Department of Veterans Affairs Veteran’s Enterprise Management System

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While risks are always present, it is expected that VEMS solution risks will be managed and monitored by tracking them in a separate project Risk Log. From a technical perspective, the VEMS solution will have constraints by following the policies of the VA's Technical Reference Model (TRM) and also use commonly available, up-to-date programming tools, interfaces, and languages.
Specifically, the solution will be deployed on TRM approved software for both the application, platform, system, and user endpoints including the following commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products:

  • All server-side technical constraints will be covered under the cloud provider service level agreements (SLAs) in compliance with VA security and performance requirements

  • Windows 7 Client Operating System

  • Windows Virtualization Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)

  • Microsoft Office, including Outlook

  • Microsoft SharePoint

  • Microsoft Dynamics CRM

  • Web Browsers, specifically recent versions of Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari

  • Adobe Acrobat PDF reader

  • Citrix Virtual Desktops

  • Cisco’s Unified Call Connector

  • Microsoft’s SQL Server (including SQL Server Reporting/Analysis Services)

  • Commercially available plug-ins to the Microsoft dynamics CRM platform such as Auto Merge, Documents CorePack, PowerPivot, zoetrope Corporation's site 24 x 7 and Trillium Software's TS Quality OCR software, and AlphaTrust Pronto

1.8.Design Trade-offs

The design of the VEMS solution focuses on five key dynamics:

  • Flexibility–The system shall provide the end-user the flexibility of collecting, analyzing, and reporting on data relevant to the OSDBU business unit responsible for evaluation and verifying compliance, the Center for Verification and Evaluation (CVE). The VEMS solution will assist the CVE mission by using rule-based workflow management software that integrates with a variety of commonly available software tools. This flexibility will be provided through the use of SOA to enhance the extensibility, maturation, and ongoing enhancements of enterprise services; COTS interfaces to maximize the use of invested COTS products such as CRM Dynamics and SharePoint; HTML/CSS3 custom web interface to ensure browser utilization and platform agnosticism; and proper inter-layer abstraction to allow for the modernization of certain components without causing VEMS system-wide obsolescence.

  • Interoperability–The solution, being based on COTS software, will be loosely coupled and operate such that new data sources or new data outputs can be integrated using commonly- available, standards-based, and secured data interfaces to minimize integration costs. Where COTS components provide proprietary interfaces, VEMS will use, build, or extend interfaces to align with VA-adopted standards to ensure loose coupling as a core tenet of the architecture. VEMS will leverage the lessons learned from VRM and FCMT implementations of Dynamics, maximize the use of enterprise services, align with the ETA, and adhere to well-established SOA design principles and patterns to the maximum extent possible. Information exchanged via data services will adhere to the VA’s enterprise data payload standards for data elements that are already defined. If such standards do not exist, the project team will forward them for consideration to the proper VA’s SOA Governance committees.

  • Performance–The solution must be able to expand to accommodate an increased caseload by the end-users. This performance will be provided through cloud service provider SLAs. Key Performance Indicators defined by the CVE team for important metrics such as data quality, responsiveness, security and others concerns. As the end user community grows, the SLAs can be enhanced via leveraging the cloud platform’s characteristics to extend horizontally, vertically, or geographically to meet the performance load.

  • Reliability–the system should be available 24/7 with minimal unplanned downtime and utilize infrastructure designed for high-availability and disaster recovery planning commensurate with the to-be-defined service level agreement with the cloud hosting provider. The cloud provider will offer SLAs and guarantee VEMS uptime to 99.9% with fiscal penalties should these parameters ever not be met or exceeded.

  • Robustness-The VEMS system will benefit from the robust dynamics of the cloud platforms and the extension of best design practices and patterns from the VRM and FCMT initiatives. By implementing a largely COTS solution and aligning with other VA COTS CRM initiatives, VEMS will benefit through critical mass and ensure the platforms ability to handle typical errors for case management, user interaction, security and other categories.

  • Usability–The solution will follow commonly accepted user interface conventions and comply with VA guidelines on usability (including section 508 compliance of the Americans with Disabilities Act). Further, VEMS is being designed by subject matter experts in User Experience engineering throughout its lifecycle to ensure high usability for the defined user groups.

In accordance with and to support the above criteria, the following core products and/or technologies have been chosen to develop the VEMS solution. For each, the selection criteria most relevant to this architecture artifact have been itemized. To review these components with their alignment with the project’s requirements, please refer instead to Table 6.

Table 5: Software Components and Relevant Selection Criteria

Software Component or Subcomponent

Relevant Selection Criteria

      1. Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Robust, proven, VA-defined platform to provide overarching case management. Designed for high-volume environments with enhanced security and usability requirements (including Section 508 compliance)

      1. Web Browsers (Internet Explorer, FireFox, and Safari)

Web-based solution to ensure maximum conformance to heterogeneous application platforms. Built with HTML5/CSS3 to support mobile enablement in the future and to offer browser interoperability with minimal enhancement efforts.

      1. Microsoft Email Router for CRM

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

      1. Microsoft Exchange

The VA’s preferred enterprise solution for electronic mail and calendar management.

      1. 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.

      1. Microsoft Active Directory and Active Directory Federated Services

Authentication and Authorization through VA-approved means to ensure proper Role Based Access Control (RBAC) and other necessary access controls. MVI integration will ensure alignment with VA EA while meeting all IA controls necessary.

      1. Adobe Acrobat Reader/ Acrobat Pro

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

      1. Microsoft SharePoint

A standards-based document and content repository integrated into Dynamics

      1. Cisco Universal Call Connector

VA chosen component to align with VRM, FCMT, and VA Cisco standards.

      1. AlphaTrust Pronto (or functional equivalent)

COTS solution integrated with Dynamics to allow for digital signatures.

      1. Cisco XenApp Virtualization Server

Virtualized desktop solution already in use in VA

      1. Microsoft LiveMeeting (or Lync)

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

      1. Microsoft SQL Server and SQL Server Reporting Services

Database already VA supported, integrated with other COTS components

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