To mature Business Operations content must be effectively organized and managed. Content Services provides the foundation for Process Automation and Business Analytics. This is the first step in optimizing business operations.
Calculating the Calif Battery Rebate - SuperCaps vs Tesla PW One of the most important competitive advantages is in Cycle Life. Forget about the fact that 13.2kWh nameplate capacity isn’t a reality if you intend to do daily TOU Arbitrage with your Powerwall. They won’t last two years at 100% DoD daily cycling. The real usable energy from a Powerwall is closer to 10.6kWh, or 80% DoD to maintain warranted cycle life. For the purposes of SGIP they can claim 13.2kWh of capacity but, it doesn’t work in the real world. So, back to the warranty. Supercap's is 10 years unlimited. Tesla has a 37MWh roundtrip (18.5MWh discharge) warranty. If you cycle daily (10.6kWh) that’s 3,869kWh/year. In 4.78 years you’d finish the warranty, not 10 years. They count on the fact that the majority of people don’t do TOU arbitrage and their batteries are UPS backup only. Now, say you make a warranty claim and Tesla actually honors it after looking at your usage data. They require the ability to collect data from your system. If you cannot connect the Powerwalls to the web, the warranty is 4 years. But even if they pay you the warranty it’s 1) prorated like on your tires, 2) you need to pay to ship the old Powerwall back, 3) pay to ship the new one in and 4) pay for the removal/install labor. No one is going to cycle their Powerwall daily. They’re good for UPS only. If the residence installs a grid-tied smart inverter that is “battery ready”, then any of the 48VDC supercaps can be used in parallel for backup and provide the same capability as Tesla for a lower installed cost. So, if a developer uses Sol-Ark, Schneider Electric, Outback, Magnum or one of many grid-tied smart inverters, the Powerwall is not an economic addition. New construction is certainly an easier path to supercap adoption, but there are a lot of “upgrade” opportunities out there. Let’s discuss safety. The terminals can either have boots over the connections or a cleaner look, a sheet of plexiglass screwed to the front of the rack covering the entire stack of modules. These are insignificant cost and easy install solutions. Useable energy, regardless of what Tesla marketing says, is 80% of the Powerwall. Look to their cars for guidance, the batteries are the same as in the Powerwall. Jeff Dahn, renowned Li Ion battery expert recommends, don’t keep your Tesla at 100% charge. Why? Because it kills Lithium batteries to do so. He recommends 70% and a DoD no lower than 20%, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt at 80% useable. Tesla battery expert recommends daily charging limit to optimize durability - Electrek As mentioned before their warranty if these things are cycled daily ends in less than 5 years. They degrade 30% over the life of the warranty. They’re a known fire hazard. They have hazardous waste disposal issues. They have temperature, charging, and discharging limits that all reduce life cycles. Once again, look at real-world results from the Tesla cars. Car And Driver's Tesla Model 3 Has Lost 7% Of Its Battery Capacity In 24,000 Miles | Carscoops So three 3.55 supercaps provide the same useable capacity as one Powerwall. The installed cost of a Powerwall is $12k – 13.5k depending on the installer… if you can get one (wait time is nearly a year now). In a battery ready new home, three supercaps would cost $9052 ($850/kWh MSRP). Add a bit for installation so, let's say installed cost of $10k. What you get for $10k on a grid-tied smart inverter is 25-year life, 10-year unconditional warranty, and none of the bad stuff that goes with Lithium batteries from killing miners to fires and hazardous waste disposal. If homeowners want daily cycling against TOU rates and want to feel like they are contributing to the environment, Supercaps are the superior solution. Powerwalls do not provide an economic TOU Arbitrage value and they have no claim of being environmentally sound. In California, Hawaii, and elsewhere there are hundreds of thousands of “legacy” solar systems with no ability to provide UPS backup. California alone has over a million legacy systems, Hawaii 80,000, AZ, a couple hundred thousand, and so on… The Powerwall has an integrated, albeit small 5kW, inverter when coupled with an auto-disconnect switch, can add UPS to these systems. The Tesla killer needs to have an integrated inverter.
Con Edison Tests ConnectDER as a Utility Touchpoint for Distributed Energy
Can a meter socket plug-in device bridge the rooftop solar (and battery, and EV charger) gap between utilities and customers? Last week, New York utility Con Edison launched its latest effort to smooth the way for customers to install rooftop solar — and to feed the utility's growing hunger for data on how that solar can be integrated into its grid. The tool it’s using, built by Arlington, Virginia-based company ConnectDER, is a meter collar adapter that plugs into the socket where electrical meters connect to buildings. In its simplest applications, it can provide the data collection and computing power of a typical smart meter, serving as a cellular-connected point solution to connect particular customers to utilities that haven’t yet deployed advanced metering infrastructure across their territories. But ConnectDER’s devices can also serve as a connection point for rooftop solar systems, allowing installers to avoid costly circuit-breaker panel upgrades and time-consuming wiring work. A 300-unit pilot installation launched in 2017 achieved savings of between $400 and $1,500 per installation, making the $400 upfront cost of the device well worth it for customers, according to James Skillman, Con Edison customer project manager. The next 2,400 units Con Edison will be installing over the next year and a half will continue those savings, he said. But they’ll also start delivering valuable data as part of a pilot project with the New York State Energy Research and Development Agency (NYSERDA) — precise, real-time measurements of solar generation on distribution circuits that may face disruptions from the utility’s growing share of customer-owned solar. “We have more than 35,000 customers connected with solar, and those with the ConnectDER products are the only ones we know exactly what they’re doing,” he said. Con Edison is in the final stages of deploying smart meters to its approximately 1.3 million customers, but those only measure net household loads, not what’s happening behind the meter. The idea of utility-owned technology serving as a control point for customer-owned distributed energy resources (DERs) may well spark suspicion from residential solar and storage providers, which are used to battling with utilities over net metering tariffs, interconnection policies and other aspects of how their systems interact with the power grids they’re connected to. But being able to differentiate solar production from net load will help Con Edison in planning future grid investments to manage the potential voltage disruptions and two-way power flows that could arise as distributed solar rises as a proportion of its overall electricity supply, Skillman said. That could prove beneficial for the solar industry as well if it leads to easing interconnection limits to adding more solar. Another pilot project underway with NYSERDA will explore integrating ConnectDER’s solar data into its smart meter wireless mesh network, which could supply data to inform real-time distribution grid operations. And the same benefits could apply to monitoring the behind-the-meter batteries, electric vehicle chargers and other DERs that are set to expand dramatically under New York state’s aggressive decarbonization mandates. “Using it to install a battery or EV charger is great because that power exits the connector before it hits the customer's internal breaker panel,” said Skillman. “All that power will be measured by the connector itself, and it allows you to do some interesting things,” from crafting rate programs and incentives for batteries and EV chargers to tracking how they can serve to reduce or replace grid investments. "That's where we really get excited from a distribution-engineering standpoint." A growing need for utility-customer distributed energy connection As more and more solar installations seek to interconnect to the grid, finding ways to share data with utilities — or even offer them some control over how they operate — could end up helping DERs grow to scale, ConnectDER CEO Whit Fulton said in an interview. ConnectDER isn’t the only way for utilities to get visibility into behind-the-meter DERs. Energy disaggregation technologies can analyze power flows to estimate major loads. The latest versions of smart electrical panels or home energy management systems being built by industry heavyweights like Schneider Electric and Eaton and startups such as Span and Lumin can provide actual circuit-level data and control. New solar and battery inverters can also communicate vital operational data via standard protocols, a capability that’s been tapped by utilities in pilot projects across the country. And companies including Tesla, Sunrun, sonnen, Generac and Swell are aggregating solar- and battery-equipped homes to provide grid services as virtual power plants. But utilities aren’t in charge of these devices and can’t guarantee access to their data, Fulton noted. Even when vendors are making their data available, “it’s forcing a lot of complexity on the utility to interface with the DER market in a comprehensive way.” “At the same time, utilities are under pressure from regulators and from legislatures” in states such as New York that have set goals for tapping the value of customer-owned DERs, he said. “We’re allowing a utility to offer faster, better, more secure options for connecting to the utility.” In fact, ConnectDER’s meter socket devices are already in use by a utility behind one of the country’s first and largest virtual power plant projects, he said. ConnectDER devices are in use by Vermont utility Green Mountain Power to ease interconnection challenges for solar and battery installations. GMP offers customers upfront payments or monthly lease plans for utility-owned or third-party-supplied batteries, plus EV chargers and smart thermostats and water heaters, in exchange for making them available for grid needs. Likewise, utility Arizona Public Service has used ConnectDER to link customers’ solar inverters to utility communications networks as part of its wide-ranging distributed energy integration programs, and Hawaiian Electric has made them available to customers to manage the tariffs that have replaced solar net metering. To be sure, solar installers are leery of utilities being able to take control of customer solar systems. But there could be upsides to solar industry growth to allowing it, Fulton said. Specifically, he pointed to a pilot project underway at Pennsylvania utility PPL Electric, where ConnectDER’s meter collars are being used to run head-to-head tests of how automated smart inverter settings compare to active utility control of rooftop solar systems for managing grid disruptions. While solar installers have largely resisted utility proposals to control solar systems, it’s possible that reducing their output during certain moments of the day could actually increase the hosting capacity of solar-saturated circuits, allowing more solar to be installed. “We’re really excited about that one,” he said. “It’s going to be a transparent auditing of the value of direct utility control versus autonomous or independent settings."
Beyond Declining Battery Prices: 6 Ways to Evaluate Energy Storage in 2021
Balance of systems, software, supply chain constraints, and reliability and performance guarantees all weigh on total costs. The energy storage market in the United States is booming, with 476 megawatts of new projects installed in the third quarter of 2020 alone, up 240 percent over the second quarter, according to industry analysts at Wood Mackenzie. 2021 is expected to be another record-breaking year for storage, but with technological innovation accelerating across the market, renewable energy asset owners need to carefully select safe and reliable systems to protect their storage investments. As the market accelerates, these are a few of the essential questions asset owners should be asking. 1. Evaluate pricing beyond the cell When analysts speak about declines in storage pricing, they are referring to battery pricing, which continues to decline every year. Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s latest report states that current lithium-ion pricing stands at about $137 per kilowatt-hour and will drop as low as $100 per kWh by 2023. However, purchasers of energy storage systems may see substantially higher prices for their projects, depending on a range of factors. For example, the lowest pricing for lithium-ion batteries is generally available for either a major supply contract or for very large-scale deployments of 500 megawatt-hours and above. Since most projects today are not that large, that $137 per kWh figure will be closer to $150 to $170 per kWh, and perhaps as high as $200 to $210 per kWh on the battery-pack level, depending on the size of the project. Beyond battery pricing, the total cost of a fully integrated battery energy storage system will also include the thermal management system, battery management systems, and power conversion system, as well as fire prevention and suppression technology, SCADA and metering. When considering all-in pricing, many storage companies are building their systems in standardized, modular containers that are quicker and easier to install and connect to the grid. While this kind of system may simplify the evaluation process, these business models may include ancillary services, such as operations and maintenance contracts, performance guarantees and liquidated damages. In short, based on price alone, conducting an apples-to-apples evaluation of storage systems from different suppliers is challenging, if not impossible. 2. Evaluate the chemistry and safety Procurement and pricing evaluation also need to consider the variable of battery chemistry. In 2021, the two leading choices are lithium nickel manganese cobalt (NMC) and lithium ferro (iron) phosphate (LFP). NMC has a higher energy density — energy stored in proportion to weight — which also increases the risk for overheating and thermal runaway when overheating, which can lead to fire quickly spreading from one battery cell to another. NMC is also more expensive and at present only available from a limited number of suppliers. Based on its chemistry alone, readily available LFP is expected to replace NMC in the next few years as the less expensive and safer of the two battery chemistries. LFP is safer because it has a lower energy density and discharges at a steady, sustained rate. In general, LFP chemistries will also last longer than NMC, even at higher rates of charge and discharge, reducing the frequency for replacement and augmentation during the lifetime of a project. However, because LFP cells have lower energy density than NMC cells, they require more space to store the same amount of energy. Nevertheless, NMC storage is a mature technology and will remain competitive and effective for all applications. The biggest challenge here is to reduce the risk of thermal runaway and safety failures in integrated systems. 3. Assess supply chain and availability Another major consideration is assessing the battery system’s supply chain in the context of the commissioning date. Global demand for battery products is increasing with electric vehicle adoption, rechargeable consumer electronics, and utility-scale solar and wind projects coupled with stationary energy storage. Consequently, once the battery chemistry is chosen, other considerations include system capacity, timing and the risk of supply-chain disruptions. For example, a 2-gigawatt-hour project will likely have different supply-chain challenges and much longer lead times — two or three years — than will a 5 MW/20 MWh project that can come online within 12 months. Longer timelines can raise concerns about core metal shortages, especially for lithium, nickel and cobalt, that could delay the production of storage systems. It is critical to monitor such supply-chain shortages and assess a manufacturer’s suppliers, supplier commodities and commodity pricing, all of which may affect the cost of purchasing storage. 4. Evaluate bankability and quality As with pricing, evaluating energy storage quality requires a systemwide approach. Although battery quality may be the top concern, the quality of the enclosure, thermal management systems and the power conversion system (PCS), or inverter, are equally important. Just as with solar projects, when the PCS fails, so does the storage system. Even if due diligence has led to the selection of the highest-quality battery with the best energy management software, the PCS can cause a complete shutdown of revenue for days or even longer. In terms of assessing battery cell quality, with so many new storage companies entering the market, it is increasingly important to commission a manufacturer bankability report that includes both financial and technical due diligence. Second, asset owners should conduct a thorough on-site factory audit that reviews the entire manufacturing process. The evaluation includes a factory acceptance test, which verifies that the cells and systems are being built to design specifications and are safe to operate. Finally, it is critical to perform in-line production monitoring and final product audits to verify the storage system’s individual components. 5. Evaluate battery management software A battery system’s software is another increasingly sophisticated component of an installation that needs evaluation for various “value-stacking” applications. Utilities and developers are now using storage systems for peak-demand shaving, frequency regulation and resiliency, and the storage company or its vendors will manage those applications with software. If the software cannot properly and optimally manage charging and discharging at the right amount and the right time, then the chosen storage system may thin the value stack and reduce project profitability. Additionally, rudimentary battery management software can decrease cell longevity, causing premature battery augmentation or replacement outside of warranties and performance guarantees. In worst-case scenarios, it can fail to detect and prevent a thermal runaway event, thus putting the entire energy storage system at risk. 6. Evaluate performance guarantees Finally, asset owners should independently review any contracted performance guarantee, as well as the warranty. While a standard warranty covers parts and labor, the performance guarantee ensures that the battery system will produce the required amount of power and energy or be available for a certain amount of time for the life of the project. Performance guarantees are evolving with storage technology and markets, but the trend is toward flexible and throughput guarantees that address the owner’s current and potential future value-stacking applications. Independent energy storage supply management and quality control Energy storage technologies have been steadily evolving, but as we head into a period of accelerated growth, innovation and deployment, these considerations should not be overlooked when developing your energy storage strategy and purchasing an energy storage system in 2021. As new manufacturers and technologies enter the market, managing the supply chain and ensuring quality and safety become more complex and critical tasks. Energy storage will play a critical role in fostering a global transition to a clean energy economy, but at the end of the day, there is no shortcut or replacement for quality.
Summary There is no standard solution for DoD HQ organizations to keep track of who is doing what and where. DoD chartered responsibilities result in the implementation of jobs and processes in each organization. Due to the size of many DoD organizations, managing a current list of jobs (Job Jar), who is assigned to them, and how they relate to the organization’s mission can be a tough task. Numerous nonstandard Job Jar Excel spreadsheets are used in most DoD HQ organizations. Due to high turnover, evolving mission requirements, organizational changes, maintaining these is hard and integrating them unreasonably complicated. The Microsoft 365 GCC provided the platform and tools to solve this long-standing problem. The ACES Job Jar solution uses SharePoint Online to provide organizations an unprecedented ability to align their mission, processes, roles, and responsibilities while tracking exactly who is doing what where. This translates to significant improvements in management and organizational effectiveness. Challenge: DoD Headquarters (HQ) Organizations have senior military leaders and support staff that rotate through the HQ on two-year assignments, and bring a wide variety of unique skills and experiences that must be quickly and fully leveraged during their short stay. The constant turnover made it extremely difficult for the organization to keep track of who was doing what. Additionally, HQ organizations reorganize as required, to continuously optimize how limited resources are leveraged against new mission requirements generated by a landscape of ever-changing threats. Restructuring the organizations typically involves both the creation and elimination of one or more Divisions, Branches and Teams. Of the hundreds of jobs in each part of an HQ organization, some may be specific to a Division, Branch or Team while others may be assigned based on individual qualifications. Whenever the structure of organizations changes it typically takes 6-12 months to catch up to where they were by working through all the self-inflicted changes. Although various parts of one particular DoD HQ organization maintained a “Job Jar” (list of jobs, process, responsibilities, etc.), there was no centralized, standardized, or single authoritative source for all the organizational responsibilities, and no standard way of seeing who was responsible for what. We found Excel spreadsheets, Word documents, and OneNote lists that had a variety of nonstandard information. Some listed jobs while others associated names with the jobs. None were being maintained and few had been updated since the last reorg about a year prior. The lack of accurate insight into who was doing what resulted in unassigned jobs and unfulfilled roles and responsibilities. Latent discovery of missed deadlines and unfulfilled responsibilities led to significant inefficiencies and stress, especially in the wake of a reorg event. Solution: First, all the various spreadsheets, Word documents, OneNote pages, etc. being used as siloed Job Jars throughout all levels of the organization were collected. These documents were being stored in a variety of locations from laptops to shared drives and SharePoint. A coarse validation of the information was accomplished with whoever was available and seemingly most knowledgeable of the existing situation. Relevant artefacts and information from a verity of interviews with members at all levels in the organization were used to architect a data model to support the needed solution. A “Job Jar” list was created in SharePoint Online to manage all the jobs and their assigned personnel. Advanced data governance was incorporated to automate the infusion of managed metadata. This reduced manual list data maintenance and improved data quality and accuracy. One example of how we did this was the incorporation of the “Personnel Tracker” solution. This was one of the first solutions ACES created for the organization. Integrating the Personnel Tracker as a Lookup provided an accurate pick list of personnel to associate with each job. With the Personnel Tracker integrated, whenever someone separated and HR had designated their replacement in the system, the jobs could be automatically reassigned to the new replacement. If no one manually intervened to make any changes, the transfer of responsibilities would happen without any human intervention. Several SharePoint list views and dashboards were created to support a varity of organizational reporting requirements from Teams to the commander in the front office. A special view was created specifically to assist commanders with a Chess Board during reorgs that allowed them to view the consequences of their moves by getting an immediate list of individual responsibilities that would either travel with the person being reassigned or be reassigned to someone else. Microsoft Teams was integrated into the solution to help Job Jar stakeholders work and communicate more effectively. MS Teams provided a seamless way of interacting with HR personnel that managed the Personnel Tracker. Furthermore, new personnel could use the information posted in Teams to quickly catch up on specifics regarding the Job Jar solution. Access to the Job Jar was displayed on every organization’s Org Page in a standard location so it was always easy to find. Clicking on the Job Jar Icon would open up an interactive view of the Job Jar in a Modern List View that provided a filtered list of only the Jobs for that organization. Result: The Job Jar was one of the first places the organization began to realize the increased Return on Investment (ROI) that occurred when solutions like the Personnel Tracker were integrated. The integrated solution demonstrated the multi-faceted value of the overall solutions approach and the power of the modern experience in Microsoft 365. It also demonstrated the improved efficiencies gained with a properly architected process automation framework using the Microsoft 365 GCC. Because the Job Jar solution leveraged the Personnel Tracker, no one had to duplicate the work accomplished by the HR team to maintain an accurate list of personnel in the organization. This not only provided an accurate pick list of personnel, but enabled automatic exposure of other metadata in the Personnel Tracker such as special skills, associated Division/Branch/Team, assignment and termination dates, etc. Since anyone could sign up for an alert to the Personnel Tracker, whenever someone onboarded or separated from a Division, Branch, or Team, the people who managed the Job Jar would automatically be informed and could intervene if a manual adjustment was needed to assigned duties. SharePoint enabled a centralized, standardized, single authoritative source of information for all jobs and associated personnel. Modern Microsoft Search enabled users to quickly find Jobs, POCs, and contact information, along with their online status and availability in MS Teams. The automatic infusion of managed metadata into the Job Jar list minimized manual information management requirements and maximized data quality by removing human error during data entry. Although Teams usually knew who was doing what, they didn’t have to respond to as many data calls from their Branch, Division, or Directorate levels probing for insights. Even more notable was the time saved by people on both ends – those needing information and those who would often get the phone calls from people needing information. The productivity gains by making job assignments transparent and process owners easy to find cannot be underestimated. The biggest value to commanders was their ability to effectively manage the transfer and reassignment of responsibilities during reorg events. Being able to quickly understand if a job is aligned with a specific Team or could travel with a qualified individual-no matter where they resided in the organization-saved time and ensured the Master Sergeant with a passion for personnel training and was a fitness instructor in his spare time continued to manage and deliver PT testing for the organization regardless of his assigned Division. Best of all, there were no unassigned jobs or jobs assigned to personnel no longer in the organization. The Job Jar significantly reduced many of the burdens and challenges associated with reorgs and enabled the organization to find its stride and return to efficient operations much faster than ever before.
Summary 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. Challenge: 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 Solution: 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. Result: 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.
DoD CIO Collaborative Virtual Remote (CVR) Environment
Summary DoD CIO is responsible for the governance and oversight of Information Technology in the DoD. When the COVID pandemic forced millions of personnel into a telework situation, Microsoft teamed with DoD to deploy a DoD Microsoft 365 Commercial Virtual Remote (CVR) Environment in which DoD workers could more effectively operate. Initially, DoD CIO personnel were unaware of the capabilities and value the Microsoft 365 Teams environment had to offer so few were attempting to use it. ACES leadership reached out to DoD CIO leadership and provided a Microsoft Teams capability demonstration. This was an eye-opening event that resulted in several follow-on demos, discussions, and ultimately direction by DoD CIO leaders to use the new environment. After consistently experiencing unprecedented high-quality audio and video in Teams meetings, one of the Deputy DoD CIOs mandated his personnel be video capable when meeting with him. Challenge: The DoD CIO is the Principal Staff Assistant (PSA) and advisor to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense for Information Technology (IT), including National Security Systems (NSS), and Information Resources Management (IRM). The DoD CIO is responsible for all matters relating to information and the DoD information environment, including Command and Control (C2), Communications, Radio Frequency Spectrum, Network Operations, Information Systems, Information Assurance (IA), Defensive Cybersecurity, and Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (PNT). When the COVID pandemic workforce restrictions took effect, there was no capability for DoD personnel to effectively meet and collaborate. Although DoD had some legacy collaboration capabilities such as the DoD homemade Defense Collaboration Service, most people avoided them as they were plagued with performance, quality, and usability issues. Remote access to DoD networks via VPN and remote desktop were never scaled to support a situation with nearly all DoD personnel teleworking. Solution: Since DoD CIO drives the evolution of the Department's network and information capabilities to meet its ever-changing mission needs, it needed to find a solution to reconnect its fragmented workforce considering the new normal. By partnering with Microsoft to stand up a DoD-wide Microsoft 365 Teams capability in a DoD secure commercial cloud tenancy- the CVR Environment-the seamless, secure Microsoft 365 Teams environment immediately delivered agile and secure collaboration and information sharing capabilities back to its workforce to re-enable them to continue enhancing our Nation's combat power while ensuring effective decision-making in support of our National Defense. Unfortunately, the modern Teams environment was a massive leap for an information workforce used to working in technologies that are 10-15 years older. Personnel within DoD CIO largely ignored the capability as they had no idea how to leverage it. The Managing Director of ACES Group reached out to a Navy Captain in DoD CIO to provide a demo of the environment’s capabilities along with several recommendations on how the environment could be used to turn lemons into lemonade. Once the Captain saw the capabilities of the Microsoft 365 Teams environment, she was able to communicate those capabilities to other DoD CIO senior leaders which led to several follow-on demos, one of which was with the Deputy DoD CIO for Command, Control, Communications and Infrastructure (C3I). The Deputy CIO stated at the end of the demo that there was so much capability in this platform he needed some time to digest what he had just seen and consider the many ways the DoD CIO and DoD could leverage the capabilities. ACES took ownership of the DoD CIO C3I Teams environment and began to build out pages and capabilities within the associated SharePoint site to assist with collaboration requirements. One of the first things the organization needed was training and assistance with DoD network-specific connectivity questions. ACES provided several training links and worked with personnel to get them established in the new Teams environment, and the ability to access it from both their government and personal computers to collaborate, screenshare, co-author documents, and share content with personnel across the DoD as well as personnel in other federal agencies, industry and academia. For the first time DoD CIO had a rich capability to meet and collaborate with anyone on a variety of levels from conducting meetings with video telepresence to collaborating on documents and content in screen share sessions. Result: Several personnel in DoD CIO have testified they feel as if the COVID pandemic has actually improved their productivity, largely due to the Microsoft Teams environment and associated SharePoint capabilities. For the first time, DoD personnel have a collaboration tool they can use to pull anyone together from any organization in government or industry, and can collaborate on content with people they could have never conducted a screen share session with in the past. Teams are able to be more productive and work together more effectively than if they were together in the same room according to one person. They noted when everyone is in a physical meeting room only one person usually has a keyboard. In a Teams meeting, everyone has a keyboard, and everyone can be working simultaneously with all their resources at their fingertips throughout the meeting. It is revolutionizing how people work and how they think about work. ACES has continued to stress the importance of DoD CIO personnel developing an understanding of the Teams environment and how to best use it and govern it in DoD. As the Microsoft 365 Defense Enterprise Office Solution (DEOS) comes online for DoD, ACES is using the CVR environment to orient DoD CIO to what is coming so they will be equipped to lead with policy and smart governance for the major paradigm shift taking place in DoD, thanks to Microsoft 365. ACES Group and DoD CIO are definitely turning lemons into lemonade with COVID.
Summary: DoD CIO is responsible for ensuring the governance and oversight of Information Technology in the DoD. One of the most critical IT capabilities in DoD is the ability for warfighters to communicate over secure radios during real-world operations. As international threat capabilities increase in sophistication, DoD must modernize both networks and terminals to ensure reliable, secure communications with Joint and Coalition Forces in the modern battlespace. To transition the Military Services and subordinate units effectively and smoothly to modern capabilities massive, coordination must take place both within and across Military Departments (MILDEPS). Internal MILDEP coordination is handled within each branch of Service (Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines). But coordination for implementation between MILDEPs and Combatant Commands (CCMDs) requires DoD CIO oversight to accomplish. SharePoint and Microsoft 365 enable Modernization and Transition Planning solutions that provide centralized management, governance, and oversight capabilities along with transparency that empowers a mutual understanding of progress across Services and Combatant Commands. Challenge: The DoD CIO is responsible for all matters relating to information and the DoD information environment, including Command and Control (C2), Communications, Radio Frequency Spectrum, Network Operations, Information Systems, Information Assurance (IA), Defensive Cybersecurity, and Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (PNT). Achieving and maintaining Electromagnetic Spectrum (EMS) superiority in the increasingly congested, contested, and constrained electromagnetic environment is critical for DoD to successfully execute its mission. Our adversaries have recognized the U.S. military’s reliance on EMS-dependent systems, and they continue to work aggressively to exploit this perceived vulnerability. Current EMS threats attempt to detect, exploit, deny, disrupt, and deceive our capabilities from navigation and communications to sensors. DoD must continuously modernize existing capabilities to ensure ubiquitous connectivity and military overmatch in the modern contested and congested communications environment. To modernize existing capabilities, transition planning must be accomplished to ensure the ability for units to interoperate throughout the transition. This becomes a complex planning challenge when considering the various advanced waveforms, secure networks, and a variety of encryption algorithms and devices involved. Add to this the size of DoD and the separately governed and managed Services and the level of difficulty to manage the transition increases immensely. Trying to coordinate and execute transition strategies in DoD using Email and Excel is unreasonably difficult and riddled with risk. Solution: By developing a plan with the right level of detail and making it transparent for stakeholders, everyone could assess their situation against other dependent units and assist in highlighting any issues early. Transparency during execution dramatically increased the likelihood of issues being handled swiftly so units could consistently complete transitions on-time. Since some units had already started transitioning on their own in various areas, a data call was required to snap a chalk line on everyone’s status. A SharePoint-based solution that established the plan and enabled progress reporting in a central, web-based repository was clearly the best way to tackle the problem. Since many DoD organizations were used to Excel Spreadsheet driven data-calls over email, it was likely there would be a learning curve for some related to entering information in centrally managed SharePoint-based solution. While one part of the team went to work on the data model and data that needed to be captured, another part of the team started working on how the data call would be presented to users to provide a good user experience when clicking a link to a SharePoint list vs. opening an Excel spreadsheet. Since the services and units tracked status and information related to the modernization effort very different, there was no easy way to capture all the data from existing sources although some information helped to provide a better starting point than a blank slate. The existing data sets were exceptionally helpful in starting conversations with stakeholders regarding what data elements were important and why. Stakeholders often commented the experience of walking through each data element with the ACES team was very educational in that it forced them to define why they were capturing certain data elements. The why question led to the removal of several data elements items and the addition of a few not previously included. Meanwhile, the Data Call Team determined the first thing they needed was a list of unit POCs able to provide the information needed to populate the data model and accurately report the status of each unit throughout the transition effort. By sticking to a simple data call that only required contact information, the focus could be on training the user base to get comfortable with entering information in SharePoint. This worked great as the first day people started entering data, they appeared to get the hang of SharePoint very quickly and generally reported enjoying the speed at which they could enter the data. The Data Model Team worked to define data elements that were choice fields so users could quickly click to fill fields fast and feel freedom from poorly designed forms that regularly require long explanations to vague, nebulous questions. The goal was to make the data call experience fast and fruitful in the sense that users would finally be putting data into a repository that was transparent and could be used and referenced by them in the future. Many found they no longer needed to maintain their local spreadsheet as they could reference the new enterprise repository and even leverage it for reporting. Speaking of reporting, this was a big part of the solution once the data call went live as we were able to visually show Services that had the most responses and those that were lagging. It’s amazing what a little competition will do to drive results. As the information in the data model matured reports showing the status of the overall modernization effort were put on display and briefed regularly to senior leaders. This provided several opportunities to either shine or gain undesired attention. AI, ML, and NLP were leveraged to assist with uncovering potential issues as well as enabling a Natural Language Querying capability. Result: ACES is leveraging the Microsoft 365 DoD-High GCC to revolutionize data calls and save staffers throughout DoD hundreds if not thousands of hours aggregating spreadsheet responses. By developing integrated, well-defined, centralized data models at the enterprise level, the need for each individual organization to develop a solution to the same problem is eliminated saving the government countless manhours that can be redirected for greater productivity. This approach also enables faster, more accurate reporting and enables effective data visualizations to assess situations from the unit to the enterprise level. The modern tools in SharePoint and Microsoft 365 are presenting a new paradigm to how we work in DoD and is enabling progress and productivity at levels never experienced for those who work with ACES.
Modernizing USAF Knowledge Management with Office 365
ACES Group was hired by the Headquarters Air Force (HAF) Operations in 2017 to help them modernize their Knowledge Management and Business Operations. Legacy systems and manual processes were bogging down the headquarters organization. ACES evaluated all options to modernize the environment and recommended HAF transition to the Microsoft Office 365 IL-5 Government Community Cloud (GCC) even though HAF top technical experts had advised against this. ACES was put in charge of the HAF pilot tasked to be the pathfinder for the HAF to transition to Office 365 and recently presented its solution at a USAF Sponsored, Microsoft Hosted, 2-Day Office 365 Security and Compliance Workshop in Reston, VA. One of the comments made by and Air Force attendee was that they were blown away, by the solution and that it answered every problem they were struggling with when it comes to using this new Office 365 environment. Even the Microsoft Senior Engineer who led the 2-Day event shared with everyone in the room how impressed he was with the model and emphasized that no one could have done this without a deep understanding of the organization and how it functions. The Knowledge Management model ACES created in Office 365 was developed to standardize how the USAF and DoD would use the Office 365 services to modernize Knowledge Management and Business Operations in the USAF and DoD. The model centers on Microsoft Teams Workspaces as the focal point for collaboration and content creation. The AF Knowledge Management Officer in HAF Operations refers to the Teams Workspaces as "sausage factories" where all the work is done. Once content is finalized it is automatically migrated to a SharePoint Online Communications site which functions like a museum that securely distributes, manages, and automatically dispositions the final content in accordance with NARA and USAF Records Management requirements.
DoD Deputy Secretary of Defense initiated Business Process Review
Challenge: When a new president is elected, it’s mandatory for the DOD to have a Business Process and Systems Review (BPSR). The review process involves an architecture assessment where top companies like Mckinsey or Deloitte bring in high dollar analyst to try and gather information from unwilling people. Because of this, they ultimately had to make many assumptions so that recommendations could be made quickly to high ranking political appointees about current issue the incoming president could face. This process was started again in 2014, where ACES Group provided a SharePoint based analytics dashboard to visualize the data and track performance. Solution: ACES Group lead the Business Process and Systems Review (BPSR) for the Department of Defense (DoD). This effort was a Deputy Secretary of Defense (DSD) initiative focused on finding ways to save money and improve business operations across the DoD. The DSD tasked one of the DoD Federal agencies to co-lead the effort. ACES was chosen to develop a portal to manage the overall effort, aggregate authoritative DoD data sources, present dashboards to visualize the data and track performance/savings across the department. ACES used existing infrastructure and enterprise IT services such as SQL Server to aggregate data from authoritative sources in the areas of Finance, Manpower, Personnel, Contracts, IT Systems, and Real Property. ACES used existing reporting services and dashboarding capabilities within the environment to generate reports for senior leaders. In an easily digestible manner. Using SharePoint, ACES was able to manage content and processes and present visualizations to enable well-informed decisions. Results: ACES Group led the effort to aggregate data from the various authoritative sources in the DoD and developed senior leader dashboards to aid in quick decision making. In the end, several inefficiencies were discovered and addressed. One of these was the need to consolidate several of IT service providers supporting the Pentagon and DoD within the National Capital Region. The Joint Service Provider was formed and recently celebrated their 2-year anniversary as an organization. They reported a savings of over $343M in IT costs as a result of the consolidation.
For the first time in history, the overall cost of DoD organizations real property, IT systems, contracts, and personnel can be compared and assessed. Redundancies continue to be identified and eliminated. The millions in savings resulting from this transformation continue to be realized and tallied along with the significant improvements to operational efficiencies that are happening every day.
Challenge: One of the DoD Federal agency’s primary responsibilities is to manage and maintain IT policies. Over 75% of policies were outdated (older than 5 years) and only one person was tracking the status of all policies on a share drive stored spreadsheet that was accessed only by that user. This was a time consuming, manual process in place at the Office of General Council and through further digging, we were able to map the existing process. An individual staff member would print out several hard copies and hand them out to all the attorneys who had equities in the policy being reviewed. They would write their notes and hand them back and the staff would have to try and read everything and incorporate changes. The staff member would then have to go back and validate the updates and submit the results back into the process. This was time consuming, unsecure, manual in all aspects, and would often take several months or get lost. Solution: The need for process automation was evident at the DoD Federal. Since policy development was strictly an internal function for DoD Agency at the time, the OSD SharePoint Enterprise Service was chosen to get the organization's technology working for them more effectively. The information was transitioned from excel to a SharePoint list to enable better tracking and transparency. For the first time, everyone in the organization could view the complete list of policies and their status in the process pipeline. The process was streamlined and implemented in the DoD Agency Operations Portal. Live status and performance reporting based on the information in the policy tracker was implemented using SQL Server Reporting Services reports. The policy tracker allowed everyone to provide input on the policies. ACES then created a workflow process to track policy changes through a defined set of steps and measure how long each step took. This provided live visualizations that revealed a significant process bottleneck with the legal reviews. As part of the DoD Agency's process automation, ACES Group created a Legal Reviews Tracker to provide more process insight to the Office of General Council (OGC). We created a specific list for the legal reviews and showed them how to use Tracked Changes and Co-Authoring in Word documents hosted on SharePoint. All documents were locked down so that no one could see comments until the users were done were ready, which was the main reason they wrote comments by hand. This allowed for accountability for lags in the process and eventually things began to move much faster. To help users quickly grasp how to interact with the Legal Reviews Tracker, a process page was created. It contained details for a process owner to learn how to manage the solution by watching a short video tutorial. Result: With each and every process that was streamlined, integrated and automated, countless hours were returned to the organization and its workforce to reallocate. As ACES worked with process owners, one of the most common statements we heard from the DoD personnel was how much they enjoyed coming to work because of the improvements and innovations we had made to the major processes they either managed or interacted with. It's sometimes hard to put a value on returns in moral such as this. The DoD agency's overall improvements in process efficiency and increased transparency resulted in a reduction in the average cycle time for a policy to be created/revised from over 263 days to under 36 within a few months.
DoD Inspector General Knowledge Management and Audit Process Automation
Challenge: The Office of the DoD Inspector General (IG) Government Accounting Office (GAO) Affairs branch is the focal point for all GAO audits and inquiries into the Department of Defense (DoD). With reduced manpower and no reduction in work load, the GAO Affairs team required a more efficient way of interacting with DoD organizations and personnel throughout the Audit Cycle. Specifically, they needed a way to coordinate and manage all coordination, meetings, information from interviews, and content generated during the GAO Audit process including accurately managing the authoritative content and critical communication between GAO Auditors and DoD organizations which was done using emails and file shares. It was really time consuming and unorganized due to data duplication, without versioning and un-managed storage that took DOD over a year to complete most of the GAO audits. Documents associated with each audit were stored in every participant's inbox with multiple copies also saved by each person on local and network drives in many cases. With DoD-Wide Audits commonly involving well over 20 people receiving, storing, changing and forwarding documents. A 1 MB file could easily consume over 500MB-1GB of storage space across DoD. With hundreds of files commonly involved in these engagements that regularly extend for time frames beyond a year, having a central, authoritative location for users to work on and store content has tremendous advantages beyond basic storage costs and data security. The DoD IG operates on its own proprietary network which was created for the purpose of restricting other DoD organizations from having access. This posed a significant obstacle to the GAO Affairs team who wanted to leverage their in-house Microsoft SharePoint collaboration platform to drive more effective collaboration with GAO and other DoD organizations throughout each Audit Life Cycle. The IG had a dedicated in-house SharePoint team but they were unable to produce results after several attempts. This was due to their lack of knowledge and experience in streamlining business process and integrating them into SharePoint using SharePoint and Knowledge Management best practices. Key GAO Affairs team requirements were: Accessible, customizable virtual collaborative work spaces enabling GAO auditors to collaborate directly with DoD Primary and Collateral offices both synchronously and/or asynchronously Private virtual location for GAO Affairs team to manage sensitive information Customizable permissions from the site down to the item/document level GAO IG Affairs team must be able to self-manage without significant developer dependencies Ability to display dashboards with measures of performance and effectiveness Ability to automate processes to maximum extent possible Solution: ACES Group developed a fully functional, scalable, web content management system using free government Enterprise Services. The DoD IG team was not previously aware of these enterprise services and did not understand the importance of platform selection based on audience. ACES Group showed them how best to unite users from different government agencies, GAO and DoD in this case, in a way that enabled rich, virtual collaboration. ACES created a solution that centralized all parts of the audit process from initiation to execution, where some of the key solution elements are presented below: We developed roles based DOD contacts list that enabled everyone to collaborate and communicate. Our solution included document libraries that helped DOD to store information, processes and reports centrally and permission groups were used to limit access to sensitive content. SharePoint calendars were used to organize and advertise meetings that included alert system to lets users be informed via email of any changes to events, or any content in lists or libraries for monitoring the changes. Reports were drafted using co-authoring and routed for review and approvals using SharePoint workflows and online reviews. Result: The content management system model developed by ACES Group is currently being considered by GAO as a whole of Government solution. Its ability to scale to a Whole of Government solution is due to the proper selection of the platform/network on which it is hosted (Intelink.gov). The solution’s ability to satisfy business process requirements is largely the result of which application was chosen to develop the solution (SharePoint). This is also based on the IT professional’s ability to work with the process owner to streamline their process and implement it within the context of the SharePoint application model using SharePoint best practices for accomplishing the various components of the solution. This is where few IT professionals are able to operate and it is where ACES Group flourishes. The average GAO audit time was reduced from years to weeks and the head of the GAO Audit agency stated the ACES solution reduced their manpower requirement by 2 FTEs.