Dream Big: Air Force personnel must keep pace with today’s digital customers

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Michael A. Ortiz
  • Air Reserve Personnel Center chief technology officer
The United States Air Force has a critical mission: Fly, fight, and win in Air, Space and Cyber Space. Like every successful military general in history, Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force, understands that if he takes care of his troops, they will take care of the mission. He recognizes that, when it comes to performing the mission, the needs of the Airmen come first! He stridently insists that we must “invest in our most important resource -- our Airmen.”

Gen Welsh’s focus on Airmen is not simply a feel good philosophy. Meeting Airman’s needs is the foundation upon which the Air Force builds its mission. Abraham Maslow posited, in his “Hierarchy of needs” theory, that people are motivated to fulfill fundamental needs before being able to effectively achieve more advanced functions. The Air Force, therefore, before it can optimally accomplish its mission, must meet the physiological, security, social, esteem, and self-actualization needs of its Airmen.

Over 3 million customers, Airmen and their families, rely on timely self-service HR applications via the web and deserve an effortless customer experience.This is what Airmen expect, and this is what they deserve. They do not care about organizational boundaries or historical constraints…they care about getting relevant information about whether their needs, and the needs of their families, are being met. When IT Systems work well and customers get what they are looking for, they strengthen those systems by turning into advocates of the products and effortless services they receive.

Effortless CX
for our Airmen is foundational to meeting their needs, but effortless CX cannot occur until the IT infrastructure, currently outdated, slow, and unreliable, that supports Air Force Personnel Service Delivery Systems is upgraded. This digital system of applications, servers, routers, nodes, and gateways was not designed cohesively to deliver services across the AF HR Management Lifecycle.

A lack of cohesiveness has inadvertently created over 170+ HR systems within segmented “stove-pipes” and has fallen short of long-term connectivity, maintenance cost, and scalability. The result is latency and lack of quality of service for HR agents accessing information from internal HR systems and for customers when they attempted to access HR information through the web.

With a proactive and aggressive approach, these limitations can be overcome by starting with a holistic enterprise architecture. Today’s digital market offers several “channels” for customers to access information; social, mobile, analytics, cloud, and Internet of things. Private sector service organizations use SMACIT and develop enterprise architecture to combine web, social and contact center experiences for a unified, cross-channel service solution. These companies are unlocking innovation with self-service applications and cloud computing technology.

It is up to proactive organizations in the Air Force to harness these technologies to best serve the customer and optimize performance of the mission. The Air Reserve Personnel Center at Buckley Air Force Base is doing just that. We have been working to overcome IT infrastructure limitations for the past year. First, we have shifted from a process focused organization to a focus on the “customer first."

The customer is rapidly becoming more sophisticated when it comes to CX and how they want to connect, i.e., channels, with customer agents. Our Airmen seek convenience, time savings, and specific types of transactions. To meet their expectations, we are designing processes to interact cohesively together and be scalable to perform at optimum levels at all times.

Second, to keep up with technology and the behavior of customers, we are already investing time, money, and energy by partnering with industries best in breed IT systems and talent to support Airmen HR requirements.

ARPC is leveraging SMACIT as a model to connect with customers across the entire HR Management Lifecycle. Offering several reliable channels to empower customers and increase their trust in the system, the information provided, and in the HR community.

ARPC cannot do this alone, therefore, in order for the Air Force to be on a direct path to keep pace with today’s digital customers and provide fast, trusted, and reliable answers...the entire AF HR community must continually build partnerships with government and private sector vendors who offer the industry’s best web customer service, contact center cross-channel, and knowledge management tools for us to better serve our customers.

Albeit, some HR products may come at a premium; however, their SMACIT models and EA prowess will deliver enterprise Service Oriented Architecture solution enriching the CX for Generations of Airmen.

Air Force customers are changing, as the Internet, social sites, and mobile applications become more intertwined in their lives. Following the guidance from Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, partnering with top talent from industry, and breaking down "stove-pipes" across the AF HR Lifecycle with SMACIT will help the Air Force design and deploy the future HR IT EA.

Putting the customers first, transforming them into advocates, and architecting HR IT solutions with interconnected systems producing fast and trusted information through their preferred secure or public channel will deliver exceptional CX to Generations of Airmen to come. In the end, improving HR services empowers the Air Force to accomplish what this nation requires…that is to "Fly, Fight and Win."