With the Internet you could send large files to other people using “ftp” (this was the first time I remember using lower case letters for an acronym). And then another miracle happened: two people could look at the same thing on the Internet at the same time.
Recently my friend and colleague Claudia “Scottie” Knott was inducted into the DLA Hall of Fame. This got me thinking about where she and I were in our careers when we met in the early 1980s. As everyone knows, the Department of Defense has always been an information technology leader and was an early participant in the development of the Internet. Leveraging the ability to make information, communications, and transactions available on a broad scale has had a positive impact on DOD business processes. I’m happy to say that Scottie and I were a part of that evolution at DLA and had big dreams for leveraging technology to support business processes—what we now call eBusiness. Today I’ll give you a look at this evolution up until the time of the Internet. Next week, we’ll continue the discussion with the significant innovations brought about in the post-Internet age.
Life before Big Data: Pre-Internet Times
Originally, data processing was accomplished on a local level. If two organizations needed to share data, they hand delivered or mailed completed forms to each other. Data had to be manually entered at each location where a computer would then process it to produce the desired effect (e.g., create paychecks, release stock from a warehouse, or bill a customer). Besides the duplicate labor, the margin for error was increased each time the data had to pass through another pair of hands to be processed. Punched cards were a great innovation. With punched cards, the margin of error was reduced because one computer could punch the card and the next computer could read the card, successfully preserving the information for data processing. This translated into measurable savings. But they had to be kept in […]
I think it’s time for another leap forward in how the Government approaches acquiring supplies. The commercial sector is replete with much of the stuff that supports business (office) operations. It has become accepted that Government warehouses stocked with these materials are not needed to ensure the smooth performance of daily operations. A lot of the acquisition of these goods is done outside the officially sanctioned Federal Government eCommerce sites. The US Government is losing visibility of where the money is going instead of channeling the business into its own transparent, made-to-suit Internet capabilities. Opportunity for intensely leveraged prices, streamlined business processes and strategic sourcing are being lost daily. Let’s just take one small leap this year and install customer product review capability in our Government on-line ordering platforms.
If we’re in the mood for more than that, here is another suggestion:
Only companies with a US Government contract are allowed to vie for the Government Purchase Card (GPC) business online within officially sanctioned US Government websites (e.g., DOD EMALL and GSA Advantage). At the same time, GPC holders can walk into any brick-and-mortar location to select items off the shelf at will or visit any commercial website and click with abandon. Commercial terms and warranties are completely acceptable when no one is looking evidently. The US Government needs to capture that walk-in business on its own eCommerce platforms for three reasons:
The data being collected on Government Purchase Card (GPC) usage is murky and incomplete. By consolidating GPC activity to officially sanctioned Government owned and operated eCommerce sites transparency on GPC usage can be achieved.
Compliance with laws and regulations concerning mandatory sources and socioeconomic program support can be monitored and enforced.
Channeling this tremendous volume of supplies […]
The DOD EMALL Program Office at the Defense Logistics Agency Headquarters recently sent a survey to customers asking the impact to their mission if DOD EMALL were no longer available. The application received high praise from the users. Here are just a few of their responses.
DLA Land and Maritime
“If we were to lose access to DOD EMALL Tire corridor, it would have a significant negative effect. Currently we use the website to validate NSN’s sources of supply for all DOD buyers and we provide our customers with validated spec sheets that they can use to verify the accuracy of the product they have received. There is no other database that will give me this ability. I am in that database every day reviewing, updating or retrieving data for a customer or a buyer. This section of the DOD EMALL has allowed other organization (TARDEC/TACOM) to easily assist with research and identify inconstancies with the data so that I can properly maintain the NSN’s through the cataloging actions. This is the best way for all organizations to see the same information on one system.”
“It would make a big impact, I support 26 offices, so it would slow down our supply for the DLA offices I support.”
“As a broad stroke perspective from Procurement, lead time would be the greatest impact to our delivery schedule. The material purchased through DOD EMALL is not readily available on the open market or the OEM in most instances. GEAE is our main repair line, lead times ranging up to 725 days.”
USAF AFMC – Robins Air Force Base
“EMALL is very important to us at the F-15 SPO. We have a contract with Korean Air Lines (KAL) to complete the Programmed Depot Maintenance (PDM) on the USAF F-15s stationed at Kadena AS, Okinawa, […]
People get comfortable doing things a certain way and, even when it makes sense to change, they won’t unless they are compelled to do so. They become emotionally attached to their routine and don’t want to leave their comfort zone. Fear of the unknown, negative assumptions, not-a-good-time thinking and past failures are all reasons why change may not happen in the end. This truism holds within the Federal Government as well. In the public sector there’s the additional reason of doing things the same old way because—so far—no one has gotten in trouble. Not yet, anyway.
My observation from thirty-three years of experience working on the inside is that real change cannot be effected without a mandate. Usually these mandates come from Congress: Competition in Contracting Act (1984), the Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (1994), the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (2002)—and have you seen the FY 2013 National Defense Authorization Act changes to acquisition? But it is possible for DOD and Federal Agencies to make policy changes on their own.
In the early days of the Internet the “If you build it, they will come” perspective of the advocates was tinged with a healthy dose of, “… if it’s really worth doing at all” from the skeptics. Websites like DOD EMALL and GSA Advantage soldiered on and have collectively captured over $1.5 billion in annual Government spending—all on small stuff, a few hundred bucks at a time. Now is the time for the Federal Government to recognize the value of what it has and leverage that value to get over the bar.
A policy mandate that requires Government Purchase Card holders to source their items in specific categories from these Government-owned, built-for-Government’s-purpose assets will give the Government the ability […]
No matter whose perspective you use, eCommerce is a good idea for government acquisition. Unfortunately it is a much underutilized tool in the government acquisition tool box. Why do you think the federal government has been slow in utilizing this technology that has been around for almost 20 years?
Consider four things about your eCommerce catalog content: richness, quantity, its value as an asset and using a data standard.
Business to Business (B2B) markets have impacted the business community for a number of years now. Their positive impact on the economy is evident in several ways.
Every eCommerce site requires two essentials: content and customers. In this post, the first in a two-part series, I will focus on the customer-half of the equation. Let’s face it: you can have all the content in the world but if nobody is buying, then half the equation is zero, and anything times zero equals—you guessed it—goose egg.
DOD EMALL is the one-stop shopping, enterprise-wide eCommerce site for the Department of Defense. The eCommerce site supports over 30 Million SKUs and has 40,000 active users, but that’s just scratching the surface. While DOD EMALL can be used to purchase everything from office supplies to weapon system parts, there are a number of other useful features that you might not be aware of within DOD EMALL.
DOD EMALL supports contracts from all the military services, the Department of Homeland Security, Defense Commissary Agency (DECA), GSA and as well as the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA). Any Federal agency with an IDIQ or BPA contract can place it on DOD EMALL. At this time, there is no charge for this service. This is an excellent opportunity for smaller agencies to have their own eCommerce site without the investment.
DOD EMALL makes it easy to support a large group of people with their acquisition needs. If your office has a single purchase cardholder and many personnel with purchasing needs but not purchasing power, DOD EMALL can help you support your staff. Agency personnel can register with DOD EMALL as a Shopper. Shoppers have the ability to complete all their shopping, but not the ability to purchase. Staff members without purchasing power can still build a virtual cart filled with the items that they want, but instead of completing the order, these Shoppers simply send their virtual cart to the office purchase cardholder. The purchase cardholder has the ability to merge multiple shopping carts together to consolidate buys while still retaining the individual details of the orders. This way, when the order comes in, they can easily sort out who ordered what. This is an incredibly convenient way to […]