Holding the Line for Information Technology Service Fulfillment
Customer advocates link users to DISA services.
By definition, the Defense Information Systems Agency Mission Partner Engagement Office’s role is to engage with customers. So it makes sense that the office is working to improve how it helps the myriad of Department of Defense and intergovernmental employees that need the information services provided by the combat support agency known as DISA.
Stood up by DISA back in 2015, the Mission Partner Engagement Office (MPEO) provides a “front door” for customers to go through when seeking command and control technologies, enterprise platforms, information interchange capabilities or other services, explains Col. Keith Chinn, USA, chief, MPEO.
“It’s kind of daunting when, OK, I know I need IT [information technology], and who do I go to?” he says. “The whole reason why the MPEO was stood up in the first place, was to have a front door into DISA, so it’s not this mystery of who do I talk to and who do I call on the list of 50 numbers.”
And as the chief of the MPEO since last August, Col. Chinn is working to improve this access for users. As one of DISA’s former customers in previous U.S. Army roles, he has insight on how to improve the agency’s outreach with these mission partners, which include all of the U.S. military services, the Joint Staff, the combatant commands, Defense Department, federal agencies and the intelligence community.
The MPEO is focusing on updating the business systems or the backend platforms to enable an improved digital interface for customers, he reports. “We are engaging with customers on behalf of DISA, [so] there is constant improvement,” the colonel says. “We are working through to make things simpler for the mission partner.”
One business system renovation is targeting the ordering portal that customers use, to provide a more comprehensive service. “We want to get business systems into place that change the whole end-to-end customer experience, from inquiry, to ordering, to tracking, to implementation and payments, the whole ordering portal,” Col. Chinn states. “[It’s about] having one place the mission partners can go to and do all that, just like they would go out there to any service on the Internet.”
The challenge with that advancement is that legacy systems are tied into the ordering process, as are multiple services from multiple organizations, he notes. “So we are working to tie all those together and innovate upon the automation,” Col. Chinn shares. “It’s not automate just for the sake of automation, so to do it correctly, it’s going to take a little bit of time.”
Another upgrade provides users a clear path to the MPEO staff teams through a new contact feature on DISA’s website. Once a user initiates contact, an MPEO team member then remains with that mission partner throughout the entire DISA service request process, Col. Chinn emphasizes.
“We will link you up with the right POC [point of contact], and then we stay with you,” he says. “We continue to facilitate that engagement to make sure that all your issues and concerns are addressed, that the services you asked for [through DISA are progressing], either that you’re talking to the right POC and that they’re being responsive or if we need to submit it through a process to request analysis to offer new services, which is a different division. But, we still maintain that oversight until it’s complete.” For those users who already have a contact at DISA and know from where they need to get a service, “by all means, contact that POC,” Col. Chinn adds.
To offer users more timely information on the specifics of DISA’s programs, the MPEO also has stepped up the frequency of its customer engagement forum to a bimonthly rotation of 90-minute sessions. The forum gives all mission partners an opportunity to have a direct dialogue with the DISA program managers (PMs).
“Originally, it used to be done quarterly, on a four-hour block, which was very difficult for [partners] to attend,” Col. Chinn explains. “We cut it down to an hour-and-a-half session so we can have more topics keyed up. That way the [partners] can attend the ones they think are most important. And we are always looking for feedback on what topics are important to the mission partners.”
Recent customer forums have included discussions on: milCloud; mobility offerings for warfighters, such as the Department of Defense mobility unclassified capability (DMUC), the unclassified cellphone; secret Internet protocol router network (SIPRNet) and the top secret network equivalent, he said.
“But it’s not only for the combatant commands and the military,” Col Chinn clarifies. “The Fourth Estate agencies were wondering about the Fourth Estate network optimization and how that’s going to go forward. And so we brought in the PM to discuss their current way ahead and answer any questions.”
In addition, for any mission partners passing by the DISA booth at industry events and conferences, the MPEO is sending more representatives to answer questions about the agency’s services. For example, one of the MPEO teams in February attended the AFCEA Rocky Mountain Chapter’s Cyberspace Symposium 2019 in Colorado Springs, along with staff from DISA’s Requirements Analysis Office (RAO) and the Public Affairs Office. Another MPEO team will be available at AFCEA’s TechNet Cyber event in Baltimore this month.
At every turn, the MPEO is striving to be an advocate for mission partners in dealing with DISA officials. This includes helping DISA program managers better understand mission partner requirements when they work on executing service requests. “Where the Mission Partner Engagement Office comes in,” Col. Chinn states, “is as the PMs are focused on cost, schedule and performance, we advocate on the mission partner’s behalf and the impact to them. So if you change a particular aspect of your program, you might affect half of your mission partners. So we try to convey that to the program offices. And if it’s a new requirement, that’s when we help them facilitate the request through the RAO office,” he says.
The MPEO team also is working more often with users that have comprehensive requests, a past trend that is returning, Col. Chinn observes. “Our customers are becoming more sophisticated since they’re consuming multiple services, and they are asking us to integrate packages, which normally wasn’t done,” he states. “Now they come to us and say, ‘Hey, we’ve got this five-year plan, and I want these 10 services from you, and I want you to integrate this whole implementation for us,’ which, we used to do back in the day. So it’s coming full circle that we’re moving back towards that paradigm.”
As for challenges, the MPEO chief does see workforce constraints, like any entity operating in the information technology field. “Just like all the organizations out there, it’s a highly competitive field, and you’ve got to keep refilling your ranks,” Col. Chinn admits.
In the meantime, the MPEO will continue its main focus “of building transparency and building that trust for the mission partner,” the colonel notes.