Idea contest paves way for IT innovation

By Sara Moore, Information Operations

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DLA Information Operations’ first innovation-idea contest wrapped up in November with the final senior-leader review of the pilot projects, but the benefits of those projects and lessons learned will carry forward as the organization continues its innovation journey.

In May, the DLA Information Operations senior leader “Shark Tank” selected nine of 91 ideas as potential pilot projects, and seven of those are moving forward toward development and implementation. The idea submitters, who are now leading the pilot projects, gave their final updates Nov. 21 to the Shark Tank, which gave approval to continue the efforts.  

Those projects include:

  • An employee task tracker that would use commercial, off-the-shelf software to help employees and supervisors organize tasks, collaborate, increase productivity, and measure analytics. Several teams across J6 are testing a potential software tool for its effectiveness and security.
  • Sponsored guest wireless, which would provide a secure guest wireless network for DLA visitors, such as vendors and mission partners, at major DLA installations. Using a Defense Department instruction, the project leader has outlined the configuration needed for the network and is working on documentation and security requirements to put a pilot network in place.
  • DLA Blip, a user-friendly mobile application for DLA devices to identify customer issues and network or application performance. Instead of building a separate application, the team built capabilities of DLA Blip into the Enterprise Dashboard, with pending mobile capabilities. A Dec. 6 J6 Communication message outlined this new capability available to all DLA employees. This quick-start guide (this link is Common Access Card-restricted to DLA employees) tells you how to connect with your iPhone or laptop.
  • Tiger Teams, a resource that will allow for the dynamic creation of teams across J6 for specific projects. The project team discovered an available add-on to the agency’s existing Learning Management System that would provide this capability, and they are working on a pilot implementation.
  • J6 Wiki, a resource website where employees could post information about known IT issues, solutions, workarounds and best practices. The project team has been testing and is working to implement a collaboration tool called Confluence to create a knowledge-sharing community and Wiki to be piloted with J6 employees.
  • J6 Peer Training, which would give J6 employees a way to collaborate on training and technical questions. This project team decided to include these capabilities in the J6 Wiki project, because they intend to leverage the same software and each will benefit by including the information in a central location.
  • Employee 360, a tool that would give employees easy access to systems and information they use on a regular basis to manage career and benefits. The Shark tank asked that this project roll into the larger J6 effort to centralize resources and access for employees, and the team is working on development.

In addition to the potential benefits these projects will bring to the organization and the agency, the contest yielded valuable lessons for future endeavors, said Adam Price, the member of the J6 Innovation Team who designed the contest. For example, one idea that didn’t make it through the pilot phase, called Software Defined Networking, didn’t make it only because during the research process, the idea submitter discovered that the Defense Information Systems Agency was already piloting this capability in Columbus, Ohio. Similarly, the guest wireless project led to the discovery of the DoD instruction on guest wireless networks, which helped define parameters for such a network, which will be important as the agency deploys more mobile capability.

Another important lesson from the contest came as some of the projects teams were working toward implementation, Price said. The innovation team and project teams discovered that the traditional J6 processes, while necessary for cybersecurity and agency requirements, are not always conducive to rapid testing and evaluation of experimental pilot projects. Therefore, J6 is looking at revising and streamlining some of these internal processes, which will improve implementation time for innovative ideas, as well as other projects across the agency.

DLA Information Operations is using these lessons as it continues forward with innovation efforts, Price said. The Innovation Team is sponsoring an Intelligent Automation Challenge to look for ways to automate processes within the organization. It is also developing partnerships to educate the workforce on techniques used by industry leaders in entrepreneurship and rapid technology adoption.