DLA Strategic Plan 2021 - 2026

Enterprise Enablers Document

Why Innovate?     |     What is Innovation?

Innovation Objectives     |     Data Management Objectives     |     Technology Objectives

The emblem for the Enterprise Enablers DocumentFirst, we support the warfighter. It is a well-known truism while committing resources to win the current war you must always set aside resources for future challenges. This is no less true in DLA, especially with the rate of change in information technology. Each day our professionals work tirelessly to keep networks and lines up, equipment and software up-to-date, and to protect the underlying information. Furthermore, we are collaborating within DLA as a team to bring about the innovative changes we need.

Change, especially with its pace and volume in technology, is both a current pressure and future challenge we need to address. This plan is the forward-leaning vision for innovation and to overcome technological and data management challenges we face today and will continue to impact us as we look to the future. Change brings new opportunities for DoD, interagency and industry partnerships.

I’m excited that this plan doesn’t outline how DLA is simply going to react to challenges, but how we are and will continue to be proactive as the best strategy to successfully navigate our future.

I need each leader in DLA to understand and support this plan and its connection to the DLA Strategic Plan. In addition, I need leaders to foster an innovative culture by proactively supporting advancing technology and embracing the power of data as a valued DLA resource to facilitate optimum decision making. For example, Predictive Technology will allow DLA to anticipate and position solutions for the warfighter by combining big data, predictive analytics, automation, artificial intelligence, sustained supply chain visibility and continuous communication. More than ever, communication and information are integral to new and burgeoning technological advances – advances critical for customer support in this new era. So let’s link arms more tightly in DLA – let’s not be static – and move forward more definitively in continuing to provide world-class logistics support to the warfighter!

- Former DLA Director Army Lt. Gen. Darrell K. Williams

The unprecedented pace and amount of innovative changes in technology rapidity impact our day-to-day lives, changing how we bank, cook, shop, and even how we interact with one another. This is true in the workplace, especially with how we use technology and data to achieve our mission. These are major issues for DLA and the warfighter to grapple with as we perform our work within an increasingly complex global environment. Recognizing this, the Information Operations team and I realize “status quo” IT service, as normally provided in DoD, will not meet future DLA needs. So we began a campaign to massively transform our organization to focus on innovation as a way to stay ahead of broader DoD and Fourth Estate IT reform initiatives.

Out of these early efforts there were both subtle and noticeable changes, as seen in our most recent reorganization. We started by refocusing our culture to adopt an innovation mind-set as an underlying strategy for transformation, and now deliberately as our express purpose to “Empower the Mission.” To that end, we’re working to make IT something you don’t have to think about. We aim to be ahead of requirements, not behind them. IT enables the warfighter and customers to be successful in their mission. We are committed to maintaining current systems, but we also need to be open to seize innovative opportunities so we don’t become a barrier to timely mission accomplishment. 

We concentrate on, and continue to challenge ourselves to deploy IT capabilities and services to fully support the warfighter to meet current requirements while anticipating future needs. Our goal is to provide and have at the ready IT capabilities and services before they are needed.

We are firmly incorporating our values into firm action plans. To anticipate emerging technology and stay ahead of the needs of our warfighters, we:

  • Refocused – changed our culture to key in on stakeholders (external) and DLA customers (internal) needs.
  • Reinvigorated – challenged our workforce to embrace an innovation mindset by promoting innovative problem-solving techniques like Design Thinking through Boot Camps, workshops, town halls and encouraging the workforce to challenge the status quo, to modernize our technology and practices.
  • Reorganized – created two new directorates – Research & Development, and Strategic Data & Analysis -- as well as realigned Cybersecurity under one directorate within Information Operations.

- Former DLA Chief Information Officer Kathy Cutler

Why should DLA innovate?

Leadership, Professionalism, and Technical Knowledge through

Dedication to Duty    |    Integrity    |    Ethics    |    Honor    |    Courage    |    Loyalty

Innovation, data, and technology are the enablers to effectively and efficiently achieve the mission. Combined, they strengthen DLA’s level of service to the warfighter at significantly greater speeds at lower costs. The same issues that drive advancements in commercial logistics, quickly satisfying customers’ demands at a lower cost, are the same things we must solve to address the warfighter needs. Ontime logistics support within their timetable means changes in both physical processes and IT support. Focusing on these enablers, with our underlying emphasis on innovation, helps us to fulfill our mission consistently and with better support to the warfighter in a rapid state of change.

Change is constant. And, both the speed and amount of change are rapid and far-reaching. The impact of change is unprecedented. We are in the middle of an exponential explosion of technology predicted by Moore’s Law. This law predicted computing capacity would double every two years. This held true for over 50 years and continues. The most common example of Moore’s Law is the smartphone. It has more computing power than the super computers of the past and costs exponentially less. That computing power is available to millions, vice a few large corporations or governments. We must harness this explosion of technology to continue our state-of-the-art logistics support and evolve our practices as the technologies and practices of the warfighter change to keep up.

Complacency in the face of exponential change is a recipe for failure. Consider Kodak, which held the patent for digital photography and did nothing with it, confident that it had a corner on the photography market with its existing products and technology based on film cameras. DLA isn’t immune to changes in technology. They influence us both personally and professionally. For instance, in cyberspace the rise of cloud-based services for storing data and applications is noteworthy. It has the advantage of better security, standard service offerings/programs, true mobility, and the rise of data and analytics. These advances aren’t something we can just evolve to slowly; we need to get on board now or be at risk for being left behind, unable to support the warfighter of tomorrow.

DoD investment has remained at levels much lower than industry. We plan to partner with commercial vendors in accordance with the DLA Industry Engagement Plan, to bridge the gap between where we are and where we need to go. Not only does partnering save resources, but it is a matter of survival. In DLA we are making headway, for example, by moving operations into the cloud. Currently, over 33 percent of our nearly 260 applications are hosted by cloud providers such as DISA, DoD, and increasingly, by commercial providers. In fact, partnering with commercial cloud vendors will be central to our plan over the next 18 months, to transfer 85 percent of our applications to the cloud. This means applications and data will become more accessible, not static by location or end user device. Everyone will be truly mobile, regardless of location or the devices used. For instance, the contingency IT team can set up a deployable depot on demand and all employees can see the health of our networks and applications in real time using the DLA dashboard on any device.

In DLA, we recognize innovation, data management and technology are intertwined. We will continue to put a laserlike focus on all three as enablers to help drive the constant transformation required to meet rapidly shifting warfighter needs. With innovation, our technology stays fresh, and allows us to grow and exploit our data.

As we promote an innovative culture, we will continue to transform how we drive business improvements with emerging technologies, how we source and develop our systems, applications and services, and automating tasks to allow the workforce to focus on those tasks that provide the greatest value to our warfighter. Gone are the days where your role or location dictate how mobile you are or what equipment you use. Technology advances in mobility such as iPhones and tablets, and the freedom to choose what tools to use, mimics what private industry already identified as a winning strategy for allowing employees to work anywhere, anytime.

The focus on cloud computing, central storage, mobile applications, and virtual desktops is an environment where the data isn’t simply a storage cost; it has intrinsic value. Data is part of the DLA culture, such that is viewed as an asset and all of DLA recognizes the value of historic data. We understand, data is a valued resource that can be mined and analyzed, so it becomes useful in showing and predicting trends. As we move forward with digital supply chains, the plethora of data will demand solutions. We must analyze, share and secure data. We can use data, for example, to help DLA warehouses identify trends in damage to items prior to shipment, to change the packaging to remove the problem, in near-realtime.

We are transforming our historic Document Services to focus on reducing printed products by increasing the use of electronic document services. For instance, we evolved our map production into a “Print-on-Demand” model. Although this means closing smaller facilities and cutting storage of printed maps, we are providing faster service. In fact, we can often print specific maps in fewer than 24 hours from the time of request, as we did for Houston during Hurricane Harvey.

Yes, we are changing the culture and idea around the services and products we provide and the processes we follow. We intend to make data and information more accessible and easier to use by focusing on the capabilities needed and bringing them together in the most cohesive and centralized way possible: We are working toward the goal of “one workspace” a place where everything needed to complete our mission is available to our employees. A space where dashboards become commonplace and where we go by default, without thinking, to find relevant information to achieve our mission.

The challenges we face

DLA faces several challenges in innovation, data management and technology to remain leader in logistics. While some embrace technology and change as normal, others individuals are resistant to change. To move forward at the speed necessary to support the warfighters, we must identify where we stand in relation to adopting change. Some individuals weather change and adopt to innovations more easily than others as pictured below. There are three main categories of technology adopters: Digital Fugitives, Immigrants and Natives.

What is at risk?

Simply put, we are at risk of becoming inefficient and unable to effectively perform the DLA mission to support the warfighter. As technologies surge ahead and DoD funding is constrained, we could see degradation of support to the warfighter if we do not place emphasis on innovating, improving our technology and using our data wisely. If applications aren’t kept current, they may not run on new platforms, causing a slow down or work stoppage. If we don’t keep up we may find ourselves unable to communicate with advancing industry partners.

IT operations must operate full capacity for warfighters to meet their commitments, under normal or harsh conditions. We continue to update or upgrade to “keep up with the times.” However, if a competitor or enemy’s operating tempo out paces ours with a faster logistics system and ability to resupply their troops faster, then keeping up isn’t good enough. Being proactive means we don’t accept a “good enough” model of IT. We must invest in our future or risk becoming irrelevant. In addition to integrating innovations and technologies, we will protect our investments. We will keep up with the present commitments we’ve made to those who currently rely on them most – the warfighter!

Also, we will continue our efforts in cybersecurity by being prepared for and able to adapt to changing conditions in the information environment. For example, we’ll use virtual resources, managed with minimal resources and move more applications into the cloud with high availability. We will ensure services and capabilities are prepared for unplanned events with rapid failover to backup sites, simultaneously backing-up off-site, conducting regular continuity of operations exercises and increasing our cybersecurity focus on key mission areas. By investing in our future and ensuring support to the warfighter, we further cement our importance and relevancy in logistics excellence.

A chart describing different types of people who use technology

What is Innovation?

Today’s mission requires rapid deployment, mobile, and global solutions to bring support to the warfighter faster and more efficiently. Our challenge is to continue to find a balance between ushering change and fostering cultural adoption to new innovative concepts and capabilities.

Innovation is not simply new technology and not just anything that seems futuristic. Nor is innovation just process improvement by another name. Innovation is a specific method that allows the DLA workforce to behave in new, specific ways. 

Innovation unlocks hidden potential. Therefore, it often harnesses the power of the crowd. Smartphones were innovative because they allowed users to talk, write messages, pay bills, and have access to the world’s knowledge base. Smartphone designers did not imagine all of these uses. Rather, the device provided a new canvas on which other artists could paint. Navigation applications were innovative because they connected the previously disparate knowledge that each car on the road contains about its immediate surroundings. For the first time, cars “spoke” to one another — crowdsourcing to reduce the real-world problem of traffic and vehicle accident reporting.

What does successful innovation look like inside DLA? It is when the crowd - the whole workforce, individual teams, etc. – builds something great and unexpected. This will likely come from efforts in automation, communication, collaboration and smart devices. What if we did not have to fill in the same information, over and over again, in new documents? What if warehouse workers could more efficiently navigate with the aid of virtual reality tools? These innovations are possible, maybe inevitable. We can, and should, work to bring innovation to the front as a mind-set. We will then provide solutions, to DLA and the warfighter that are flexible enough to use in creative ways to meet unexpected future mission needs.

Innovative companies that are highly successful employ powerful concepts, three of which are: Design Thinking, Iterative Approach, and Persuasion. In many of these companies, these concepts and associated methods are replacing more traditional approaches, such as continuous process improvement. They focus on quick production of an initial product and constant iteration of improvements to that product with direct involvement of customers. This allows an organization to preliminarily test an innovation quickly, with minimal investment in ideas that may not pan out.

Design thinking is a method to ensure we address actual needs rather than only repeating accustomed processes. Talk to people! Map out stakeholders, especially those not in your direct organization. Our DLA jobs often silo us, so widen your gaze and prevent tunnel vision. First, understand the problem and moving parts. Second, develop hypothesis solutions. Do not assume you already know.

For more information on “Design Thinking”, visit The Design Exchange , a joint project between UC Berkeley, M.I.T and industry.

Our goal is to deliver something new and revolutionary, but we do not expect to do it in one shot. Instead, take steps to test a hypothesis with a minimally viable product. An MVP should be, at its core, a proof-of-concept. This is, truly, the key to innovation: making adjustments based on reality. Deploy the MVP and see what happens. Then, do it again. Innovators call this cycle “build, measure, learn”

Nothing matters if we cannot persuade others that our innovations matter. Convince people with this simple, effective approach:

  • Needs: What problem are you solving and for whom?
  • Approach: Unique Value Proposition and how you will deliver it?
  • Benefits: Economic cost and mission enhancement value.
  • Competition: How do we stack up to the alternatives?

In just five minutes or so, this approach will help communicate even the most complex topic.

Innovation ObjectivesA laptop with application icons coming out of the screen

For DLA to remain an agile, innovative organization that quickly brings the right capabilities to the warfighter, we must first understand our stakeholder’s needs, requirements, and maybe their wants. Once we understand their perspective, we can formulate a strategy to deliver the desired results rapidly.

Servicemembers working at computersThe ultimate beneficiary of innovation is the end user. For DLA this is the warfighter. In Silicon Valley, where these techniques originated, the customer is king to gain market share and make money. At DLA, our customer — the warfighter — is king because our mission is to support, and “second place” is not just that we make less money, it means we have not provided for the warfighter. Design Thinking uses the iterative process to eventually provide exactly what the customer needs. Innovation allows us to inch toward perfection with a rigorous, successful, market tested approach.

In sum, innovation allows us to adapt and overcome adverse circumstances in a timely manner and permits us to continue to support the warfighter in a tailored way, better than ever before. We want the warfighter to love DLA services in the way consumers love their gadgets.

Objective 1.1: Foster an innovation mindset with our workforce.

Above all, we will facilitate a culture and a shift in strategy. We started this process with crowdsourcing events. These challenges allow individuals to submit their ideas, form teams and produce solutions. We have also established an experimentation lab where employees can develop solutions in a “safe-to-fail” environment where we reward failed attempts, as well as those that are successful. We also join forces with several experts in innovation and rapid development. These partners will help us conduct workshops and development sprints where participants learn the latest methods and techniques while they produce actual solutions to real problems.

Objective 1.2: Leverage our relationship with industry to ensure a robust and capable industrial base, generate innovative and efficient solutions, and maintain a secure and resilient supply chain. In addition, define DLA’s strategic role in DoD’s evolving additive manufacturing ecosystem and enabling the DLA Business Processes that allow integration of AM parts into DLA’s supply chains.

We will form as many partnerships as possible with industry, academic and research institutions, public/private partnership entities, and government innovation organizations to stay abreast of technology and the applications of those technologies to warfighter problems. As referenced in Focus Area 4 of the DLA Industry Engagement Plan: Drive Efficiencies and Innovation in our Business, we will use these partnerships to identify potential projects and support reform initiatives that use innovative and efficient approaches. We can no longer afford “from scratch” development efforts. Rather, we will identify applicable technologies and take advantage of how others have applied them to improve information sharing and communication, internal processes, product quality, and supply chains.

An infographic describes collaborative effortsObjective 1.3: Create an innovation-focused stakeholder map and subsequent innovation strategy identifying technology and processes for modernization efforts. 

For DLA to become an agile, innovative organization that quickly brings the right capabilities to customers, we must understand the complete picture of our stakeholders. By identifying all of our stakeholders first, we can then begin the process of clearly understanding each of their needs and perspectives and formulating a strategy for delivering capabilities that satisfy those needs in a rapid manner. Without the stakeholder map and enterprise strategy, individual efforts may fail to consider all the impacts of that effort and leave some stakeholders wanting.

Data Management Objectives

DLA recognizes the strategic value of a robust, focused, and forward-thinking approach toward data and analysis. DLA data assets include supply chain, acquisition, personnel, information management, and financial data, along with the infrastructure and exchanges that move it. Effective data management enables DLA to develop data and analysis as a service for its business users to facilitate access to it as well as data-driven decisions.

A layout of various dashboards

Our focus is to deliver capabilities that seek, govern, transform and capitalize on data and data services. This will take place through use of emerging technology, cultural trends and adaptive processes. We can then provide innovative solutions and business intelligence to drive improvements and efficiencies across DLA and DoD.

Objective 2.1 Improve automation of financial systems.

DLA recognizes the importance of maintaining and improving our audit-readiness level. We will increase automation within our financial systems, tools and applications to continue improving our audit posture and overall productivity. This, in turn, results in improved auditability for the enterprise.

The cover of the Strategic Data & Analysis Strategic PlanObjective 2.2 Publish a data and analysis strategic plan.

We will publish a data and analysis strategic plan that applies to all DLA programs and organizations across the entire lifecycle of data assets. This strategic plan will provide DLA and its stakeholders the foundation for achieving its data and analytics vision and mission.

It will include information on the areas of Infrastructure and Security, Data Management, Analytics Capabilities, Governance, and Culture. This will help ensure a shared vision and so we can more effectively communicate with our employees and customers.

Objective 2.3 Conduct data science activities.

DLA will conduct data science and advanced analytics to develop models that provide predictive and prescriptive analysis and transform data into insights that improve existing processes. We will look at data in innovative ways, incorporating complex interrelationships in data like never before, and capturing it for new business insight. By doing this, DLA operations can become more effective and efficient, thereby improving our support to the warfighter.

Objective 2.4 Build self-service data visualizations and analytics.

We are building an infrastructure and providing technological capabilities to enable our workforce to perform selfservice data visualizations and integrated analytical capabilities. Our infrastructure will leverage existing data technology, integrate previously federated data sources, and leverage Agile Development Methodologies.

A screenshot of the SAP Enterprise Portal

Objective 2.5 Standardize content management solutions leading to reduced cost.

A funnel graphic representing Big DataWe recognize the importance of ensuring we provide quality content management and automation solutions in a secure, shared service environment, with rapid deployment that leverages benefits to the entire government. By standardizing enterprise content management solutions through business process automation, we will create opportunities to rationalize, reduce, combine or improve systems, tools, and applications within DLA and DoD. We will be a catalyst for information automation that results in savings to the entire department.

Objective 2.6 Provide accurate, digitized logistics data.

It is important to DLA to ensure the defense industrial base has efficient access to accurate logistics data. This is achieved by digitizing and managing engineering and technical data, including three-dimensional geometric models that are needed to efficiently provide DLA with conforming items. Using 3D portable document format in procurement will shape our future of weapon system parts procurement in a model-based enterprise environment.

Models of digital 3D drawingsObjective 2.7 Improve on the process by which people search for information.

By providing an improved search capability across the enterprise, we will allow for easier searching and better results. This centralized location for searching will provide results from several sources without requiring the user to know the information’s source or how it is managed. This will lead to shorter searches, more accurate results, and confidence in the information returned.

Technology Objectives

Technology is the combined use of data, software, and hardware to transform manual work into semi- or fully automated processes and functions. DLA will explore, leverage, and expand the use of technology to substantially enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of all areas of DLA’s warfighter support. DLA will continue to employ technology to protect DLA’s mission and data against enemy combatants.

DLA extensively uses technology throughout the enterprise in the form of computer system capabilities, communications and transactions, information analytics and data storage, and hardware and robotics. DLA’s effectiveness and efficiency is significantly enhanced to provide superior warfighter support. Technology continues to evolve so rapidly that the challenge is to continue to discover and deploy advanced technology to maintain logistical superiority.

DLA will continue to maintain all technology currently deployed, ensuring its availability, global interoperability and security. Our technology will also ensure we have reliable and available information to produce quality goods and services. We will continue to provide enhanced integration between applications and services, further expand capability sharing and reuse, improve access to services and data, and lower costs for maintaining applications, systems, technology and infrastructure. We will continue to find, demonstrate and implement new technologies and maintain DLA’s technological edge.

Objective 3.1 Maintain a secure environment.

By using state-of-the-art technology, we will further our edge on information security and maintain a suite of cyber security hardware and software that is constantly monitoring and protecting DLA’s information assets and people.

On top of technology, DLA has already implemented to secure our information and the Warfighter we serve. These new advancements will position us to stand steps ahead of the enemy. The cyber threat is real and imminent and can be gravely damaging to DLA if not countered.

Objective 3.2 Develop a centralized portal from which personnel can work.

We will implement a customizable portal that provides DLA personnel with the capabilities needed to execute their mission function based on their job role. DLA users need the ability to access technical capabilities and information to quickly accomplish and execute their mission.

A side by side view of content on a computer screen responsively rendered on a phone screen

Objective 3.3 Enhance mobility within DLA.

Hands hold up a tablet-style mobile deviceIntegrate state-of-the-art mobile solutions into the DLA enterprise.

DLA will deploy enhanced mobility solutions for DLA iPhones and printers as well as implement additional mobile-friendly applications. The need for mobility in the DLA mission continues to expand. Mobile offices, mobile logistics, and mobile personnel are needed across the world to conduct DLA business.

Objective 3.4 Add flexibility into the IT equipment we use by allowing personnel to bring their own.

DLA will reduce and simplify technology infrastructure while enhancing strategic technology capabilities. Additionally, we’ll make the infrastructure changes needed to allow our employees to use their own devices both at home and in the office.

We are pioneering concepts such as “Bring Your Own Device.” BYOD is designed to replace the conventional strategy of government-furnished equipment with the ability of government personnel and contractors to provide their own equipment. Benefits of this venture include reducing DLA costs and improving the user experience.

Objective 3.5 Use artificial intelligence to increase automation, efficiency and quality.

In order to increase DLA’s technology edge, we’ll explore and use Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Intelligent Automation/Robotic Process Automation.

These digital tools will increase DLA’s ability to leverage information and automation in new ways that allow for greater analysis, predictability, and automation. This technology will improve information quality by reducing human errors, scale at digital speeds to address increasing workloads, free up staff to do other work, and maintain better audit trails. Employing RPA will boost productivity with minimal process change, bring an easy-to-calculate return on investment, and offer a low-cost alternative to “big spend” development efforts.

Objective 3.6 Modernize and enhance the DLA supply chain.

Using technology, modernize and enhance the DLA supply chain using automation, analytics, and commercial off-the-shelf supply chain applications. Getting the right item to the right customer expeditiously is dependent on using the best technology available.

Servicemembers in silhouette

Being Part of Innovation, Data Management and Technology

We recently created the Innovation Cell (ID2) to support the culture of innovation in Information Operations. This cell is part of the CIO’s front office team and shows our commitment to innovation as a means of changing our organization to make it adaptive, responsive and relevant.

Last spring we gathered suggestions on how to change our operations. We tested the process within the Information Operations organization and collected a number of real-world innovations. We vetted these with leadership and subject matter experts and we are implementing some of the best ideas we received. Similarly, we are working on collecting ideas to automate manual processes in Information Operations, to have fewer labor intensive process for things that might be better automated.

We realigned Research and Development under Information Operations. This move helps us put IT development and testing in the forefront.

Building strong partnerships across the enterprise will help us better understand your needs and your customers’ needs – so we can help be part of the solution. At some point, we will expand our innovation website to the rest of DLA. We are leading the effort to establish a DLA-wide innovation strategy and instilling an innovative mind-set in our workforce. We are all one team and realize that good ideas aren’t just confined to Information Operations employees. We plan to ask for innovative ideas and ideas on how to automate IT-related processes.

We challenge you to keep the concepts and strategy within this document in mind throughout your workday. Add innovation to your business practices. Consider how you approach work. Is it iterative, or are you trying to do everything all at once? Consider dashboards as a place for sharing your information – evidence of the hard work we do in DLA.

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