By Steve Warns, Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center Public Affairs
/ Published August 22, 2019
An Air Force Business Enterprise Systems Directorate coding team discusses a mobile app they are developing for the Air Force during a recent huddle in Atlanta. Business and Enterprise Systems Product Innovation based at the Maxwell Air Force Base Gunter Annex, Ala., is teaming with the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center Innovation Office to develop applications that will help Airmen do their jobs better and stay connected to their military community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tanya Lambert)
An alliance between the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center and the Business and Enterprise Systems Product Innovation office is improving mission support capabilities.
BESPIN and AFIMSC are partnering to develop two mobile applications: an app connecting the military community to base events and an app to improve contractor accountability. The apps were two of the top three ideas chosen during AFIMSC’s inaugural Innovation Rodeo March 1.
“The standup of the BESPIN office connects the entire installation and mission support enterprise to an opportunity to develop apps, sustain apps and make Airmen’s lives better,” said Marc Vandeveer, AFIMSC chief innovation officer. “This is our very first partnership with the brand new Air Force office, and the sky's the limit on how we can change Airmen’s lives this year, next year and for years to come.”
Vandeveer said one message was clear to the innovation office during the 2019 Call for Innovation campaign – Airmen want mobile apps, and they want the apps to improve their jobs and daily lives.
“Mobile apps have become ubiquitous throughout the world,” Vandeveer said. “The Air Force has been late to adopt mobile platforms, so development and sustainment of these apps has been minimal. It has struggled to develop quality apps that benefit Airmen and families worldwide.”
BESPIN, located at Maxwell Air Force Base Gunter Annex, Alabama, is an Air Force organization connecting government operations with developers from the private sector. The office uses an agile development methodology to quickly implement ideas that will ultimately support the service and the Department of Defense. Agile development methodology – based on lean principles – keeps the user, acquirer and developer working together throughout every stage of development so adjustments can be made quickly.
“We’re leading a digital transformation from a compliance-driven culture into one built around a user-centered approach,” said Christina Rhylander, BESPIN strategy and innovation chief. “We partner with multiple Air Force divisions to deliver exceptional digital experiences and bring modern digital delivery solutions into the government space from nationwide talent hubs.”
Rhylander said agile development methodology is a big reason why BESPIN is able to develop, test and deliver new apps in weeks instead of months and years, which was common under the old framework.
“We implement digital transformation in many small, coordinated, rapid-fire acts and deliver pieces of the larger whole (very quickly),” Rhylander said.
AFIMSC discovered BESPIN during its monthly innovation working group. Trish Marshall, AFIMSC innovation program analyst, helped facilitate the partnership.
“We reached out to Christina Rhylander and then hit the ground running with them,” Marshall said. “Defining your innovation ecosystem is talking to a lot of people and connecting the dots. It was serendipitous, really.”
So far, it has been a mutually beneficial partnership aimed at finding innovative solutions to improve the Air Force.
“We feel empowered by our leadership, and we act empowered,” said Tanya Lambert, BESPIN chief of business transformation. “That’s what has made it a great relationship.”
Marshall echoed that sentiment.
“BESPIN is agile and innovative … they think ahead and they’re willing to work with you to solve the problem,” Marshall said. “Both organizations want to get to yes to make Airmen’s lives better.”
The community events app, tentatively called the “What’s Up” app, won first place at the Innovation Rodeo and received a total prize of $250,000. It was submitted by Col. Houston Cantwell, U.S. Air Force Academy vice superintendent and U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet First Class Yann Wollman, director of the cadet center for innovation. The app aims to build a sense of community and camaraderie among Airmen by being a centralized bulletin board that includes information relevant to an Air Force base community.
“The more our Airmen feel a part of their organization, the better they perform at work, the more they want to stay in our ranks,” Cantwell said.
BESPIN helped connect the Innovation Office to the SO Company, a digital content company based in New York. The app is expected to debut by fall.
The second app, known as the Wing Feedback app, is in the early contract stages. It will help contracting officer representatives better perform their duties, provide more accurate information gathering and improve contract performance while saving taxpayer dollars.
BESPIN is currently accepting bids and plans to award a contract this month.