Why DISA has the right IDEAS for military procurement

Commentary: The Pentagon is researching business process management software to replace aging procurement systems. But Appian's Chris O'Connell says DISA may already have what the department needs.

Chris O'Connell
Bio
Chris O'Connell Vice President of Federal Sales

Christopher O'Connell is vice president of public sector sales at Appian Corporation where he leads solution development for federal, healthcare...

When the Defense Department began collecting information last September on potential business process management software solutions to help revamp its aging procurement system, few took notice of a proven BPM procurement solution that had already been deployed by the Defense Information Systems Agency.

Dubbed IDEAS, DISA's Integrated Defense Enterprise Acquisition System is a natively-mobile, cloud-based shared services solution designed to meet the contract writing and acquisition needs of the entire DOD procurement environment. Unlike commercial or government off-the-shelf solutions, supporting the department's procurement needs with IDEAS would not require expensive manual workarounds. Instead, IDEAS would be able to leverage its process flexibility to meet the diverse requirement of each branch it serves.

DISA developed IDEAS to help accomplish three of its key strategic objectives. First, the solution promotes acquisition agility across the agency and DOD in general. Second, IDEAS complies with the agency's "DISA First" initiative to act as the department's early adopter for new enterprise capabilities. And finally, the solution shows how rapid delivery, scaling, and utilization of secure mobile capabilities can be accomplished across the defense enterprise.

If the existing DISA IDEAS solution were to be distributed to agencies across the DOD via the cloud, the compound savings would be so great that it simply demands some attention.

Until last year IDEAS had been focused on telecom procurement, but due to the flexibility and savings seen from the successful program, it moved to configure its traditional contracting (a system to manage the purchasing of goods and services) into the system. Its initial operating capability is scheduled for deployment in March with full operating capability scheduled to be completed by the end of September. This is being accomplished at less than the cost of conducting an RFI/RFP process for a Standard Procurement System replacement contract for one branch of the military. That's to say nothing of the cost to award what could easily be a $100 million contract or more to deploy an integrator-developed COTS system.

DISA's IDEAS represents a successful procurement program that is available to the defense enterprise today, is deployed in the cloud, and offers a mobile application approved for the DOD app store to provide contract data to mobile devices. Modifying it for each branch of service would cost less than contracting for a new system for each branch of service. If the existing DISA IDEAS solution were to be distributed to agencies across the DOD via the cloud, the compound savings would be so great that it simply demands some attention.

The BPM approach that is the foundation of IDEAS has been demonstrated to be the fastest, easiest and most effective way to address the unique differences in the procurement and acquisition processes for each branch of service and its internal organizations. DOD agencies can still have their own pieces of the procurement process, and configure them to work within their own frameworks while complying with existing federal integration standards.

Industry observers will no doubt follow the current Sources Sought, RFIs, and RFPs with great interest. In the final analysis, however, it's clear that DISA already has the right idea.

Chris O'Connell is vice president for federal sales at Appian. He can be reached at chris.o'connell@appian.com

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