Department of Veterans Affairs Veteran’s Enterprise Management System

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1.5.Methodology, Tools, and Techniques

The VEMS project is a (COTS) software implementation and configuration, integrated with supporting custom components to meet all requirements. The architecture is described in greater detail in later sections but the core components are itemized here with a functional description of that component’s placement in the architecture.
The software proposed for the VEMS project, its functional purpose:

Table : Tools and Technologies

Software Component or Subcomponent

Functional Purpose

Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Case management and customer-centric collaboration platform. Designed for high-volume environments with enhanced security and usability requirements (including Section 508 compliance)

Web Browsers (Internet Explorer, FireFox, and Safari)

Web-based solution to ensure maximum conformance to heterogeneous application platforms.

Microsoft Exchange

VA-approved email platform that integrated into other Microsoft products such as Dynamics, Office, and SharePoint.

Microsoft Email Router for CRM

Email interface for Dynamics, also already in use by VA in other projects

CRM Dynamics add-ons to include SSRS, SSAS, SSIS, AutoMerge, WhosOn Live Chat, etc.

Products under final determination to align with the project’s baselined requirements. All selected products will meet VA EA, ETA, TRM, and other requisite criteria.

Microsoft Active Directory and Active Directory Federated Services

Authentication and Authorization services using VA-approved means to ensure proper Role Based Access Control (RBAC) and other necessary access controls.

Adobe Acrobat Reader/ Acrobat Pro

Use of PDF documents for full platform extensibility. COTS product for robustness, reliability, and standards-based document implementation.

Microsoft SharePoint

A standards-based document and content repository integrated into Dynamics.

Cisco Universal Call Connector

VA-approved standard to for integrating VOIP-based communications for customer call centers.

AlphaTrust Pronto (or functional equivalent)

COTS solution integrated with Dynamics to allow for digital signatures.

Cisco XenApp Virtualization Server

Virtualized desktop solution already in use in VA

Microsoft Windows

VA-approved operating system for servers and desktop environments

Microsoft Office

VA-approved productivity suite.

Microsoft LiveMeeting (or Lync)

Messaging solution in use by VA and universally available outside VA. Well integrated with CRM and SharePoint components.

Microsoft SQL Server and SQL Server Reporting Services

VA supported relational database platform integrated with other COTS components

The following components are being reviewed for efficacy and compliance and may remain as candidate technologies for the following purposes. These technologies are COTS ‘plug-ins’ to the Dynamics CRM solution through its common application programming interface.

PowerPivot (or functional equivalent)

Data analysis tool for simplified business intelligence

AutoMerge for Dynamics CRM (or functional equivalent)

      1. Automated letter generation tool with simplified workflow management.

PowerSearch for Dynamics CRM (or functional equivalent)

      1. Enhanced data indexing technology to provide unified search functionality across multiple data repositories.

WhosOn Live Chat for Dynamics CRM

      1. Web-based chat and screen-sharing program that integrates with the VA’s Cisco Call Center technologies.

Zoho Site24x7 (or functional equivalent)

      1. Server-based system monitoring software.

Trillium Software’s TS Director OCR Software

      1. Components to provide optical character recognition for digital documents.

Bucher-Sutter Connector for Dynamics CRM (or functional equivalent)

      1. Call queue management software that integrates with Dynamics for VA call center representatives

The number and heterogeneous nature of the itemized components mandates two primary techniques for the development of the solution. They are as follows:

Agile Development-VEMS is being developed utilizing an Agile Scrum methodology with 2-4 week sprints. This approach will align with the need for the maximization of COTS utilization (justifying the licensing and development investments) while ensuring the design cycles necessary to ensure the proper integration of all ancillary products (i.e.-voice, email, letter generation, and other integration). The development initiative will prioritize the establishment of the COTS components and the configuration of those components in alignment with the general case management needs for the VEMS program. This alignment will benefit from the experience of team members with previous engagements with VA implementations of Dynamics CRM for the Veterans Relationship Management (VRM) and Federal Case Management Tool (FCMT) programs. Early iterations will focus on the utilization of components to align with business workflows already defined in the To Be Process Flows deliverable. Following the initial release, the design and development initiatives will continue with the ancillary and customized configurations needed to support the new internet-facing portal for external end user access and the integration of components required to meet more complex VEMS requirements. The team’s embrace of Agile methodologies will provide the ability to demonstrate functionality (both COTS and custom) to the stakeholders. These demonstrations and receive design and functionality feedback in iterations to ensure the proper alignment of the behaviors of the COTS tools with user expectations.
SOA and Enterprise Architecture-For integrations with both VA enterprise systems and VEMS-specific needs, VEMS will be designed utilizing a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) to ensure that services can be extended as requirements mature and they can be re-purposed as needed. This will include VEMS acting as a both data services consumer for VA enterprise services such as BGS and MVI as well as a data services provider for VEMS-specific functionalities.
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