DESEX to go virtual – Defense Supply Expert System
Ronald S. Mailhiot
Advanced telephone technology is a popular and powerful way for today’s savy consumers to check bank balances, order merchandise, or update personal information on accounts. Department of Defense (DOD) personnel have a similar tool at their fingertips–the Defense Supply Expert System, or DESEX.
DESEX is a telephone and Web-based system that accesses mainframe computer-based data sources to provide customers the most current data available. Users can obtain DOD asset information or check the status of a requisition by telephone, Internet, or email. They also can create or modify requisitions by telephone or by email through the Internet. While the preferred method for ordering or modifying requisitions is to use the Standard Army Management Information Systems, DESEX is a viable option when traditional means are compromised or unavailable.
DESEX was introduced in June 1991 to improve customer service support within the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) emergency supply operations centers by automatically processing routine customer inquiries. Between 1992 and 1995, the system was fielded throughout the services’ inventory control points (ICPs). In January 2000, the Defense Logistics Information Service (DLIS) accepted responsibility for managing DESEX.
DESEX currently is used at 15 ICPs and depots. Each location has its own telephone number and access to specific inventory information based on national stock numbers (NSNs) or commodity responsibility. When a customer requires help, DESEX routes the transaction to a representative at one of the 15 sites. The system operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to support every customer.
In September 2002, the DESEX Program Management Office announced plans for Virtual DESEX. The virtual system will improve the features of the existing system by consolidating the 15 sites into one central location and offering a single telephone number for all callers to use. It will be able to access the appropriate data source based on the stock number or document number provided by the caller. Virtual DESEX will serve customers within the continental United States and abroad. The current system will continue to operate until the new version is fielded.
The major benefits of Virtual DESEX are
* Upgraded interactive voice recognition.
* Consolidation of 15 DESEX production sites into 1.
* Reduction of telephone numbers from 15 to 1 toll-free commercial number and 1 DSN (Defense Switched Network) number.
* Computer-telephone interface (calls will be directed to the appropriate contact center by telephone).
* User authentication.
* Continuous speech recognition.
Virtual DESEX will have a router between the local area network (LAN) and the DESEX server to prevent non-DESEX LAN traffic from interfering with the DESEX server. The LAN connection to the data sources will pass through the firewalls using the Nonsecure lnternet Protocol Routing Network (NIPRNET). The production site server will format user queries created by Virtual DESEX. The business rules in the system will route the queries to the appropriate data sources to retrieve the desired information. The DESEX server then will convert retrieved data to voice and transmit results to the caller.
Continuous Speech Recognition
The Virtual DESEX interface and dialog design will create an environment in which users can navigate the system easily, with guidance offered by voice menus and prompts. Voice recognition will provide enhanced accuracy in both quiet and noisy environments. Customers will be able to communicate their data entries vocally without pausing between characters. Initially, DESEX will translate only in English.
Consolidated Call Processing
Consolidating the telephone numbers of the 15 production sites to support a single number will allow the system to use intelligent network software to reroute and deliver calls to the appropriate DESEX system based on the stock number or document number the customer provides. This process will give customers the most current and accurate logistics data available.
Each of the military services will have a contact center and call representatives. If a caller needs more information, the system will transfer his call to the appropriate contact center representative.
Computer Telephone Integration
As part of the computer telephone integration (CTI) design, a record, or “data packet,” will be displayed on the contact center representative’s screen. The data packet will contain the customer’s identity and actions performed within Virtual DESEX. The data packet may contain single items of information, such as a stock number or document number, or, in some cases, multiple numbers or other identifying data. The system will keep the caller linked to his associated data packet, and the contact center server will determine the location of the appropriate contact center representative. When transferring the call to the representative, the CTI software will format and display customer data on the representative’s pop-up screen. A link from the pop-up screen will provide information about additional queries conducted during the call. This technology will reduce customer wait time and eliminate the need for the customer to supply information twice. DLA will be the first organization to implement CTI; the military services will follow after a system architecture review and any necessary tecnology changes are completed.
Virtual DESEX will require authentication to validate user access by telepbone and on the Internet. To assist with Army user authentication and keep the system user friendly. DLIS and the Army are collaborating to find ways to access the system using a single sign-on approach, possibly through the Army Knowledge Online portal. For Web access, the system may use methods such as a public key infrastructure or a common access card system. (Public key infrastructure is a value provided by a designated authority that can be used to encrypt messages and digital signatures.) Oracle or a similar database technology will validate users outside of their own portal, and the system will manage user accounts and authorization information. The user authentication database will validate users, notify them of required password changes, and determine access rights into DESEX.
To ensure that customers receive the most current defense-related information on asset visibility and requisition data, the DESEX Program Management Office is building interfaces with systems such as DLA’s Business System Modernization, the Army’s Logistics Modernization Program, the Navy’s Enterprise Resource Planning system, and the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service. There are plans to link DESEX to FEDLOG, which will enable customers to place requisitions after researching their catalog data.
Virtual DESEX will be implemented in phases, with the first release scheduled for early in fiscal year 2004. Initially, the system contractor will develop a prototype and conduct user acceptance testing. Then Virtual DESEX will begin operating at the DLA ICPs to ensure the system is working properly. Fielding to the Army and other service sites will follow.
Virtual DESEX will provide customers with enhanced support using state-of-the-art telecommunications technology. The new system will be “virtually” all that is needed whenever a soldier, sailor, airman, or marine asks, “Where’s my stuff?”
To learn more about the current program and for updates on the fielding of the virtual system, visit DESEX on the Web at https://www.desex.com. ALOG
CHIEF WARRANT OFFICER (W- 4) RONALD S. MAILHIOT IS A LOGISTICS SYSTEMS ANALYST AT THE DEFENSE LOGISTICS INFORMATION SERVICE IN BATTLE CREEK, MICHIGAN. HE IS A GRADUATE OF THE WARRANT OFFICER BASIC AND ADVANCED COURSES AND THE WARRANT OFFICER STAFF COURSE. HE HAS A BACHELOR’S DEGREE IN HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT FROM UPPER IOWA UNIVERSITY AND IS CURRENTLY PURSUING A MASTER’S DEGREE IN ORGANIZATIONAL MANAGEMENT FROM SPRING ARBOR UNIVERSITY IN MICHIGAN.
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