|Paperless Office Concept Revolutionizes ESC Program Office |
Paperless Office Concept Revolutionizes ESC Program Office
By 1st Lt. David L. Englin, Electronic Systems Center Public Affairs, 24 March 2000.
Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass. (AFPN) -- The paperless office concept is transforming workspace into an Integrated Digital Environment and is revolutionizing the way one ESC program office does business.
The Global Air Traffic Operations and Mobility Command and Control System Program Office here develops and acquires Air Force landing, navigation and air traffic control systems.
"We are 'knowledge workers' - none of us bend tin," said Harry Pape, GATO MC2's Integrated Digital Environment mentor. "Our ability to work depends on access to information, and that's what this is all about."
"There's a difference between the 'Work' of an organization and the 'work' we do every day," said Pape. "The 'Work' of GATO MC2 is to develop and acquire landing, navigation and air traffic control equipment, but not all of the 'work' we do necessarily contributes to that."
Integrated Digital Environment combines innovative practices with information technology to reduce "busy work" and transform the way units produce, share and communicate information.
"As the Air Force's first Integrated Digital Environment Innovation Center, we have been leaders in this effort," said Col. Stephen A. Henry, GATO MC2 director.
In February 1999, the Air Force named the GATO MC2 program office its first Integrated Digital Environment Innovation Center because of what the organization had already done on its own to transition to a digital work environment, according to Pape.
As an innovation center, GATO MC2 leaders agreed to transform the way they did business within one year. They did that.
"Part of our commitment is not only to transform ourselves, but to become IDE 'missionaries,' helping other organizations make that same transformation," said Pape.
"An 'integrated digital environment' is not a 'thing,'" said Pape. "It's not something you can purchase or install -- it's a whole new way of 'being' for an organization."
According to Pape, there are three principles of an Integrated Digital Environment. The first is that the creator or owner of information is also the keeper of that information. For example, if you are responsible for your unit's budget, then you keep and maintain that information, and questions about that information go to you.
"This improves the quality and accuracy of information, since people tend to take pride in ownership," said Henry. "If I have a problem with your numbers, I just pick up the phone and call you."
The second principle is to replace reporting with access. Instead of sending a printed report of your unit's budget to all the people who need the information, you maintain the budget in a single electronic location -- on a Web page, for instance -- that people can access when they need it. Instead of spending time printing and distributing reports that may be quickly be out of date, you can spend your time keeping the information itself up to date.
"We can go to the Pentagon to give a briefing without any slides or notes," said Pape. "When we get there, we just call up the appropriate section of our secure Web site, and the briefing is right there, with information that may have been updated by its 'owner' as we were walking into the room. We don't even need a briefing book. We can just e-mail a link to the information on our Web site."
The third principle of an Integrated Digital Environment is to preserve the essential evidence of a project for reuse by others. For example, if you are analyzing the performance of a new system, instead of just reporting the results and methods of your work, you can give others electronic access to your raw data. This allows them to validate your results or to analyze the data in ways that are more useful to them.
GATO MC2 has used these principles to put all of its information on secure Web pages that can be viewed using standard Web browsers.
"Of course we're concerned about the security of our information," said Henry. "We're behind the base firewall, and we're as secure as the base. 'Owners' of information can post directly to the Web from their desks, and we use password protection to grant different levels of access, depending on if you're a GATO MC2 employee, a contractor, a customer, one of the agencies we report to, etcetera."
An Integrated Digital Environment has several benefits, according to Pape. It reduces "busy work," saves money and lets people focus on the quality of the information they provide. Ultimately, it makes sure "knowledge workers" have access to the best possible information when and where they need it.
"Obviously this whole effort requires a new way of thinking," said Pape. "Eventually, the term 'Integrated Digital Environment' will go away and it will become a natural part of the way we work."
** Hanscom AFB