NORFOLK, Va. -- It’s been said that necessity is the mother of invention ...
“Consolidating to the Navy Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) program was an absolute necessity in order to standardize and modernize the Navy's business practices, and provide commanders with significantly enhanced visibility into financial, program, workforce and material management information across their areas of responsibility,” said Brian A. Zirbel, Executive Director, Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) Business Systems Center (BSC).
“During the early years, much of the historical analytical capability in the legacy systems was not designed into Navy ERP,” explained Zirbel during the Department of the Navy (DON) Information Technology (IT) Conference, East Coast 2018 in Norfolk, Virginia.
“With a system this size it isn’t feasible to capture and implement every conceivable requirement. But that doesn’t alleviate the Systems Commands from needing to maintain business continuity during the migration.”
As a result, ERP did not replicate all of the historical analytical capabilities with the initial deployment.
“Before ERP everyone built their own systems tailored to fit their mission needs. They had complete control of their systems and could draw and analyze reports and make informed business decisions,” said Zirbel.
The implementation of an ERP System brought many significant and necessary improvements to Navy business, but “due to the large volume of data in the consolidated ERP system, it could take eight hours or more to generate one custom report,” Zirbel said.
Prior to his assumption of duties in June 2017 as the Executive Director of NAVSUP BSC, Zirbel served as the Director, Data Analytics & Business Intelligence Department and Director, Navy ERP Services Department at NAVSUP BSC.
While leading the Data Analytics & Business Intelligence Department, with sponsorship from the Office of Financial Operations (FMO), NAVSUP BSC began developing an Integrated Business Intelligence (BI) capability with partners and customers from the SYSCOMS, Special Strategic Programs (SSP) and Office of Naval Research.
The Navy Business Intelligence Services (NBIS) effort grew from this beginning to garner more utility from the Navy’s investment in ERP, which has expanded to include many additional critical data sources.
NBIS is a data warehouse designed to provide users and developers secure access to financial, supply chain, workforce management, and acquisition data in easily consumable formats. NBIS collects and centralizes data from multiple Navy and Department of Defense data sources for Navy business users in reports and analytics.
NBIS utilizes powerful data warehouse appliances that are purpose built for high speed analytics. Leveraging this power, NBIS combines data from multiple sources using various technologies and provides data to end users via advanced business intelligence tools.
During the DON IT Conference, a panel of experts consisting of Megan Nichols, NAVSUP BSC business intelligence project manager, Thomas Wirfel, NAVSUP BSC data strategy lead, and Mary Thoms, director of data and strategy, Office of Naval Research, detailed NBIS capabilities to participants.
NBIS capabilities are centered around the IBM PureData for Analytics (Netezza) appliance and include software tools: IBM’s Cognos, a business intelligence and performance management software suite, and SAP BusinessObjects (BOBJ), and support tools: IBM Internet Information Services and Informatica.
Developed in conjunction with the Business Intelligence Community of Excellence (BI-COE) to ensure Navywide implementation, NBIS is robust environment hosted at Naval Air Systems Command on 60 servers which include production, development and test instances.
“It is the Navy’s premier non-transactional data analytics environment, and supports self-service analytics and report development for the SYSCOMs,” said Nichols. “NBIS is capable of large-scale parallel computing. Data latency and processing delays on queries are eliminated and it no longer takes eight hours to generate a report. It features metrics dashboards and real-time information sharing across the Navy with those who need to know. A cross SYSCOM Security Model protects data using PKI, which ensures users can only access the data they are authorized to see," she said.
Users can access more than 560 Navy ERP data tables from multiple sources including requested data related to procurement, supply chain, financial, human resources and more.
NBIS was accredited by the DoD with production capabilities in October 2016. It has enabled more than 20 full-time equivalent (FTE) personnel cost avoidance in its first nine months through the automation of manual Navy ERP extracts and metrics dashboards.
- Sustainable analytics and deep-dive capability: data modeling common elements found in all data sources allows for a more sustainable analytics environment and provides a common framework when integrating other data sources.
- Partnering with BI-COE commands: increases transparency and auditability and allows repeatable and scalable analytics.
- Speed of relevance: a common framework enables fast analytics and increases digital lethality and readiness support.
- Elimination of data duplication across the Navy frees up valuable resources to focus on improving logistics and supply chain management for increased warfighter lethality.
- Reduction in IT footprint for users while making data more accessible.
Attesting to its success, there has been over a 400 percent increase in NBIS active users and system utilization in the last year.
Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Warfare Integration (OPNAV N9I) Spares Dashboard - Fully automates Navy ERP and Program Budget Information System (PBIS) Budget and Execution Spares data. Provides Spares Budget Submitting Offices (BSO’s) with daily oversight into status of APN-6, OPN-8, an WPN’s Spares execution.
- Eliminates manual effort by integrating live ERP data from NBIS into daily updated executive level dashboard. Standardizes financial terms and definitions across Spares commands.
- Enables data-driven decision making. Automation reduces variances and data manipulation and increases validity.
- Implemented in October 2016; seven-month development effort.
- User Base: NAVAIR, NAVSEA, NAVSUP, SSP, SPAWAR and OPNAV.
Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Financial Management & Comptroller Business Intelligence Reports - The Tri-Annual Review (TAR) is a regulatory requirement outlined in the DoD FMR Volume 3, Chapter 8, Section 0804, which states “Fund Holders, with assistance from supporting accounting offices, shall review dormant commitments, unliquidated obligation, accounts payable and accounts receivable transactions for timeliness, accuracy, and completeness during each of the four month periods ending on January 31, May 31, and September 30 of each fiscal year.” The report allows FMB visibility to the open balances at any point in time and identifies variances to the trial balance.
The Unobligated Balance dashboard provides visibility of appropriated, obligated, and executed funds and is intended to:
Help determine how effectively the Navy is using its funds.
- Identify expired funds.
- Identify “about to expire” funds for potential re-purposing.
- Identify funding gaps between received delta amounts and obligation delta amounts.
Enterprise Objective Traceability: DON Business Priorities (FY14-16) – Goal: Achieve and sustain audit readiness on DON’s Schedule of Budgetary Activity (SBA).
Objective / Value Proposition: The Unobligated Balance dashboard is part of FMP’s broader efforts to provide financial business intelligence that:
- Better support executive decision making.
- Provide more actionable information.
- Make data more accessible.
NBIS Plans and Tools
The front-end visualization tools provided by NBIS enable the Navy's entire chain of command from executive leadership down to supply systems analysts to make effective data-driven decisions.
NBIS, through its data visualization tools, is currently providing multiple dashboard platforms for its customers, according to a report written by NAVSUP BSC for Navy News Service.
These dashboards platforms are comprised of over 40 individual dashboards, over 50 detailed reports and analyze over six billion rows of data at a time. In addition, to directly support the Navy audit, the team has also enabled more than 100 reports and over 100 data mappings, according to the report. The dashboards and reports provide rapid learning about the current state of finances, spare parts, maintenance, performance metrics, audit transparency and many other data points critical to the understanding of an organization on a daily if not hourly basis, NAVSUP BSC reported.
NBIS will be including more data interfaces in its already impressive data lake which will enhance data visibility, transparency and further improve executive decision-making.
NBIS is transitioning to the cloud, according to the briefers at the DON IT East Conference. The goal is full migration by 2021. Currently NAVSUP BSC is evaluating cloud providers and solutions in a FY18 study. The model to be used is platform as a service at Impact Level 5. NAVSUP BSC is conducting an engineering analysis and researching an acquisition approach. Both commercial and Defense Information Systems Agency cloud solutions will be evaluated.
Led by Capt. Douglas M. Bridges Jr. and staffed with dedicated IT professionals, NAVSUP BSC is the Navy’s premier Central Design Agency developing, delivering, maintaining, and securing business information technology solutions that support the Department of Defense and international partners in the functional areas of logistics, supply chain management, transportation, finance and accounting.
Editor’s Note: See Capt. Douglas M. Bridges Jr., Supply Corps, Q&A in the CHIPS April-June 2018 edition.