It's the kind of project that could destroy many IT careers. As part of the U.S. Army's 2011 base closure process (identified by the separate Base Realignment and Closure Commission), Attila Bognar had to consolidate and integrate three HR commands and their data centers from three separate bases to one new location at Fort Knox, Ky. The HR IT portfolio is one of the largest such portfolios in the Army, with 300 systems and 900 interfaces spanning all parts of the government and serving 2.5 million soldiers worldwide.
But consolidating three data centers into one at a new location was just part of the challenge. The total HR IT workforce headcount had to be reduced by 30 percent, and the reduced staff at the new location had to be hired essentially from scratch. The Army would move just 10 percent of the workforce to Fort Knox; everyone else would be a new hire. Plus, the existing systems had to be migrated into a new infrastructure managed by an outside contractor with rules and policies that were unlike those at the three original sites.
And, oh yeah, despite the changeover of pretty much everything, it all had to keep working.
The rationale was clear: The consolidation and changeover would save the Army a lot of money and render the HR systems more capable, efficient, consistent, and flexible. As the chief of the project management division for the Army's HR command, Bognar had to make it happen.
To do so, he incorporated agile techniques to meet quick-turn system sustainment and maintenance tasks during migration. He did this despite having inexperienced personnel at the outset due to the relocation of the command to an area where IT candidates were in short supply. Bognar also reorganized the HR IT organization into a product line rather than a matrixed organizational structure, allowing for more personal contact with customers and consistency of support while maintaining the flexibility necessary to maximize a small labor pool. Those changes in project and organization management are what the Army credits for Bognar's success in making the transition work.
The Army is now replicating what Bognar did in other data center consolidation projects.
The logistics industry has traditionally focused on the needs of the shipper, and the recipients of all those packages have just been given better access to their packages' progress -- but with no way to manage their end of the delivery. UPS saw the opportunity and created tools to help residential receivers control and manage their incoming package deliveries.
But making it happen was no mean feat, discovered Laynglyn Capers, the vice president for information services charged with the receiver-facing software effort. Remember, most of UPS's customer-facing systems were designed for shippers, so connecting software designed for use by receivers required significant modifications to many existing IT systems, involving both IT and business stakeholders. In all, more than 60 applications were either modified or built to support the new tools.
To reach this goal, Capers established the program management office, and he oversaw both the development project and the interactions with the other UPS business units affected. It's what IT managers are supposed to do, of course, but it's not easy to do well -- especially with a new kind of software product and all the market and internal unknowns created.
The result was UPS My Choice, a free service with a paid premiun option that allows Web and mobile access for users to see their incoming UPS home deliveries at any time, choose delivery preferences, reroute shipments, adjust delivery locations and dates as needed, and add special delivery instructions visible only to UPS. As of April 2012, UPS My Choice has well over 1 million subscribers.