STEP and Department of Defense Collaboration 

STEP Earns Research Contract with the Department of Homeland Security

STEP Researchers have been asked to perform a Competency Assessment & Skills Gap Analysis of the DHS testing workforce. Based on this analysis, customized training will be delivered to raise the overall sophistication of the testing at DHS. The contracted research work extends from June 2017 through June 2018. Today, executive management must focus on the strategic leveraging of an organization's bundle of skills and competencies of their workforce. As the organization moves quickly to take advantage of ever-changing operating environments and opportunities, information technology workforce capabilities must not only ensure that business-as-usual demands are met, but be in a position to support new ventures quickly and continuously adjust to the ever changing technology landscape. Today's workforce management strategies require specific focus on developing and maintaining a bundle of skills and competencies among employees that is ready for anything, agile in nature, and capable of being deployed at any time. DHS is seeking the help of STEP researchers to improve how well testing and evaluation is performed in order to prepare for the next era of information intensive systems testing.

STEP Earns Research Contract with the Department of Defense

In 2011, the Defense Information Systems Agency at the Department of Defense contracted to examine its systems-testing workforce in partnership with researchers from the Systems Testing Excellence Program (STEP). DISA is a combat support organization in the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) composed of about 6,000 civilians, 1,500 employees from the armed forces, and 7,500 contractors. DISA is charged with providing, operating, and assuring DoD information sharing through a globally accessible, interoperable enterprise infrastructure that supports the military, government leaders, and coalition partners. DISA's workforce provides strategic value by implementing advanced ultra-contemporary technical solutions and systems connectivity that enables joint warfighter capabilities to gain an advantage over their adversaries.

The U.S. Government's CIOs have committed to adopting internal skill and competency assessments to manage the DoD's IS organizations, which presents an opportunity for corporate CIOs to learn from their efforts. Recently, the CIO Council announced a 25-point information technology (IT) reform plan that included designing a management career path and developing specialized units of systems development and testing employee assessments. The Federal CIO Council also committed itself to surveying its workforce to (1) identify the available supply of IS expertise, (2) determine where resources should be focused to improve or sustain competencies and skills, and (3) assess progress in closing competency and skill gaps. According to the CIO Council, the survey would provide "the necessary information to make informed decisions on the capabilities, skills, and resources that every agency's IS workforce will need to achieve its vision" and would inform "strategies to recruit, retain, develop, and manage a fully trained and qualified IS workforce to meet current and future mission requirements" (Miller, J., 2011. CIO council to survey IT worker skills. Federal News. Retrieved from http://www.federalnewsradio.com/550/2234536/CIO-Council-to-survey-IT-worker-skills). DISA worked with the STEP team to assess the skills and competencies of its software-testing organizations, analyze the gaps between present and needed skills and competencies, and establish a plan for remediation.

DISA-STEP Workshop

Department of Defense, Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), Joint Interoperability Test Command taps into the Expertise of the Systems Testing Excellence Program (STEP), November 16-18, 2010.

The Systems Testing Excellence Program (STEP) is a major interdisciplinary research and training initiative under the umbrella of the FedEx Institute of Technology with academic program support from the Fogelman College of Business and Economics. The Department of Management Information Systems (MIS) is leading STEP and was tasked with delivering the DISA-STEP Innovation Roundtable on Software Testing Best Practices. Twelve (12) DISA staff members joined Department of MIS faculty and industry representatives to share ideas on agile testing. The DISA staff included the Testing and Evaluation Executive (1-star general), a Commander, many Chiefs, Engineers, and Action Officers from Washington DC and Arizona, all bringing years of software testing experience and inquisitive mindsets.

The following focus areas were included on the agenda: 1) Best practices for the implementation of agile testing in large scale software development environments, and 2) Best practices for knowledge management in software testing. DISA is interested in deploying high quality software programs in rapid succession to support military operations. Agile testing is a software testing practice that emphasizes testing from the perspective of customers who will utilize the system. Agile testing focuses on testing iteratively with the emphasis shifted from testers as quality police to the entire project team working toward quality approach. The idea is to move quickly meaning testers have to adapt to rapid software deployment coding cycles and continually changing testing patterns.

The agenda for the Innovation Roundtable includes: MIS faculty facilitating research-based discussions about DISA-provided case studies and state-of-the-art agile testing processes, guest speakers (Pamela Gold from ALSAC/St. Jude and Jeff Brittain from Merck) who are STEP-certified in software testing talking about agile testing best practices at their respective organizations, and field visits to the FedEx World Technology Center and First Horizon National Corporation Quality Assurance Programs.

For more information contact:

Robin Poston
Dean of The Graduate School
Director Systems Testing Excellence Program
201D FedEx Institute of Technology
University of Memphis
Memphis, TN 38152 (w) 901.678.5739