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A Successful Deployment

By Luc Hatlestad  |  Posted 2009-09-16 Print this article Print

When the U.S. Army went looking for ways to cut paperwork costs, it ended up with an unexpected benefit: It saved lives.

Since last year, IBM and Enterprise Information Management, a veteran-owned firm that customizes business process solutions, have been working together to automate business processes for the Army’s Publishing Directorate (APD). The result is the creation of the Electronic Content Management Services (ECMS), which uses IBM Lotus Forms Version 3.5. It’s used to digitize the Army’s human resources, personnel, logistics and forms processes, and about 1.4 million users are deploying it.

The ECMS has the ability to “centrally manage official Army departmental information, authenticate the information, and make it universally accessible to enhance the Army’s readiness and war-fighting capabilities,” Maks explains. “We now have a centrally managed program with digitized forms that can be downloaded, as well as smart forms that can be ‘wizardized.’

“One of our longer applications is the military evaluation. Because you can digitally sign the forms, it makes that process faster and easier. Since the rules are embedded in the form, the error rate has come way down. And because it’s a content management system, the content never moves. I can travel anywhere and just log on, and it’s like I never left.”

Maks adds that the new technology is easy to work with and is accessible to users of all levels. It supports evaluation policy requirements, encourages right actions, and prohibits or limits wrong actions, such as entering data incorrectly or in the wrong place. The system also reduces administrative errors, eliminates the need to physically carry evaluations between combat bases, lets documents be shared regardless of location and cuts down drastically on postal costs.

In addition, IBM Forms can precisely mimic an organization’s existing paper forms electronically. That concept is nothing new, of course, but moving away from paper has been slow to catch on, largely because digitized versions have often been poor copies. In this case, however, the electronic forms look exactly like they do on paper.

“Because the system handles the forms the same way, retraining is minimal,” Maks explains. “It’s very easy and intuitive.” This reduces training time and costs.

Luc Hatlestad is a freelance writer for Baseline magazine.
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