Updated: Feb 2
DoD Headquarters (HQ) organizations have an exceptionally high turnover rate for military personnel. There is no single system to track military, civilian, and contractor personnel in DoD organizations. Additionally, there is no standard information model to enable data from the different systems to be easily combined. This results in DoD organizations having no centralized way to track and manage personnel in their organizations. As a result, organizations struggle with issues from basic accountability to managing manning distributions at all levels.
The new enterprise class tools in the DoD-High Microsoft 365 Government Community Cloud (GCC) have the advanced capabilities needed to make complex solutions like this both affordable and easy to manage. The ACES “Personnel Tracker” leverages SharePoint Online and Microsoft Teams to provide the single authoritative, centralized source of information organizations need to effectively manage their personnel and support numerous other HR solutions and activities.
The DoD organizations are required to use separate, disconnected systems for tracking Military and Civilian personnel. There is no system for tracking DoD contractors. Obtaining basic accountability of human resources requires aggregation of data exported from the different systems plus data from ad hoc spreadsheets used to track contractors. None of the data fields in these systems and spreadsheets are standardized so concatenating the most basic information is extremely complex and time consuming.
This situation results in significant unnecessary burdens to every organization. First, the time it takes to accomplish basic tasks most industry HR systems automated years ago must still be accomplished manually in DoD. For example, basic contact lists and recall rosters are created and maintained manually using PowerPoint or Excel. Phone directories, office locations, security lists, training trackers, and more are all generated in a variety of ad hoc ways using mostly Microsoft Office applications. Any attempts at creating or automating one of these solutions must generate and maintain their own list of personnel.
The lack of a central, authoritative, accurate, all-inclusive list of personnel has been one of the major roadblocks to organizations developing automated solutions. It takes too much time for process owners to maintain their own list of personnel, especially in larger organizations. Integrating lists and trackers for individual DoD organizations into each enterprise personnel repository while keeping up with contractor turnover is cost prohibitive for most organizations to create or maintain. Therefore, organizational processes have become email centric since someone usually maintains an email distro list that includes everyone in the organization. This has been the fundamental driver of ongoing siloed, email-centric processes everyone shuns but ends up doing as deadlines approach
The Personnel Tracker solution started with gathering and analysing the authoritative systems for military and civilian personnel as well as the many ad hoc contractor spreadsheets. Although there were hundreds of data fields in each enterprise system, only a small subset was required to support organizational processes starting with onboarding. Data exports from military and civilian enterprise systems were used to initialy populate the Personnel Tracker with data. The ad hoc contractor lists were imported into the SharePoint list and information was manually massaged to get the system off the ground.
Once it was up an running, maintaining the tracker depended on the HR team responsible for in and out processing personnel. Whenever people entered or separated from the organization they had to be added or removed from the tracker to maintain its accuracy. Quarterly exports from enterprise military and civilian personnel systems could be compared to the information in the Personnel Tracker using an automated script to highlight discrepencies. It was not uncommon in some organizations to find their Personnel Tracker more accurate than the enterprise system especially when it came to where personnel were actually assigned at the HQ.
Advanced data governance was incorporated to automate the infusion of managed metadata. This reduced manual list data maintenance and improved data quality and accuracy. For example, the Personnel Tracker was integrated with SharePoint Permission Groups to automate role-based permissions management in SharePoint. This helped with one of the biggest challenges in one HQ organization, which was keeping track of internal transfers coordinated between Division Chiefs or Directorates without informing HR. This caused several problems and was a long standing HR pain point. This solution made it so the only way to change someone’s permissions in SharePoint was to change the organization they were assigned to in the Personnel Tracker. Workflows could be run manually or automaticaly to ensure whenever someone did an internal transfer they would have to update the Personnel Tracker to gain access to the content in their new organization. This solved a major problem area for HR and ensured an accurate reference for processes that relied on the Personnel Tracker to supply an accurate pick list of personnel.
Several SharePoint list views and dashboards were created to support a varity of organizational reporting requirements from Branches to the Commander in the Front Office. People were able to view inbounds as soon as HR was made aware and get alerts regarding those about to leave so they could plan outbound activities well in advance.
Microsoft Teams was used to provide a central, persistent collaboration capability for process owners and information stakeholders to collaborate more effectively. Teams enabled HR personnel to interact with personnel privately or in groups at all levels of the organziation in planned meetings or ad hoc occurances. It was easy to get the word out and when people were having issues they could quickly jump in a screen share session to troubleshoot their issue.
A filterd view of the Personnel Tracker was added to landing page for each Division, Branch, and Team to display everyone in that part of organzation along with their position. It was presented in the same place on each landing page for consistency. Anyone could click on a name and get additional details about who each person is and how to contact them. If any information was no correct, anyone could submit an edit that would initiate an approval workflow to validate and publish the edit once approved. This ensured the right people were made aware of changes while enabling anyone to help improve the data quality in the tracker.
The value of the Personnel Tracker cannot be overstated. Just like the Microsoft 365 GCC environment, whatever value is quantified for this solution today will always continue to increase as more solutions continue to leverage it. The Personnel Tracker is literally the gateway to automation for DoD organizations as it provides a mainstay mechanism for transitioning away from email-centric distro list dependent processes. Not only does this solution dawn the modernization of DoD business operations but saves significant time by making machines manage the time consuming, tedious, tasks humans hate. This solution helps to free information workers to be creative and engage with issues that improve progress rather than struggling to maintain the status quo.
The Personnel Tracker gives everyone a central, authoritative, accurate SharePoint list that can be incorporated as a Lookup field in their SharePoint List, Library, or custom solution. The information maintained in this list by a few HR personnel packs a pretty big punch when it comes to empowering users and process owners across the organization. Accuracy of personnel information can be automatically validated when compared to exports from different enterprise personnel systems and can often be used to increase the accuracy of enterprise systems – especially when it comes to tracking internal HQ transfers which happen all the time.
The Personnel Tracker provides total control of personnel data at the organizational level. It enables the addition of custom personnel metadata without affecting anything in the enterprise systems. Metadata can be used to build custom reports and dashboards that support data-driven decisions. The solution significantly reduces the time organizations typically spend trying to maintain basic accountability and managing processes that revolve around knowing where people work in the organization and what they do, such as standing up a new Division or undergoing a larger reorganization event. Tracking all personnel (military, civilian, and contractors) in a single data repository using SharePoint Online is a game changer for DoD organizations.