An Integrated Product and Process Management Information System (IPPMIS) was created for the Program Management Office (PMO). The IPPMIS was designed to integrate all products and functional processes in a master acquisition and procurement structure. Specifically, this integrated system was to manage engineering, scheduling, testing, funding, procurement, contractor resources, personnel quality control and system upgrades.
The IPPMIS was intended to keep pace with an ever-increasing defense threat, as perceived by the Congressional military planners, both in terms of complexity and sophistication. The IPPMIS was developed concurrently with a rapidly changing weapons systems acquisition culture.
The system was meant to manage the entire acquisition and procurement process through an automated configuration. The Prime Contractor was hired to build the IPPMIS within a multiyear congressionally approved budget allocation. The contractor designed and built the information system for the PMO. The IPPMIS followed a standard systems engineering process including the planning, analysis, design, development, testing and implementation phases.
A mainframe-based system attempted to integrate all the functions and deliver them to desktop terminals using any of three operating platforms—UNIX, Mac and Windows. Engineering specifications called for a secure non-Web based system. The system required frequent purposeful updates from forty-five acquisition professionals. Islands of information were prevalent and often marked territorial boundaries. Inputs were processed daily and status reports were available upon demand.
Prior to the IPPMIS, a simple desktop database existed into which individuals would arbitrarily upload data. A flat file format necessitated multiple input points resulting in redundant data and input errors. Data extraction was hampered by lack of file integration. Management tended to maintain independent operations with limited cross-functional communications. The belief that "information equals power" produced a resistance to sharing data. Control and management of data were limited resulting in poor security. An intended outcome of the new IPPMIS was to facilitate increased cross-functional communication, information sharing and improved management coordination.
During the five-year period preceding the time frame of this case, (1987–1992), a number of significant technological advancements were implemented. The mainframe computer infrastructure was rapidly being converted into a client-server architecture. Networked desktop computers supporting a Windows operating platform became standard throughout the PMO. Functional applications were redesigned to run within the new operating environment. New structures materialized permitting real-time on and off line data processing and updating. Processing speeds were increasing exponentially. New management philosophies were being developed that recognized the value of integrated systems and personnel. Configuration management—the use of a specialized process applying accepted business practices during the early planning phases of product development—was an emerging innovative managerial process. New specializations of personnel in the acquisition profession were also growing.
Prior to the implementation of Acquisition Reform in 1990, typical management practices included task assignment through a functional hierarchy, with oversight/management through a vertical pipeline. Personnel were assigned projects that were then monitored and evaluated by supervisors, usually under a prioritization structure established by management. Personnel were selected based on their past performance and typically functional specialization was limited to engineering functions. Personnel were trained as required, oftentimes however, in areas that were not associated with their functional job responsibilities or their civil service career designation. Typically there were no coordinated or systematic plans for personnel development or linking between project tasks, expertise and training.
Knowledge and skills were based in general management and there were significant overlaps and incongruity between what personnel were trained to do and what they actually did. Management was evaluated based on arbitrary and sometimes error prone systems, leading to further mismatches in integrated systems development. Typically employees were not involved in project planning or decision-making and often times were not consulted in their career development. The role of managers was oversight. The role of employees was task performance. Stovepipe structures were the norm and cross-functional coordination or even consultations were rare.