The Navy command that oversees the building and maintenance of naval bases around the world will christen a project this week to integrate legacy, Web, and Windows applications without the time and expense of conventional integration methods. The goal is to use Web services to combine these applications into a larger "composite" program to eliminate redundant data entry that has caused delays, errors, and general unhappiness among the command's 900 contract managers. If successful, the approach could be duplicated throughout the Navy and the Department of Defense.
In the first phase of the integration strategy, the Naval Facilities Engineering Command's Charleston, S.C., engineering field division will launch a composite application designed to let contract managers use a single screen to enter data into both a Windows-based contract-procurement system and a mainframe financial system. The next step will be to tie together all of Navfac's applications by early next year, including construction, maintenance, and project-management programs, along with the contract-procurement and financial apps.
The naval command is trying to solve legacy-integration problems without a sizable investment in enterprise-resource-planning or application-integration software. Composite applications, which tie together apps written with various development tools and running on different platforms, were used by fewer than 15% of large companies and organizations last year, but at least 60% will use them in four years, Gartner predicts. That's largely because new programmatic-interface technology makes these applications easier to build, the research firm says. By 2007, Gartner expects at least half of composite apps will be implemented using this type of interface and related graphical-development tools.
Two years ago, Navfac was planning a lengthy and expensive enterprise-application-integration strategy. About the same time, however, the Navy decided to trim $45 billion from operations by the end of the decade in order to channel funds from nonfighting to combat-related operations. The EAI effort was nixed, so Navfac's IT group had to look for innovative ways to manage the engineering and maintenance contracts--worth as much as $9 billion annually--the command oversees.
Navfac leadership realized it needed to run more like an enterprise, King says.
The demands placed on Navfac's 600-member IT team to cut costs, standardize technology, and integrate systems are similar to those that business-technology groups at large companies face, says Capt. Dan King, command information officer overseeing IT for Navfac's 25 main facilities in the United States and Europe. "To make a command run well, you've got to integrate," he says.