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Army Logistics Knowledge Management and SALE: Relevance and Recommendations

This article, the third of a three-part series on Army logistics knowledge management and the Single Army Logistics Enterprise, discusses the relevance of SALE to Army logistics KM and recommends a logistics KM framework for the Army.

This article covers three areas: the implementation of the Single Army Logistics Enterprise (SALE), the alignment of SALE with Army logistics knowledge management (KM) practices and the relationship between the two, and recommendations for a logistics KM framework for the Army logistics community.

For this research, the author reviewed related studies and conducted face-to-face interviews with Army acquisition, information technology (IT), and logistics representatives who have been involved with directing, implementing, using, testing, and evaluating SALE. While the research was being conducted, the Army had not completed implementing SALE. The Army had partially fielded the Logistics Modernization Program (LMP) component only to Army Materiel Command (AMC) organizations and was testing and evaluating the Global Combat Support System-Army (Field/Tactical) (GCSS-Army [F/T]) component of SALE. Therefore, the author limited the interviews to a sample of personnel from organizations involved with implementing the LMP component, testing and evaluating the GCSS-Army (F/T) component, and providing guidance and direction for SALE.

The author interviewed representatives from the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G–4, Department of the Army; Program Executive Office Enterprise Integration System; AMC; the Army Combined Arms Support Command (CASCOM); Tobyhanna Army Depot, Pennsylvania; and the Army TACOM Life Cycle Management Command (LCMC). The participants served as members of the SALE implementation team.

The Army G–4, AMC, and CASCOM representatives provided logistics guidance to the implementation team. The Program Manager (PM) SALE representatives focused on the acquisition and IT aspects of the LMP implementation efforts and the testing and evaluation of SALE’s GCSS-Army (F/T) component. The Tobyhanna Army Depot and LCMC representatives provided feedback to the implementation team from the perspective of LMP users.

Implementing SALE

The relevance of SALE to Army logistics KM depends on establishing logistics KM practices and successful SALE implementation themes. The chart at right shows the alignment of SALE implementation themes with KM practices. Direction and funds are SALE’s top management support themes affecting logistics KM. Senior executives play active roles in the SALE implementation, and Department of Defense and Army directives cover SALE. The Army has programmed funds for procuring logistics information systems that will plug into the SALE architecture.

SALE’s project management themes include governance, sequential rollouts, logistics process management, and communication. The project management team conducts reviews to keep the project on schedule and ensures that SALE addresses logistics processes for warfighting requirements. Members of the project management team communicate with each other to stay synchronized.

The strategic goal themes from the interviews pertain to SALE and its interface with transportation automated information systems. SALE provides software solutions for integrating all logistics data except transportation information. However, the fiscal year 2007 Army Logistics Domain Information Technology Implementation Plan includes SALE and shows interfaces with transportation automated information systems.

SALE’s implementation change management and training and education themes include enterprise resource planning (ERP) training and education for logistics leaders, implementation team members, and users and policy changes. The training and education programs should help organizations overcome resistance to change. Logistics organizations should focus on specific SALE training and education requirements instead of attempting to train and educate people on all aspects of SALE components. The quality of training and education could affect the quality of data and information from SALE. The use of SALE components should be intuitive to users, and logistics organizations should adjust policies to support SALE.

The cross-functional team and user participation themes pertain to subject-matter experts and tacit knowledge. The cross-functional team concept worked for the LMP component of SALE when subject-matter experts shared knowledge with implementation team members. The Army had not yet fielded the GCSS-Army (F/T) component to institutional and operational forces at the time of the research.

The technology fit themes include outsourcing ERP development and implementation, software updates, logistics requirements, and logistics process changes. The Army sought an ERP solution to satisfy its logistics systems integration challenges. A commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) solution appeared to be the best approach. The Army contracted SAP, a European software company, to provide the software integration solution. This contract eliminated the need for the Army to custom-build its logistics enterprise system.

Logistics KM and SALE

SALE aligns with Army logistics KM. KM is one of the key components of the Army logistics enterprise. SALE’s vision includes “a fully integrated logistics enterprise based upon collaborative planning, knowledge management, and best business practices.”1 The following sections explain the alignment between the KM practices of leadership and management, organization, learning, and technology and the SALE implementation.

Leadership and management. Top management support, strategic goals, change management and training and education, cross-functional team and user participation, and technology fit align with the logistics leadership and management KM practice. The Army G–4, AMC, and CASCOM provide guidance and direction to the SALE implementation team. The direction and guidance include the logistics IT strategy, policy changes, composition of SALE implementation teams, and logistics requirements.

Organization. Top management support, project management, and strategic goals of SALE align with the logistics organization KM practice. The governing body, called the Business Process Council, oversees the
implementation efforts. The council has established metrics to help monitor SALE implementation efforts. The SALE implementation plan includes sequential rollouts and periodic reviews. The sequential rollouts comply with guidance in the Army logistics IT strategy. Although SALE does not cover transportation automated information systems, it provides interfaces for them.

Learning. Project management, change management and training and education, and cross-functional team and user participation align with the logistics learning KM practice. The organizations participating in the implementation of SALE have recognized and implemented change management to help employees overcome resistance to new ways of doing things. SALE has introduced changes to processes for obtaining logistics data and information in organizations, and the logistics training and education programs will be updated to institutionalize changes required by the implementation of SALE. Cross-functional implementation teams, consisting of acquisition, IT, and logistics personnel, help facilitate the transformation of tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge.

Technology. Top management support, project management, strategic goals, and technology fit align with the logistics technology KM practice. The Army provides guidance and funds for the SALE implementation program. The Business Process Council monitors the acquisition process to ensure that the components of SALE satisfy the needs of the Army. The Army has prepared the logistics IT strategy to help align IT procurements with the strategic goals of the logistics community. The Army has decided to outsource software solutions, including KM capture and creation tools, for SALE.

Recommendations

SALE offers the Army logistics community technological enablers for operating in a web-based collaborative environment. Logisticians could become overwhelmed with logistics data and information from SALE unless they have a structure for dealing with them. KM provides this structure. Although the Army logistics community has not institutionalized its approach to KM, the results from this research suggest ways of dealing with KM while receiving waves of data and information from SALE.

The strategies, policies and regulations, institutional training and education, and operations drivers suggested in the first article of this series could help the Army institutionalize logistics KM. These KM drivers serve as the first step toward identifying logistics KM requirements and their relationships to KM practices with SALE. The next step should be the institutionalization of logistics KM practices. The leadership and management, organization, learning, and technology KM practices could assist the logistics community in this regard. The third and final step is aligning SALE with logistics KM practices.

Although the implementation of SALE aligns with logistics KM, the Army needs a logistics KM framework to help manage data and information from SALE. The results of this research identified six key factors that are critical to effective Army logistics KM: policies, strategies, curriculum development, training and education programs, capture and creation tools, and operational concepts.

Policies and strategies should lead the KM effort. Policies strongly affect strategies. However, strategies can also require the need for new policies or revisions to existing strategies. Policies and strategies affect curriculum development, training and education, capture and creation tools, and operations.

The curriculum development effort and KM capture and creation tools affect KM training and education and KM operations. Curriculum development includes faculty preparation and recruitment, facility resources, and course and lesson objectives for logistics KM training and education programs. KM training and education programs help logisticians manage data and information at all levels of operations. Curriculum development should cover KM capture and creation tools because they serve as enablers to help logisticians make decisions during KM operations. KM policies, strategies, curriculum development, training and education, and capture and creation tools provide a framework to help logisticians manage data and information at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels of operations.

KM policies. The Army logistics community needs defined policies—established by the Army G–4—to guide logistics KM efforts. Without logistics KM policies, logisticians follow ad hoc approaches to identifying, collecting, sharing, and using logistics data and information. An Army logistics KM policy could provide KM guidance specifically for the logistics community. This research suggests the inclusion of KM policies on leadership and management, organization, learning, and technology practices for the Army logistics community.

KM strategies.
The Army G–4 should also develop logistics KM strategies. The strategy insights (vision, objective, strategy development, strategy execution, and corrective actions) outlined in the book Crafting and Executing Strategy2 could assist the G–4 with logistics KM strategy development. The G–4 should identify logistics KM goals and objectives. The strategies should also include metrics to measure the effectiveness of their execution. This research confirmed that continuing top management involvement and commitment are critical to logistics KM.

KM curriculum development. The Army should develop curricula to guide training and education programs for managing logistics data and information. Present logistics curricula do not refer to the management of logistics data and information as knowledge management. The Army has not created logistics KM titles for what it trains and educates and should update logistics curricula to reflect logistics KM practices.

KM training and education. Following the development of relevant curricula, the Army needs to plan, fund, and execute extensive logistics KM training and education programs. These programs should operate continuously to maintain and progressively expand Army KM capabilities. Logisticians should be able to apply logistics IT enablers to help manage supply, maintenance, transportation, and other logistics data and information. This includes components of SALE as well as automated information systems that interface with SALE. SALE and interfacing automated information systems could provide a flood of data and information that could overwhelm logisticians. The Army should train and educate logisticians on managing data and information from these systems.

KM capture and creation tools. The Army logistics community needs to identify the KM capture and creation tools needed to assist with operations planning and execution. Since SALE and its interfacing automated information systems provide an enormous stream of data and information, logisticians need KM tools to process them.

To minimize the need for costly interface solutions, as many of the requisite KM tools as possible should be part of the purchased SAP software solution. For exceptional cases, service-oriented architecture (SOA) solutions could satisfy KM tool requirements for SALE. Several IT software companies offer SOA solutions. The Army logistics community should agree on KM capture and creation tool requirements as soon as possible. The longer it takes, the greater will be the probability of relying on costly SOA interface solutions. When SAP updates its software, the Army must update the customized KM tools so they can interface with SAP.

These capture and creation tools are critical to an effective interface between SAP, SALE, and unique and varied Army logistics requirements. Private industry often uses third-party software for interface purposes. The Army needs to determine if SAP has the required capabilities for Army logistics KM practices and, if not, to consider using internally developed software or COTS software.

KM operations. The Army should gear all logistics KM efforts in support of logistics operations at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels. KM policies, strategies, curriculum development, training and education programs, and capture and creation tools should support logistics operations at these levels. Regardless of the operational concept (war or operations other than war), logisticians must manage data and information at all three levels.

Future Research

The Army has entered into contracts with SAP to implement components of SALE. However, questions arise concerning web-based data integration software and its ability to stay secure and current, especially when considering how fast technology changes. Intel cofounder Gordon Moore predicted in 1965 that the number of transistors on a computer chip would double about every 2 years.3 Moore’s prediction has been very close to the actual evolution of technology over the past 40 years.

The Army should conduct future research on the security of web-based data integration software. SALE provides an architecture that could integrate and interface logistics data and information using software developed from all parts of the world. Future research should determine if this could be a problem for the Army. The Army should resolve these issues before committing fully to SAP or other software alternatives.

Several organizations will be sending and receiving data and information throughout the logistics enterprise. Future research should include studying command and control over data and information because organizations could doubt the veracity of data and information from such an open system. The Army should hold organizations and people accountable for the accuracy of data and information shared under the SALE umbrella.

The Army should also research KM requirements, KM practices, and logistics data integration efforts from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This effort should include all of the logistics functions. Logisticians should understand explicit and tacit knowledge challenges created by the war. The insights from the war could help focus the efforts of the SALE implementation team to address logistics KM.

While the research was limited to Army organizations, little was found that was particularly unique to the Army. The conclusions appear relevant to other defense organizations as well as to KM efforts in the private sector. Future research should be conducted to confirm this.

Technology has revolutionized Army logistics. Current SALE implementation efforts support Army logistics knowledge management. However, the Army logistics community does not rely solely on SALE software solutions. Army logisticians need a KM policy, a KM strategy, updated logistics training and education curricula, logistics automated information system training and education programs, and KM capture and creation tools to leverage the benefits of software solutions to support collecting, sharing, and using logistics data and information.
ALOG

Dr. Nicholas J. Anderson is the president of O&M Consulting, LLC, in Goose Creek, South Carolina. He is a retired Army colonel and a graduate of South Carolina State University. He has a doctor of philosophy degree in organization and management from Capella University, a master’s degree in management from Webster University, and a master’s degree in strategic studies from the Army War College.

1 “Single Army Logistics Enterprise: Overall Army Logistics Enterprise Solution Report—Final,” Enterprise Integration, Inc., Fairfax, Virginia, 2003.

2 Arthur A. Thompson, Jr. et al., Crafting and Executing Strategy: The Quest for Competitive Advantage Concepts and Cases, 14th ed., McGraw-Hill/Irwin, New York, 2005, pp. 17–39.

3 “Moore’s law,” Intel, 2007, http://www.intel.com/technology/
mooreslaw/index.htm?iid=tech_as+rhc_moore
, accessed on 2 August 2007.