In-Depth

Army architecture advances in Morale, Welfare and Recreation project

HONORABLE MENTION: Processes & Practices

If you think you have IT management problems, consider the challenges facing Rick Thomas, CIO of the U.S. Army's Community and Family Support Center (CFSC), when he set out to build an enterprise architecture foundation for the CFSC's Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) division. Operated by civilians with military oversight, the MWR deals with an array of services ranging from financial management to bowling center operations. The MWR is responsible for providing these services to more than 10 million customers, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, around the world.

Throw in a few regulatory requirements, and you have a serious need to capture a strategic view of your operations and technology. "Given the complexity of operations we must support and the pace of change in the Army today, we needed a way to add rigor to the systems analysis and process improvement environments," Thomas noted. Previously, the group's IT acquisitions had been based on narrowly focused needs, resulting in a "hodge-podge of systems that solve individual problems but do not interconnect across the enterprise," he added.

Thomas initiated the MWR's enterprise architecture program in 1999 with an experienced team of in-house developers and consultants from DESE Research, a Huntsville, Ala.-based provider of research and engineering services.

Because of budget constraints and the complexity of the group's operations, the team employed a "building block" approach, focusing first on areas where they felt they could make an immediate impact. They selected Popkin's System Architect as the development platform because it offered a central repository for storing the millions of pieces of data that would be accumulated for analysis. It also let the team develop models that linked business processes to the underlying IT to ensure that duplicate efforts and systems were identified.

Today, the enterprise architecture developed by Thomas and his team plays a key role in helping the MWR to improve its operations management and make informed technology investment decisions. It provides a way to capture detailed information, and to analyze and measure the impact of proposed changes on organizational structure and supporting IT.

The MWR was one of the first groups in the Army to fully embrace enterprise architecture. Other groups and departments are beginning to work on their own enterprise architectures, and they are looking to the Army MWR for advice and counsel on those initiatives.

APPLICATION PROFILE

Project: MWR Enterprise Architecture Purpose: To implement an enterprise architecture that provides a complete framework of the Army MWR enterprise.

Benefits: Helps MWR analyze and measure the impact of proposed changes, identify process requirements objectively and make informed technology decisions.

Platform: Microsoft Access TOOLS Popkin System Architect, Microsoft Project Manager

DEVELOPMENT TEAM
Rick Thomas, CIO, U.S. Army Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR); Buzz Leonard, program manager, DESE Research Inc.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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