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CHIPS Articles: The U.S. Navy Region Europe e-Business Conference NRCC Naples Planning Officer/Program Manager

The U.S. Navy Region Europe e-Business Conference NRCC Naples Planning Officer/Program Manager
By Lt. Cmdr. Lee Mason - July-September 2001
On 18 April 2001, in partnership with the Engineering Field Activity Mediterranean (EFA Med), the Naval Regional Contracting Center (NRCC), Naples, Italy inaugurated a new era in conducting Navy's business in Europe by hosting the first U.S. Navy Region Europe eBusiness Conference in Naples, Italy. This two-day conference provided a forum for presentations and discussions by Government and industry personnel of the goals and strategies of eBusiness, the tools and technologies available to implement it in Europe, and some current examples of eBusiness programs.

Over 250 participants, exhibitors and attendees were attracted from various Naval Commands in Navy Region Europe; European contractors doing business with NRCC and EFA Med; senior level representatives of U.S. Navy Acquisition, Information Technology (IT), and eBusiness Directorates; and Information Technology (IT) vendors offering hardware, software and connectivity products and services needed to establish and maintain a viable eBusiness operation.

The conference format effectively combined plenary sessions of Government and Industry "big-picture" perspectives on eBusiness and demonstrations of useful eBusiness tools currently in use with workshops offering hands-on hardware and software training.

Rear Admiral Charles L. Munns, Commander, Submarine Group 8, was the Conference keynote speaker. Rear Admiral Munns was particularly well suited to offer the keynote presentation. As a previous Chief Information Officer and Chief Financial Officer on the staff of Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet, he possesses a comprehensive understanding of the operational and financial imperatives driving the U. S. Navy toward an eBusiness transformation. Rear Admiral Munns addressed vital developments in the Navy's eBusiness transformation during his discussion of the Navy's shipboard and shore-based electronic initiatives. He also stressed the importance that the commercial sector has played, and will continue to play, in modernizing and maintaining the Navy's ever-expanding digital infrastructure.

Other senior level Navy speakers complemented Munns's address with discussions on other perspectives on the Navy's eBusiness transformation.

Rear Admiral G. H. Jenkins, Jr., Director of Acquisition Business Management in OASN (RD&A), informed and entertained the conference with his presentation on the Department of the Navy's (DON's) strategic vision for improved logistic support via Web Based business alliances. Like Rear Admiral Munns, Rear Admiral Jenkins emphasized the importance of developing a commercial base for our logistics support. An animated speaker, Rear Admiral Jenkins kept the Conference participants rapt attention not only with a lively delivery, but also with a boost from a clip from the film Apollo XIII.

Mr. Dave Wennergren, DoN Deputy Chief Information Officer, offered a timely, comprehensive overview of the key elements and technologies of DoN eBusiness Strategic Plan including the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI), Knowledge Management, Task Force Web and the Smart Card.

Captain Kurt Hendrix, the Naval Supply System Command's One Touch Support Project Manager for the Navy's One Touch Supply e-Portal introduced the audience to this Internet site that will move the Navy's Supply System to the Web. The Supply e-Portal site is vital to Navy customers and contractors seeking to do business with the Supply System. It follows an Amazon.Com model with on-line product search and research tools. It permits customers afloat and ashore to order government inventory and commercial products from CONUS and OCONUS marketplaces. It will not only offer a common face to customers and suppliers across Europe, but will promote the Navy's automation and paperless goals.

Representatives of international vendors of IT supplies and services and of major Navy contractors also presented their views on the necessity, purpose, strategies and tools of the eBusiness transformation.

Ms. Beth Land, Director of e-Business Solutions at Cisco Systems, Inc., promoted the Internet as the key medium for conducting business today. She observed that today's successful businesses must respond rapidly and effectively to changes in their business environment. To describe the overwhelming impact change is having and the importance of adapting to it, she used a compelling metaphor: "The business climate used to be like a ship on the ocean. Today the business climate is like a raft on a white water river." She also quoted Business Week twice in supporting her proposition that the effective use of the Internet is essential to business survival and success:

"Those that don't attempt to navigate the Internet may be taking the biggest risk of all." "The Internet Model with fewer hard assets, a direct pipeline to customers... offers a new level of speed and operational efficiency for those who master it-and huge dislocations for those who don't."

Mr. Paul Woolverton, Director of Collaborative Business Development of WAM!NET Inc., spoke about the importance of connectivity and the factors promoting or retarding it. During his talk he made a keen observation that was repeated by several speakers during the Conference: "E-business solutions should make the human job easier and more productive, not just digital."

Mr. Manuel Gallo Director, Sales and Business Development, Southern Europe of VERISIGN, spoke about a topic of enormous significance to everyone conducting eBusiness on the Internet — security of transactions and data. He detailed the threats and challenges and described the security infrastructure required to detect and defeat them. He offered a crisp and concise explanation of the hardware and software and of the Public Key Infrastructure required to enable secure, reliable eBusiness.

Mr. Hagen Helm, e-business Manager, Rolls-Royce Defence (Europe), provided an Aerospace industry perspective on eBusiness. Of particular interest were his expositions on the case for eBusiness and the barriers to it. In his view, the primary argument on its behalf is cost reduction accomplished via automation of simple business transactions; standardisation of processes throughout the value chain; automation of more complex business transactions; better distribution of information, enhanced quality control, and the reduction of lead times. The main barriers are a failure to to tointegrate systems (i.e. front and back end integration), insufficient networking infrastructure (i.e. bandwidth); lack of a clear strategic vision, insufficient quantification of the business case, security and legal impediments (i.e. different legal liability in each country and export controls), and one other - culture.

In his conclusion, he offered his view that the organization's culture is the most difficult barrier to overcome. He cautioned the audience as follows:

"Whatever you are going to do, DO NOT forget about the PEOPLE!!!"

"The soft stuff is the hard stuff."

Mr. Kevin McGinn, the Executive Director of NRCC, Naples, presented NRCC's plan for implementing eBusiness. His talk revolved around the answers to five questions: what is eBusiness; why do it; who will do it; how will it be done; and when will NRCC begin? His more salient points were his definition of eBusiness and his deadline for all NRCC customers and contractors to begin conducting eBusiness.

In using the U. S. Navy's definition of eBusiness, he consolidated its key elements as identified by many other Conference speakers: "eBusiness is the interchange and processing of information via electronic technique for accomplishing transactions based upon the application of commercial standards and practices. Further, an integral part of implementingeBusiness is the application of business process improvement or reengineering to streamline business processes prior to the incorporation of technologies facilitating the electronic exchange of business information."

McGinn reminded the audience that success in eBusiness means much more than automating existing processes. It is improving processes through their reengineering. In fact, the automation of processes should occur after the reengineering effort.

He concluded his remarks with a challenge for NRCC's customers and contractors. He told them that his goal was to deal only with organizations and contractors practicing eBusiness after 31 October 2002.

Given the Conference's European venue and focus, Professor Giuseppe D'Angelo's, ICT Adviser for Public and Private Enterprise, address entitled "The Access of the Public and Private Enterprises to the e-Business", described the importance of eBusiness efforts to the Europeaan Union (EU) and the efforts the EU has underway to promote and resource the e Business transformation.

In addition to offering a diverse set of presentations on the purpose, strategies, tools and status of the eBusiness transformation within the Navy and Industry, the Conference offered 22 exhibitions and workshops to give attendees a closer, more personal discussion of eBusiness issues and tecnologies.

In the opinion of the Conference participants, attendees and exhibitors, the inaugural U.S. Navy Region Europe e-Business Conference was a noteworthy success. Building on this success, NRCC is partnering with Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) in the United Kingdom to host the 2nd Annual e-Business Conference in London, England, tentatively scheduled for 17-18 April 2002.

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