In choosing applications to support their operations, businesses are often faced with a difficult choice. Change their business processes to fit particular commercial software or have applications designed to fit their current business model both internally and externally to customers? “Out of the box” software, if properly installed and configured, is an appropriate solution for some less complex and diversified companies. For those companies with specialized products, services or processes, customized applications and software provide a solution specifically suited to meet their needs and that of their online customers.
The matching of customized applications, software and supporting databases to current business processes provides benefits that far exceed the cost of development and support. Custom software means less training for users as they are merely using a different tool to do the same work in the same way, greater adoption as the software is intuitive to users and less disruption to ongoing business as customers see a familiar interface.
TTC’s finds the proper mix of application, software and database development to meet our client’s needs. Whether installation and configuration of out of the box software, a combination of out of the box with some customization, or a fully customized and optimized application platform, TTC has the experience and knowledge to help our clients answer the most difficult software procurement questions.
Application and Software Development
TTC’s overall SharePoint development support approach to CMS concentrates development and configuration permissions within one group that can enforce consistency and visibility across the entire organization. Having one group in control of development better coordinates producing workflows, content management solutions, metadata schema, and common SharePoint tools across user segments. Centralized development and configuration limits the tendency for users to configure SharePoint for their individual needs without oversight approval, a practice that is difficult to document, manage, and support. TTC’s development and configuration concept is to design to organizational needs that incorporate the overall business process requirements and allow a set of trained users to work within that framework for basic configurations. This approach, with active Business Analysts and Developers support ensuresthose users’ needs are met and the overall architecture and design of the SharePoint implementation is maintained.
TTC Business Analysts interact with a CMS Project Leader, if assigned. For less complex projects, the procuring CMS entity appoints a person to act as the liaison between their users and the TTC Business Analyst. In either case, the Project Leader or liaison is responsible for validating the requirements and providing prioritization and communication with the Business Analyst. The Business Analyst also works directly with the end users to gather and build the requirements document, schedule, test plan and preliminary documentation for Change Management Board presentation and approval or revision. The Business Analyst then interacts directly with TTC Developers to ensure that work products are built based on the approved requirements.
TTC’s SharePoint configuration always begins using “out of the box” (OOB) capabilities. If there are requirements that go beyond OOB capabilities, the use of SharePoint Designer (a specialized SharePoint HTML editing program) is then considered. Where the development requirements exceed the capability of SharePoint Designer, TTC uses custom .NET development as the final option. Based on our experience, more than 90% of requirements can be done with OOB configuration.
TTC developed a multi-level model in building SharePoint sites. A notional CMS structure incorporated a top level that is a public site within CMS; the “SharePoint Intranet” where Offices, Centers, Groups and Divisions use SharePoint publishing capabilities to create their organization’s artifacts and share information across CMS. The next level is the SharePoint collaboration level that mirrors the current CMS Office, Center, Group and Division organization structure. In this level users have their collaboration environment, document management, and any other tools to help them perform their daily duties. At the collaboration level each Office, Center, Group and Division is allowed to determine user access. The third level is the “personal sites” level using My Sites (Organizational – Office – Personal) for the purpose of allowing CMS users with similar interests and business needs to locate each other. This capability often leads to natural forming Communities of Interest, a powerful collaborative tool that aids in lessening the impediments often associated with organizational boundaries.
Each site is individually branded while still maintaining an overall CMS look and feel and common functionality, such as header, footer and navigation. In its final form, the site has a more user friendly website appearance rather than that of the more intimidating SharePoint site. This fosters ease of training and leads to greater adoption and use. For example, TTC’s intuitive interfaces and easy-to-use tools developed for OST’s SharePoint implementation increased system adoption from 20% to over 95% of in less than two years. Working directly with the Business Analysts to gather requirements and develop additional tools, each CMS Office, Center, Group and Division is able to extend the capabilities of their site to support specific business needs.
Our Database Administrator (DBA) was the primary contact for database related issues and provide service delivery for network devices running databases under USAACE control that provide LAN, WAN, and remote access services. Database management services include policy enforcement per Army regulations and implementation guides and configuration of USAACE network servers, routers, switches, Storage Area Networks (SAN), Network Attached Storage (NAS), and routine maintenance of these network devices. The DBA installed approved service releases of network device software and firmware within guidelines and timelines per Army regulation.
The DBA addressed issues requiring advanced expertise escalated from the Help Desk Specialists or forwarded from authorized USAACE personnel. The DBA was also the primary POC for issues involving multiple USAACEsupport areas and/or external support providers, such as the Fort Rucker NEC vendor support, to facilitate an end-to-end resolution of the issue. Our PM monitored all elevated issues providing periodic updates and plans of action for resolution to USAACE customers and stakeholders until the issue was resolved.
The Centralized Aviation Flight Records-System (CAFRS), Aviation Resource Training System (ARTS), Resident Individual Training Management System (RITMS), and Digital Training Management System (DTMS) were all important data repositories concerning the scheduling or recording of information critical to the life-long learning experience of today’s soldiers. Our DBA worked with USAACE functional proponents to determine what information from these—and other databases as were identified—USAACE consideredmost important to make available in the USAACE SharePoint implementation.
Our DBA administrated the USSACE CAFRS data used to compile, track, and analyze flight records, Individual Aircrew Training Folders (IATF), and Air Traffic Services (ATS) records. Under the direction of USAACE and within the standard operating procedures for CAFRS, our DBA oversaw the assignment of appropriate permissions and access to CAFRS data based on a user’s unit affiliation and duties. Our DBA was directly responsible for the USAACE CAFRS data interfaces for both importing and exporting information and performing maintenance, upgrades, and security activities related to the USAACE CAFRS data.