IPPS-A fast-tracks software modernization

Lt. Col. Ryan Martin speaks at AFCEA Belvoir Industry Days on May 14, 2024.
IPPS-A leaders hosted a breakout session at AFCEA Belvoir Industry Days on May 14, 2024. Lt. Col. Ryan Martin, product manager for IPPS-A Increment II, is pictured above at the event. (U.S. Army photo by Cecilia Tueros)
Susan McGovern, Strategic Communication Specialist, IPPS-A
May 24, 2024

Integrated Personnel and Pay System — Army (IPPS-A), part of Program Executive Office Enterprise Information Systems, is leveraging industry’s Agile best practices to deliver new capabilities faster and in smaller increments, according to a panel of IPPS-A leaders who hosted a breakout session May 14 at AFCEA Belvoir Industry Days.

IPPS-A is seeking industry’s support in three areas: automated testing, modular contracting and adaptive software architectures. 

Automated testing 
“Test automation allows us to go faster while not sacrificing code quality,” Col. Matthew Paul, IPPS-A’s project manager, said. “We are also going to explore test-driven development. This new design pattern allows us to code a little and test a little. So, if we fail, we fail early, and we fail small.”

Modular contracting 
Lt. Col. Ryan Martin, product manager for IPPS-A Increment II, stressed the importance of adopting contracting practices to accommodate the Agile development model. The new business model includes modular contracting with capacity-based acquisitions, performance-based incentives for delivering quality software, and multi-vendor environments.

“If we are going to fully harness Agile software development, we have to change the business paradigm,” Martin said. “We can't be locked into strict contractual requirements if we want to adjust on the fly.”

“In general, we want our contracting more process focused, more capacity focused and a little bit less focused on detailed product requirements,” said Paul, who credited Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army (Data, Engineering and Software) Jennifer Swanson for creating policies that support the Army’s Agile transformation. 

“We want to break our complex projects into smaller, bite-sized chunks,” Paul said. “We are holding our industry partners accountable for delivering faster in smaller increments under service level agreements tied to quality and speed metrics.”

“We don't want to buy software development services,” Martin said. We want to buy quality software development services. There’s a big difference. We need to be able to contract for, measure and incentivize quality software development.” 

IPPS-A began its pivot to the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) 6.0 in 2023. “We upskilled our workforce,” Patrick McKinney, IPPS-A’s deputy project manager, said. “We explained to the workforce that we are going to learn, trip and fall, but we need to start. We started small with a few teams and then went all in.” 

Today, all 15 of IPPS-A’s Increment II product teams operate under the Agile model. “We see ourselves as a partner with industry throughout the program cycle,” McKinney said. “In the past, we graded industry’s work at the end.”

“SAFe 6.0 is all about continuous modernization and continuous improvement,” Paul said. “We don't have it exactly right. We want to continually improve our people, our processes and our technologies.” 

Fourteen months ago, IPPS-A went live with Release 3. “One thing that you won't hear us say is ‘Release 4,’” Martin said. “We moved from a release model into incremental capability delivery. So as capabilities are ready to roll out to the field, we roll them out to the field. Currently, we are on biweekly releases, putting between 50 and 70 work items in the field every two weeks.”

Open APIs
Paul emphasized the importance of open Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). “Over the course of the lifecycle of the program, we are going to need third parties to build software on top of your data, business logic and software,” Paul said. 

Data architectures matter too, Paul said. “If we don't modernize our data architecture, the data architecture is going to become the bottleneck. Programs will end up spending an inordinate amount of time doing backend data work and rework.”

AIE reboot
Maj. Luis “Lou” Gaitan-Tovar, assistant product manager for the IPPS-A portfolio's Accessions Information Environment (AIE), discussed his program’s mission to enhance the Army’s recruiting process by leveraging a minimally configured commercial off-the-shelf solution hosted in a Salesforce platform. 

AIE needs “a human-centered design to improve the user experience,” Gaitan-Tovar said. “Mobility, reliability, secure connectivity and data access are paramount attributes. The accessions workforce must be able to perform tasks using any device, anytime, anywhere.”

AIE will award a multiple-award IDIQ (indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity) contract with a capacity-based approach, Gaitan-Tovar said. 

“We are breaking away from written proposals and instead will do things like a technical challenge or presentation,” Gaitan-Tovar said. “We are not interested in ChatGPT-drafted proposals. We want you to show us what you are capable of.”

AIE plans to host an Industry Day in June before it releases a final request for proposals. 

Soldier needs drive IPPS-A software development 
“Software needs to be usable,” Paul said. “Gone are the days where we are going to sit Soldiers in a classroom and spend 40 hours of their lives teaching them how to push files. We need to invest in things like embedded training, digital adoption platforms, guided learning and smart technology.”

In fiscal year 2026, IPPS-A plans to award a contract for capacity-support services in a full and open competition, according to Cpt. Chad Bell, assistant portfolio manager for IPPS-A Increment II. The awardee will need Oracle PeopleSoft expertise, Bell said. “That expertise is required to tell us how we can improve PeopleSoft. How do we make Soldiers want to use IPPS-A?”

IPPS-A needs industry collaborators, Bell said. “We need an industry partner to tell us, ‘This is taking way too many clicks,’ or ‘This looks horrible.’ Bring your ideas to the table.”

SBIR topics 
IPPS-A is leveraging the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program to explore innovative solutions using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning in PeopleSoft, according to Maj. Ryan Nehus, assistant product manager for IPPS-A Increment II. 

“The SBIR shop is open,” Nehus said.

Potential SBIR areas of exploration include:

  • Audit automation for Human Capital Management data
  • Conversational AI chatbots to improve user support
  • AI-powered talent management solutions to support Soldiers’ end-to-end career development

Connect with IPPS-A leaders
Use the PEO EIS Industry Meeting Request webformto request a meeting with an IPPS-A leader. 


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