Tech success: Navy sails with SiteScape
- By Joab Jackson
- May 22, 2003
Software aids collaboration, automates workflow of complex programs
SiteScape's Enterprise Forum software is designed to be integrator friendly, said Chris Pressley, vice president of engineering.
Managing the development of a large, complex system can itself be a complex task. Chains of responsibility need to be charted and followed. Every time a change is made, appropriate personnel, in a specific order, need to approve it -- some of who may be located thousands of miles apart. Program managers need to know the status of all the tasks under way to understand how the project, as a whole, is progressing.
The Navy certainly has its share of large projects under development, everything from weapons systems to intelligence systems. So it opened the Tactical Integration Program Office to collaborate and coordinate tools for Navy offices and their contractors and subcontractors to help them manage these programs.
In turn, the office uses software from SiteScape Inc., Maynard, Mass. The software, SiteScape Enterprise Forum, combines document management tools with collaboration aids, such as team scheduling, chat, threaded discussion support and automated workflow management.
"This is what [managers] use to manage their program, from a high-level management overview all the way down to development of software and hardware for specific applications," said Jeffrey Thompson, a Navy systems analyst for the office. The office uses SiteScape software to support about 3,000 users across six programs.
Recently, a program office contracted with the integration office for support on an engineering change proposal. The planners had a spreadsheet with everything that needed to be done. They detailed the personnel to be consulted on each change, as well as the order in which they would have to sign off on those changes.
Despite the plan, "everyone wanted to shy away" from managing this program because of the complexity of the process, said Phillip Butch, a Navy program manager for the office. For this sort of program, changes would typically be e-mailed from one party to the next. "Nobody would know if they were looking at the latest document or the latest change that was submitted, or where it was in the process," Butch said.
SiteScape Enterprise Forum smoothed the workflow, guiding changes through the appropriate personnel automatically. When an engineering change proposal is submitted, the software notifies the appropriate people to review and sign off of the documents, giving each person a deadline. If someone doesn't respond, a reminder is sent or the supervisor is notified.
"Everybody knows where the process is. Everyone knows where the holdup is," Butch said.
SiteScape is one of the early leaders in an emerging market for software that unifies content management, project management and collaboration functions into one platform, said Jonathan Spira, chief analyst at IT research firm Basex Inc., New York.
It is a nascent market but growing, thanks to interest from large enterprises in reducing the applications they support. The early contenders are companies that expand their own core offerings with additional features.
Open Text Corp., Waterloo, Ontario, has added collaboration tools to its knowledge management software. IBM Corp., Armonk, N.Y., and Microsoft Corp., Redmond, Wash., are each combining their individual software packages into more comprehensive offerings.
What makes SiteScape Enterprise Forum unique, Spira said, is that it's designed to be used across different organizations.
"SiteScape understands collaboration happens not just among employees, but between different businesses," he said.
For Peter Gaston, director of product management for SiteScape, the chief selling point of Enterprise Forum is its ability to offer workflow management at the program level instead of the project level.
While project manager software is geared to the individual user, SiteScape's software is aimed at the program manager, who can check the progress of various projects through a Web-based dashboard.
A privately owned company, SiteScape was formed in 1995 and employs 35 people. The latest version of the software costs $99 per user.
Beside the Navy, the National Security Agency and the Census Bureau also use the company's software. On the integrator side, the company counts BearingPoint Inc., Boeing Co., Electronic Data Systems Corp. and Lockheed Martin Corp. as customers. In 2002, the company signed a partnership with Science Applications International Corp., San Diego. SAIC uses SiteScape Enterprise Forum to support its work for the National Science Foundation, the Navy and others. SAIC has also provided financial backing for the company.
The software was designed to be integrator friendly, said Chris Pressley, SiteScape's vice president of engineering. Based on open standards, it can be easily rolled into part of a larger service offering, assuming the overall look and feel the integrator has created. The software's graphical interface minimizes the effort of setting up a complex workflow.
"You don't need a staff of 20 IT professionals to come up with a workflow," the Navy's Butch said.
If you have an innovative solution that you recently installed in a government agency, contact Staff Writer Joab Jackson at email@example.com.
Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.