The Army’s financial management systems have enough tech. Here’s what they need next.

Hint: It involves people.
Army financial management
Joint Service members and civilians participate in Exercise Diamond Saber at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, on June 26, 2019. It's the Army’s only large-scale financial management exercise. (U.S. Army / Russell Gamache)

The Army’s systems for managing its money are all squared-away with tech. They’ve got cloud. They’ve got APIs. They’ve got pretty much all they really need. So  here’s what they really want next: some help with figuring out the people behind the tech.

John Bergin, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for financial information management, has two questions for industry: “How are we managing the right people? How are we growing the right talent?”

Answers to those questions will go a lot further than pitches on the latest-and-greatest applications, he said during a virtual AFCEA event. For any tech challenges that pop up, Bergin wants to explore IT-as-a-service (ITaaS) models that contract-out the overall management of systems. Ultimately, he wants “partnership,” not just providers.

“We have to look to you guys to give us advice,” Bergin said to the industry.


What that means, primarily, is advice on training and managing the talent he has. When hiring for mid- and senior-level positions, Bergin said his working assumption is that he will only get two years of service from employees before they are re-assigned or leave for the private sector. Finding ways to get the best out of people while they are in his office is the priority for him, he said. He also wants to know how his employees can get the best human-centered systems in the hands of users, like improving the invoice system and other business management tools.

Bergin said he has been studying non-defense companies like Coca-Cola and John Deere for examples of strong management practices. He wants consultation on supply chain monitoring and making technical changes successful at scale across large, Army-sized organizations.

What Bergin wants to see above all for the outcome of his people-modernization efforts are positive user experiences. Metrics that show user satisfaction are the ones he really cares most about, because his users serve the country, he said. But first, he needs input on how to fine-tune what those metrics are then measure more precisely. With more than 150,000 users, expanding services is a tall order and one that needs to happen at scale.

As always, fiscal pressures are looming. It can be tough to maximize the workforce in the face of flat or declining budgets, he said.

“Business systems … always take a back seat” in budgets, Bergin said.

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