NEWS | Dec. 16, 2020

Naval Safety Center Kicks Off Digital Transformation Initiative

By Sarah Langdon, Naval Safety Center Safety Promotions

The Naval Safety Center (NAVSAFECEN) conducted its first Digital Transformation Workshop, Nov. 17-18, in support of its commitment to work as “Your Safety Advocate.” The event, a collaboration with industry partner Microsoft, kicked off a new chapter in NAVSAFECEN’s ongoing investment in transforming how the center impacts and supports the naval enterprise with a focus on data and analytics, to better meet its core mission of identifying hazards and reducing risk to people and resources.

In all, 36 participants attended, representing all NAVSAFECEN directorates and senior leadership, including virtual attendees who logged on from Hawaii, Florida, Alabama and from around the Hampton Roads, Virginia region.
 
NAVSAFECEN relies on data and data analysis to inform and educate the Navy, Marine Corps and all stakeholders on existing and emerging risks and mishaps, and makes recommendations to prevent reoccurrences. As such, collection, management and dissemination of data is the cornerstone of determining NAVSAFECEN’s mission effectiveness, and requires the right tools and approach to maximize impact.
 
During the workshop, NAVSAFECEN staff engaged with the Microsoft team in guided ideation sessions to capture big picture ideas on improving efficiency. The sessions aimed to identify areas where digital innovation can create positive change and determine a positive digital strategy implementation path. Participants were asked to describe how they currently perform their jobs, to identify process-based obstacles or inefficiencies in their work processes and then envision and define “what if?” scenarios illustrating how the work could be performed better. 
 
Rear Adm. F. R. Luchtman, NAVSAFECEN commander, shared his perspective during his opening remarks.

“Digital transformation takes many different forms,” Luchtman said. “Think of all of the archive records we have; as they are, they’re really of no use to us. Some we hold onto because of statutory requirements and some we hold onto because we might someday reference that 1973 document about inflatable boats. However, none of it is useful if we can’t analyze it and you can’t analyze it if it’s sitting in a filing cabinet in a basement somewhere. That is part of digital transformation.”
 
One of NAVSAFECEN’s main lines of efforts is to become a center of excellence for data analytics and digital transformation is at the core of this command priority. “We can’t get there unless we improve our processes to get access to information to be able to analyze the information. There are efficiencies to improve in our processes and efficiencies to be made in what we do for the fleet,” said Luchtman.
 
Workshop discussions focused on processes and guided participants in identifying clear ideas to improve efficiency. Mark Dowd, digital architect and advisor for Microsoft, gave an example of how ideation sessions can positively impact an organization.
 
“What if NAVSAFECEN could more accurately track deliveries while saving time and reducing expenditures by 10 percent?” Dowd asked. “The executive director knows your department and what their budget is and if he can shake that by 10 percent because they get your paper - track it and save time, the morale of the group goes up. That is what we’re looking for. Imagine if we capture your specific ideas and flip them into an imagined ‘if’ statement.”

The discussions’ scope touched all aspects of how NAVSAFECEN staff uses technology and digital applications internally and externally to meet the mission. Attendees explored how technology could eliminate redundancies in administrative functions for personnel, in aspects ranging from the check-in process to supply management and ways to improve information sharing and point of access to increase productivity.

For example, under the current system, users have to log in to multiple sites to access work files and systems, email, admin and training requirements, all of which are hosted on different platforms and have other access protocols. According to Joe McMahon, NAVSAFECEN’s Command Information Officer, one goal is to improve efficiency and morale, and cut down on time-wasters by improving document processes, procedures and information sharing.
 
“Our legacy systems require users to go to multiple platforms to perform their work,” McMahon explained. “You have to go to one place for shared files, another drive for personal files – and then there’s the Intranet through SharePoint and different access points for different things and Outlook for your email. We’re looking to implement positive changes in our procedures, increase productivity, improve our products and outcomes, and increase morale.”
 
For McMahon, the key driver for a successful digital transformation starts with the organization’s culture, staff mindset and an overall willingness to embrace change.

“We need to move away from making excuses on why we can’t do something because, ‘we’ve always done it this way,’ and instead, establish a culture of ‘yes, we can’ approach.”
 
Other discussions addressed challenges and ideas to better capture data during assessments and improve the speed in which that information is shared with stakeholders and safety officers, as well as how to improve data management through collaboration with academia and other organizations who lead the way in modern data analytics.
 
Cmdr. Todd Morrison, NAVSAFECEN surface ship division head, explained how data is collected during shipboard assessments and how better digital processes could improve the efficiency and accuracy of assessments, as well as turnaround of products and results to the surface community.

The Surface Division evaluates ships’ ability to comply with safety programs. Assessors look at operating principles from the planning phase through execution and subsequent debriefing processes. Key metrics include command culture, the comprehension level of personnel on plans and procedures and ensuring that safety officers are able to identify hazards and act quickly to prevent mishaps.

“When we go out on assessments, we bring a laptop with all our references and share them with the safety officers as needed,” Morrison explained. “If we had a smaller device, say an iPad or something similar with all our instructions, it would be easier. Especially if it had a word search function for those references as it’s easier to show somebody than just tell them. It would be helpful to refer to something we’ve seen on another ship and say, right there on the spot, that we’re aware these things are going on right now in the fleet, not just this ship. Talking about those things can help change that culture to prevent mishaps going forward.”

Dr. Kirk Horton, NAVSAFECEN’s Knowledge Management and Safety Promotions (KMSP) Director, addressed the critical importance of data management in fulfilling NAVSAFECEN’s mission.
 
“We directly support the Naval Safety Center mission and all other command departments support the mission of KMSP by collecting safety and risk data. In addition, our stakeholders provide data also, and we combine and convert it into information via analysis,” he said. “We model, assess trends, and visualize relationships in the data and then we disseminate that information back to our stakeholders using every media channel that is appropriate for the message and the audience. Right now, those processes are manual and ad hoc. The way we do our studies, write, edit and stack them to get published is very paper-folder and email-oriented.”

Horton also discussed how virtual and digital editing and review processes would improve productivity in the safety promotions division, versus relying on pen and paper editing for products such as magazines and posters.

“I’d like to virtualize all these processes, so they’re streamlined, not printed on paper and so they don’t take so much time to weave their way around the command and other reviewers in a manual way. The whole purpose is to optimize our data services, dissemination and our distribution to get the story out to Sailors and Marines.”

At the conclusion of the workshop, the Microsoft team clarified 70 ideas, or digital hotspots, from the ideation sessions, which provided insight and potential avenues to improve efficiency and outcomes for the NAVSAFECEN staff and mission. Dowd provided three ‘next steps’ recommendations and areas of focus. 
 
“We’ll help you prioritize that [hotspot] list and work with you to prioritize the top three as you start building a plan,” Dowd said. “The next step is a digital strategy. If you have an idea and it’s in your head, that’s just what it is, an idea. We really get to vision and strategy and action items when you write it down and are able to share with the entire command. Some folks mentioned a data plan and data is at the heart of your organization and enables almost everything you do, so it is synonymous there. Finally, we recommend you create a culture of innovation and the way you do that is to create a digital enablement officer effort and we will walk you through that. We want to figure out how we can go after these and where they are on our priority list and have the biggest impact on your mission.”
 
According to McMahon, the workshop was a great success and the command’s next steps are already in the works.

“The responses from workshop attendees including NAVSAFECEN staff, Microsoft and our business and technology integration team have been very positive,” he said. “More importantly, the show of support and participation from NAVSAFECEN’s executive leadership is a critical factor for success and made a very positive impression on our external partners. 

“We’ll begin working from a prioritized list of digital ideas to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of business practices and use technology to make our data aggregation and analysis efforts more efficient and easier. There will be three top issues for prototyping that will have our immediate attention, as well as our short-mid-long-term Plan of Action and Milestones to resolve what we call our digital hotspots. Lastly, we’ll communicate our strategy and roadmap to enable and foster a culture of grassroots innovation, empowering our staff to make impactful contributions at every level.”
 
McMahon underscored the impact the initiative would have on the NAVSAFECEN mission stating, “Digital transformation is the integration of digital technology into all mission areas, fundamentally changing how we operate and deliver value to customers. Our ability to seize the moment is not only enabled by our rapid adoption of industry-leading tools, capabilities and best practices but also is supported by DON-wide initiatives.”
 
Luchtman, a key advocate for the initiative, shared his view on the importance of digital transformation. “Efficiency is a focus of mine as ultimately, it’s my responsibility for us to execute efficiently, but what I’m really fascinated with beyond efficiency is effectiveness,” he explained. “How can we make you more effective in your job by giving you tools - whether they’re applications or access? How can we make you more effective? – basically, I want to make this a better place to work. I think we’re on the verge of something really great here and we’ve already started down the path with a little bit of thought today and tomorrow on how we can improve our processes and make the Naval Safety Center stand out as a center of excellence – I think we’re well on our way.”
 
"The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) visual information does not imply or constitute DOD endorsement of Microsoft Corporation or any other third-party partners and affiliates."