels.

In addition to hard savings that can be measured, the NSW Group 4 is saving hundreds of hours of personnel time on its 5,000 annual purchases under $3,000 by using the product. It eliminates overprocessing and reduces defects by building in software input screens that force users to answer questions and take certain actions. It also is intuitive for nontechnical personnel. "It doesn't take a lot of coding and that's key," Cmdr. Miller says. Users can specify facets that they want to include.

Jason Noker, the defense programs director at HandySoft, says BizFlow can help organizations meet Lean Six Sigma and other productivity goals especially with the release of version 11.7, which offers enhanced enterprise self-service, report capabilities, product integration and support for a mobile work force. He explains that it fits into the need to perform more actions with less money while showing measurable return on investment within a few months. With BizFlow, customers can move from an initial planning event to a full, live capability in only five months, according to Noker.

Users of the system benefit by reducing the time necessary to complete everyday processes while storing all information electronically so it is ready at any time for an audit. It also can help identify experts who may need to sign a document without requiring a person to spend time tracking down the individuals. Through talks with customers, the company has found that in logistics as it relates to acquisitions, most delays happen at the front end through lack of required documentation. "By implementing some basic information-technology tools, we can reduce those defects and errors on the front end so a request doesn't proceed through the process unless the paperwork is complete," Noker explains. "It's very similar to how Turbo Tax works."

During a meeting about how to improve their micro-acquisitions, Naval Special Warfare Group 4 stakeholders created the paper value stream map (left) to detail the procedures for Government Purchase Card processing. This helped them visualize what is involved and which steps could be automated. The BizFlow computer screen shot (right) displays the automation of the process. The system shows the latest status of each purchase and can send emails to remind personnel of necessary actions or to share information with customers.